Cervical Health Awareness Month

Health risks can be frightening, but ignorance to these risks can be even more terrifying. In the past, we have discussed a range of women’s health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and ovarian cancer.  To continue our commitment to health awareness, we would like to honor January as Cervical Health Awareness month.

PLOS ONE has published research tackling many aspects of cervical health, including cervical cancer and human papillomavirus.

Human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, at least 50% of sexually active people will contract the virus at some point in their lives.  There are more than 40 types of HPV, some of which may lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening and vaccination to help prevent human papillomavirus.

To further expand our knowledge and understanding of cervical health, researchers from across the globe continue to explore HPV, the vaccine and its social effects.

For example, in a study published in PLOS ONE, authors in Tanzania explored the reasoning behind young girls receiving or not receiving the HPV vaccination. After interviewing both adults and students, researchers found that vaccine education and parental meetings were crucial for vaccine acceptance. Knowing women who had suffered from cervical cancer was also a factor in the decision-making.

The effectiveness of the vaccine is also a common concern. In another article, Canadian researchers developed a system to track the effectiveness of the HPV vaccination in preventing the virus.  The authors created a protocol for linking multiple data registries to allow for ongoing monitoring of the vaccines effectiveness, while also ensuring patient privacy was taken into account. This research aims to understand the long term effects of the vaccine and future vaccination tracking initiatives.

This study expands our knowledge on the vaccination results, but what about transmission of the virus? In a third PLOS ONE report, researchers explored the prevalence of HPV in the DNA of males with infected female sexual partners.  The authors found that HPV was prevalent in 86% of the male participants surveyed. These men had the same high risk viral type as the infected women, supporting the importance of awareness in men to protect themselves and their partners. This area of investigation is important in expanding our knowledge of transmission of the virus and the risk of cervical cancer development.

All these studies are aimed at improving our understanding of HPV risks and vaccination, and there are many more. As Cervical Health Awareness month draws to an end, explore more PLOS ONE research on the subject here.

 Citations:

Watson-Jones D, Tomlin K, Remes P, Baisley K, Ponsiano R, et al. (2012) Reasons for Receiving or Not Receiving HPV Vaccination in Primary Schoolgirls in Tanzania: A Case Control Study. PLoS ONE 7(10): e45231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045231

El Emam K, Samet S, Hu J, Peyton L, Earle C, et al. (2012) A Protocol for the Secure Linking of Registries for HPV Surveillance. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039915

Rocha MGdL, Faria FL, Gonçalves L, Souza MdCM, Fernandes PÁ, et al. (2012) Prevalence of DNA-HPV in Male Sexual Partners of HPV-Infected Women and Concordance of Viral Types in Infected Couples. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040988

Image: Glass sculpture of human papillomavirus.  Photograph by Luke Jerram, “Papilloma 2011″


Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part V: Pregnancy

In this last post of the Women’s Health and Fitness Series, we delve into the mother of all topics: pregnancy. As one of the few health topics that truly only affects women, pregnancy is highly stressful on for women’s bodies, but amazingly, they know exactly how to respond to this event. In addition, many of the issues previously raised in the series continue to carry weight when discussing pregnancy.

One aspect of pregnancy that carries a lot of weight is exactly that: the amount of weight a pregnant woman gains. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.  A PLOS ONE study published in July 2012 investigates the link between healthy weight during pregnancy and the associated risks when the term “eating for two” is taken too liberally. Obesity in pregnancy is associated with a long list of medical complications for a mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, infection and many others.

The authors, from the University of Ulster in Ireland, wanted to see if regimented diet and physical activity was an efficient intervention to reduce excess gestational weight gain (GWG). They reviewed 5 studies that had examined a total of 971 pregnant women with a mean BMI of 26. They found that setting goals through 1-on-1 diet and lifestyle counseling was the most successful strategy to help women gain appropriate amounts of weight during pregnancy. The researchers also note that while weight is a primary concern, and behavior modification is an effective way to address the problem, more research is required “to target women’s psychological needs as well as their emotional and physical needs”.

Pregnancy is a unique experience for the female gender, as well as for each individual woman.  Much like we’ve discussed throughout the series, health incorporates a balance of many factors, like nutrition, weight, emotional well-being, and should be tailored to each person.

With that, happy Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and we hope this month’s series has been informative and inspirational!

Image Credit: makelessnoise on Flickr CC-by license

Citation: Brown MJ, Sinclair M, Liddle D, Hill AJ, Madden E, et al. (2012) A Systematic Review Investigating Healthy Lifestyle Interventions Incorporating Goal Setting Strategies for Preventing Excess Gestational Weight Gain. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39503. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039503