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Birth control pills may raise breast cancer risk

Raghu Kshitiz

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KATHMANDU — Women who rely on contraceptives pills, including newer types of birth control pills, as well as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants — may slightly increase women’s risk of breast cancer, according to a new study from Denmark.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine takes a look at the lower dose contraceptives, and finds some good, and not-so-good news.

The study, which included about 1.8 million women aged between 15 and 49 years of age for more than 10 yearsin Denmark, found that those who used hormonal birth control methods were 20 percent more likely to develop breast cancer over an 11-year period, compared with those who never used hormonal birth control.

Many women have believed that newer hormonal contraceptives are much safer than those taken by their mothers or grandmothers, which had higher doses of estrogen.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark said the risk of breast cancer was higher among women who recently used contemporary hormonal contraceptives than among women who had never used hormonal contraceptives. However, absolute increases in risk were small.

After discontinuation of hormonal contraception, the risk of breast cancer was still higher among the women who had used hormonal contraceptives for five years or more than among women who had not used hormonal contraceptives.

Women who currently or recently used the progestin-only intrauterine system also had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used hormonal contraceptives.

The overall absolute increase in breast cancers diagnosed among current and recent users of any hormonal contraceptive was 13 per 100,000 persons, or about one extra breast cancer for every 7,690 women using hormonal contraception for one year.

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Regular bedtime beneficial for heart and metabolic health among older adults

Raghu Kshitiz

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KATHMANDU — Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But a new study on sleep patterns has suggested that a regular bedtime and wake time are just as important for heart and metabolic health among older adults too.

Researchers at Duke Health and the Duke Clinical Research Institute, in a study of 1,978 older adults, have found that people with irregular sleep patterns weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and a higher projected risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years than those who slept and woke at the same times every day.

The study  was published Sept 21 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“From our study, we can’t conclude that sleep irregularity results in health risks, or whether health conditions affect sleep,” said study’s lead author Jessica Lunsford-Avery.

“Perhaps all of these things are impacting each other.”

African-Americans had the most irregular sleep patterns compared to participants who were white, Chinese-American or Hispanic, the data showed.

Still, the data suggest tracking sleep regularity could help identify people at risk of disease, and where health disparities may impact specific groups.

Irregular sleepers were also more likely to report depression and stress than regular sleepers, both of which are tied to heart health.

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