Posts made in July, 2009

The Roundup: July news and tidbits

Posted by on Jul 31, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


[Credit: Special Thanks to artist Darryl Willison of  Please visit his site and support his work.]

A lot of interesting going-on’s during the month of July make for a wonderful roundup. Peruse and enjoy!

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Wednesday Bubble: just the facts, Jack.

Posted by on Jul 29, 2009 in hot flash, mind-body therapy | 0 comments


Today’s Bubble carries a warning that we all need to heed: results of one study cannot be applied to another.

Repeat after me: results of one study cannot be applied to another.

Last year, I wrote about an interesting study out of Baylor University showing that hypnotic therapy was effective for decreasing the frequency and severity of hot flashes among women with breast cancer. Because the results were so favourable, researchers received a sizable grant from the National Institutes of Health for a much broader study to examine the potential role of hypnosis in post-menopausal women experiencing hot flashes, but in comparison to another mind-body intervention.

Now mind you, there is evidence that hypnosis is a promising intervention among non-breast cancer patients but the studies that have been conducted have been small and have not specifically examined its therapeutic role in women entering menopause naturally.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

The Baylor study enrolled 51 breast cancer survivors, 25 of whom received hypnosis for their hot flashes and 26 who did not. Women receiving treatment experienced an impressive 68% reduction in a hot flashes while women receiving no treatment did not experience any relief. Expectations of relief, better known as a placebo effect, cannot be ruled out in terms of skewing the results, which is why the larger study is comparing treatments. Again, this study showed that women who experienced chemotherapy-induced menopause experienced some relief from hot flashes by undergoing hypnosis.

That brings me to the extrapolation part.

The Hot Flash Relief program is an audio program that theoretically relieves hot flashes; all that you have to do is listen to a 20 minute audio CD for 21 days. It claims to based on results of the Baylor study, and tested under questionable study conditions. Hot Flash Relief bills itself as an amazing breakthrough to help you get relief from hot flashes and night sweats without pills, hormones or risk. If you are not entirely satisfied, Hot Flash Relief will refund your money.

I’d like to point a few things out:

  • The Baylor study was conducted under controlled conditions
  • The Baylor study was not carried out among women who had undergone natural menopause
  • Hypnosis was carried out in person and under the guidance of a trained professional
  • The efficacy of hypnosis looks good but further study is required

Let’s look at Hot Flash Relief:

  • Hot Flash Relief claims that it can help any woman with hot flashes
  • Hot Flash Relief bases its effectiveness on a “study” in which women were sent the CD and then asked to report back on it via testimonials
  • Hot Flash Relief was developed by a top US hypnotist, Tom Nicoli, whose voice you will hear on the audio CD. Although he is certified and is reputable in the weight loss field, research is not his game
  • Audio hypnosis has not proven as effective as self-hypnosis for women with menopause

I want to believe, I really do. But the folks at Hot Flash Relief may be considerably more out of their minds than most of us menopausal midlifers. Before you drink kool aid, on this or any other strategy, just take a look at the facts. Money guarantee or not, you will be glad that you did!

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Posted by on Jul 27, 2009 in fertility | 4 comments


I ran across a piece on over the weekend,  in which a U.S. fertility doctor defends his decision to treat older recipients of fertility treatments. The result? Pregnancies well into a time in life when a woman is typically experiencing the cessation of reproduction and moving into menopause.

Unfortunately, the mother featured in the story died at age 69, leaving behind two-year old twins.

While the doctor states that he would prefer to treat women who are likely to live long enough to parent their children, he also asks the following:  “How old is too old to become a mom?”

Ironically, a little over a month ago, researchers presented data at meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology outlining successes in ovarian transplants. These procedures involve removing the ovaries and then freezing and preserving them for implantation at a later date.

Although this technique has traditionally been used to preserve ovarian function among women undergoing chemotherapy, the option is now being extended to women with other illnesses. However, before ovarian transplant becomes more widely available, for example, to women in their 20s or 30s who might want to delay childbirth until later in life, researchers say that they need to determine how the ovary will function, e.g. as a 30 year- old ovary in a 45 year- old woman or as a 45-year old ovary?

Both of these reports strike me as Frankensteinian, playing  with nature in the most unnatural way to delay an event, reproductive decline,  that has long defined human evolution.

Are fertility and ovarian treatments for the menopausal set poised to replace HRT as the panacea for aging? How old is too old? Like Dr. Frankenstein, have we gone too far?

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Early menopause and lung cancer

Posted by on Jul 24, 2009 in Early menopause, lung cancer | 3 comments

A study published in the May online edition of International Journal of Cancer is starting to hit the news this week. And the news is a bit grim for women who go through early menopause due to surgical removal of the ovaries. It seems that hysterectomy is unusually linked with almost twice the risk for developing lung cancer.

Researchers investigated the possible association between characteristics of menstruation and pregnancy and lung cancer risk in 999 individuals (422 women with lung cancer, 577 men and women without). They examined demographics, occupational exposures, medical history, and menstruation and pregnancy histories. Detailed smoking histories were also taken.

The findings showed that although most menstruation and pregnancy characteristics were not associated with lung cancer risk, women who predominantly had had both ovaries removed had a 1.95 times greater risk than women who had a natural menopause of developing lung cancer.

Clearly, further study is needed because research has also shown that replacing hormones via HRT increases the risk for death from lung cancer. It’s sort of a lose-lose, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, situation.

I promise to keep a clearer eye on this evolving set of data. In the interim, if you’ve had an hysterectomy, speak to your healthcare practitioner. Best to err on the side of caution.

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Wednesday Bubble: What did I forget/hear/see/say…

Posted by on Jul 22, 2009 in exercise, memory/learning, menopause | 7 comments

If  you’re anything like me, you are starting to forget things. Things you need to do, why you walk into rooms, shopping lists, things you said, the whole nine yards. For me, it’s become the norm, not the exception and while I spend a lot of time making jokes about it, it also drives me crazy.

Yet, today’s Bubble is not one that I’m likely to forget. I’d like to think of it as one part inspiration and one part WTF? And it leaves me with a whole lot of questions to boot.

Study findings suggest that gaining weight during menopause may increase the risk for loss of gray matter. Gray matter refers to the cortex of the brain, which contains nerve cells. It is involved in muscle control, sensory perception (seeing/hearing), emotions, speech and finally, memory.

In this study, which was published in the online edition of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers evaluated brain imaging data, demographic information (height, weight) and behavioral measures (perceived psychiatric stress) obtained from 48 healthy postmenopausal women. Data were collected over a 20-year period.

The findings showed a unique association between increase in body weight during the transition from peri- to post-menopause (as measured by body mass index or BMI) and a 22% reduction in grey matter volume. These findings occurred in women who were otherwise healthy, had no history of heart disease or psychiatric illness and did not meet the threshold for obesity (>30 BMI). All women had also undergone natural menopause.

The researchers suggest that weight gain during menopause is a “highly modifiable risk factor” that may help to prevent or slow “potential alterations in brain function that are important to quality of life.”

I’ve written previous posts on cognitive issues during menopause, whether they be linked with life stressors, HRT or aging. Now it seems that researchers are telling us that weight gain may also be a risk factor.

Less clear is how much weight gain and what we should do about it. In general one solution to combating weight gain in midlife is restraint. Coupled with exercise, this may just be the magic formula. In the meantime, I think that we need a few more studies to take a closer look at brain matter changes in midlife.

What do you think?

I just forgot why I’m asking you that…!

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