Best Health News: October 2009

Why girl talk is good for you, faster breast cancer screening, and the truth about fertility meds’here’s your monthly roundup of the best health news, facts and tips

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girl talk

Feeling stressed? Talk to your girlfriends

A new study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior shows that in addition to being lots of fun, a chat-fest can increase levels of your progesterone. (This stress-reducing ?hormone helps to regulate your period; is linked to fertility and bone, thyroid and skin health; boosts the immune system; and maintains your sex drive, too.)

Researchers grouped women into pairs and gave them tasks that either limited or encouraged their interaction. When women were able to chat and reveal details about themselves, they experienced increased levels of progesterone in their saliva.

"There's something tangible about relationships we form with others," says lead researcher Stephanie Brown, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan. "It may be important to prioritize our female friendships more than we do."

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fertility treatments

Fertility drugs not linked to ovarian cancer

A large study out of Denmark has found that taking ovulation-stimulating medications is not linked to ovarian cancer.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal this year, followed about 55,000 infertile women for an average of 16 years. Among women treated with gonadotropins, clomiphene citrate, human chorionic gonadotropin and gonadotropin-releasing hormone, the chance of developing ovarian cancer was not higher than for untreated infertile women.

Roger A. Pierson, who ?is a spokesperson for the ?Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, says that previously women-and physicians-feared a link with cancer because of a few small 1990s studies.

On the downside, however, the data do suggest that certain causes of infertility, such as tubal disease, endometriosis and uterine disorder, could ?potentially be linked to ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor to see if you should get regular cancer screening. -Lisa Hannam

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corn

Bottles good enough to eat?

Not quite, but a new corn-resin water bottle will feed the soil when you've finished with it. It decomposes in 80 days, and the carbon-filter push-pull lid removes chlorine and contaminants, such as herbicides and pesticides, from water. It can be reused up to 90 times and then tossed in your city compost bin. ($10, 17 oz/473 mL)

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breast cancer screening

New breast cancer screening

At the leading edge of nfe breast-cancer screening technologies is the Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, which provides women with same-day diagnosis, thanks to an express tissue processor. (A conventional processor can take days to analyze a biopsy.) And receiving a fast diagnosis eases anxiety for any woman.

Elastography is another promising technique. The breast is compressed slightly during an ultrasound, which helps determine the stiffness of the tissues. "Breast cancers tend to be harder than normal breast tissue," says Dr. Llewellyn Sim, director of breast imaging at Singapore General Hospital, where he used elastography to correctly diagnose 100 percent of breast cancers in a recent study.

Elastography is cheaper and more readily available than MRI. Canada Diagnostic Centre, a private imaging clinic in Vancouver, is the first in Canada to offer it for breast imaging. -Lisa Bendall

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pregnancy test

A pregnancy test that can tell you how far along you are

At-home pregnancy tests have long been a convenient way to find out if you're going to have a baby; now it's possible to find out when you ?conceived, too. Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Test With Conception Indicator works like most kits: Pee on the stick, and it checks for the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). The hCG is also evaluated to estimate, in three minutes and with 92 percent accuracy, how many weeks along you are: 1-2, 2-3 or 3+. It's $18, or $30 for a pack of two, at drugstores and mass retailers.

If you're trying to conceive and are finding that sex is a chore, put some fun back into it (and boost intimacy) by being the one to initiate a romp in the sack. Les Parrott, author of Crazy Good Sex, suggests handing your partner a note that says, "Meet me in the bedroom in 10 minutes." Whatever you do, he says, don't tease him about not doing it enough; it may harm your relationship. For more ways to get him in the mood, click here.

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furnace

Do you need to change your furnace filter?

"If you can't see through the filter when you hold it up to a light, change it," says Dylan Marcel, host of Save Us From Our House on W Network. You may need a new one every month-especially ?if anyone has dust allergies or you have pets. ?Marcel recommends filters with a Minimum ?Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 9.

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