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Progesterone, IUD's and Uterine Cancer Risk

They're supposed to prevent pregnancy, and they do, but intrauterine devices (IUDs) also reduce uterine cancer risk by more than 40 percent (Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 6, 2008).

An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device inserted into the uterus. Only two percent of women who use contraception in the United States choose an IUD, despite the proven safety and effectiveness of this long-term method. Worldwide, however, IUDs are the most widely used reversible contraceptive. Most IUD's prevent pregnancy by releasing small amounts of the hormone progesterone into the uterus. This is also why they help to prevent uterine cancer.

The ovaries of healthy women are supposed to produce two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Many women lack progesterone and they are the women who are at increased risk for uterine cancer. Estrogen stimulates the uterus to grow, and progesterone stops the stimulation. If a woman has estrogen and no progesterone, her uterus is stimulated all the time, which can lead to uncontrolled growth which is cancer.

The woman most likely to get uterine cancer has high blood levels of insulin. Insulin acts directly on the ovaries to stop them from releasing eggs. Women who do not release eggs have no progesterone and therefore are at high risk for uterine cancer. A woman can find out if she has high insulin levels just by getting a blood test, called C peptide, that measures insulin production by the body. If it is above 3, her body makes too much insulin.

However, you can usually tell if a woman has too much insulin just by looking at her. Insulin causes a person to lay down fat primarily in the belly. Women with big bellies and small hips usually have high insulin levels and are also at high risk for diabetes. Most people who will develop diabetes usually stop responding to insulin. This causes the pancreas to release increasing amounts of insulin, until the pancreas eventually dies and then the person must take insulin.

If you are a woman who stores fat primarily in your belly, you should get blood tests called C peptideand HBA1C to see if you are already diabetic. You can also tell if you are pre-diabetic if your good HDL cholesterol is low, your triglycerides are high, or your liver shows excessive amounts of fat. Start a supervised exercise program, lose weight, and restrict refined carbohydrates. You may also want to see if your doctor advises using an IUD to help prevent uterine cancer.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What's the latest on prevention of Alzheimer's disease?

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine followed 250,000 veterans over the age of 55 years and showed that taking ibuprofin for five years was associated with a 40 percent reduction in the development of Alzheimer's disease (Neurology, May 2008).

Alzheimer's disease is associated with the deposition of tangled webs of protein in the brain. Several previous studies show that ibuprofen reduces these protein deposits in the brains of animals. A leading theory on the cause of Alzheimer's disease is that a person's immunity attacks the brain to cause dementia. Ibuprofin reduces inflammation, the body's response to an overactive immunity. Another study in the same issue of Neurology showed people that with shorter arms and legs may be at a higher risk for developing dementia later in life.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do you support the bans on smoking in restaurants?

Yes! Teenagers who live in cities or towns with strict smoking bans are 40 percent less likely to become regular smokers, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (May 2008). The study also reported that youths with smoking parents or friends are at high risk for smoking themselves, but strong smoking bans in restaurants reduce the chance that they will become smokers.

Massachusetts passed a workplace smoking ban that included restaurants in 2004. Since then, high school smoking rates in Massachusetts have dropped from 21percent of students in 2005 to 18 percent in 2007. At least 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico now require most public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars, to be smoke free.

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Recipe of the Week

Green Bean-Potato Salad

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June 25th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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