2009 brought some new health scares for women, as well as more information on some old ones. This article summarizes some of the top health scares of 2009. It does not constitute or replace medical advice.
1. Swine Flu. Swine flu came to public attention in America in April of 2009 and became the largest health scare of the year. The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic in June, and thousands of American deaths have been attributed to the virus.
2. STDs on the rise. New cases of some of the most common sexually transmitting diseases (STDs) are still on the rise. Approximately 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur annually. Unless detected and treated early, STDs can cause serious health issues. If you suspect you may have an STD, or practice unsafe sex, have yourself screened by your health care practitioner for STDs.
3. Birth Control. We have known for a long time that combination hormone birth control pills can increase the risk of stroke and blood clots. But some birth control pills, including Yasmin and Yaz, contain drospirenone, a novel progestin. And studies have shown different results, including that drospirenone has a higher risk of blood clots, as well as put women with liver and kidney problems at risk for serious heart problems.
4. BPA. In 2009 the Endocrine Society released a scientific statement expressing concern over current human exposure to BPA. This chemical, found in household plastics, has been under scrutiny for years. Although various studies have not shown any convincing evidence that links BPA and cancer, other experts dispute that conclusion. Protect yourself by not using plastic containers in microwave ovens, and don’t heat liquids or foods in polycarbonate bottles like sports bottles.
5. Tanning. A study done in 2009 revealed that your risk of developing skin cancer jumps by 75% if you use tanning beds before the age of thirty. Tanning beds have been reclassified as a known cancer cause, just like cigarette smoke and the Hepatitis B virus. Your risk of developing melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer, jumps 300% if you use a tanning bed occasionally and 800% if you use one more than ten times a year.
6. Antidepressants. A recent Women’s Health Initiative study found that postmenopaual women taking antidepressants had an increased risk of death and stroke. This does not mean you should stop taking your antidepressants. Just make sure your doctor is aware of all your health conditions when prescribing any medications.
7. Early C-sections. A study released in January of 2009, suggests that there is strong new evidence that scheduling a delivery by Cesarean section even a week or two before full term can significantly raise the risk of health problems in newborns. C-sections now account for one-third of U.S. births; an additional one-fifth are born via induced labor. Many obstetricians have assumed that scheduling such deliveries a little early was safe, since most fetuses can survive outside the womb after 34 weeks. But the March of Dimes and many neonatologists warn that important brain, lung and liver development occurs during those last few weeks and that the earlier a baby is delivered before 39 full weeks, the greater the risk of problems.
8. Divorce. Yes, according to a new study, divorce and widowhood have a lingering, detrimental impact on health – even after remarriage. The study analyzes data from nearly 9,000 adults nationwide, ages 51 to 61, and finds those who had been divorced or widowed suffered 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, than individuals who were currently married.
9. Genetically modified food. The results of most studies with genetically modified foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects
10. Drinking. In the Million Women Study, researchers in the United Kingdom found that middle-aged women who said they drank in moderation had a higher risk of liver, rectal, and breast cancer in the seven years after they completed the study’s questionnaire compared to women who said they drank less than two drinks per week. Drinking was also linked to a risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and larynx, but only in current smokers (not ex-smokers or never smokers.)