Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

This weeks news is all about the facts and figures. Statistics is like pie. It is all about how you cut it. That is to say, the real meaning of raw data is challenging to correctly interpret. A great deal of the message from a study depends on how the data is presented. Be wary about drawing conclusions from studies where none can be drawn. 

The CDC report indicates that the number of abortions in the United States has hit a record low compared to 1990. This is true for all ethnic groups.

A new study has hit the press indicating that use of SSRIs, common antidepressants, in the first trimester is NOT associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorders. Nonetheless the study also showed babies whose mother’s took SSRIs were 75% more likely to get autism than than their peers. Whether this is related to the mom’s condition, the medication or something else is totally unknown and cannot be known from this study. 

In the strange, counterintuitive and questionable department, a new observational study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows more complications among those with a planned C section compared to those with an emergency C section done after labor. This is against what has been show before, and against common sense. Authors at the NYT Blog Well speculate that somehow the labor is “ good” for babies. You just as well might speculate that people who chose elective C sections are less healthy to begin with. No conclusions can be drawn, although many will be. 

New findings in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology show that while cancer rates are declining in developed countries, they are increasing in the developing parts of the world. With development comes smoking, and more obesity, which increase the risk for certain cancers. 

The now ancient Women’s Health Initiative, which gathered data on a great many things, has been mined once again. This time it has revealed an association between smoking and infertility. No surprises there. 

I guess I am not the only one who doubts the work of the USPTSF on the issue of breast cancer screening and mammograms. Over 60 lawmakers, headed by Representative Debbie Schultz of Florida, have included a provision in the new budget requiring that the US government officially recommends breast cancer screenings at age 40 rather than 50 as the UPTSF does. Looks like they feel American women are willing to undergo some increased anxiety and discomfort in exchange for earlier detection, longer life, and less mortality. 

A new study out of Britain once again raises the question as to whether the use of the Ca 125 blood test can help detect ovary cancer and save lives. The results are by no means conclusive, but they will provide an impetus for much needed additional study. 

Back to pie. This week I hope you have several kinds, pumpkin, cherry and whatever is your favorite. Merry Christmas week !