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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(2):216

Could asking teens to pledge sexual abstinence do more harm than good? Research shows that teens who pledge abstinence are just as likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as those who don’t. Authors of a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health collected data using an in-school questionnaire given to students in grades 7 through 12 and conducted follow-up interviews one to six years later. Researchers found that teens who pledged abstinence were six times more likely to have had oral sex and were less likely to use condoms during their first experience or be tested for STDs compared with their peers who had remained abstinent, but not as part of a pledge. In addition, boys who pledged abstinence were four times more likely to have had anal sex than their abstinent peers. Researchers speculate that “abstinent” teens may engage in oral and anal sex, because virginity is culturally linked only to vaginal intercourse.

Sweet dreams and dialysis? New research has found that while-you-sleep dialysis is more effective than traditional dialysis and frees patients from spending their daytime hours attached to a dialysis machine. USA Today reports that a small trial has found greater improvement in cardiovascular markers with nighttime home-based dialysis compared with the standard three-times-a-week clinic-based dialysis. Although the results appear to be promising, two groups of researchers hope to validate the findings with randomized controlled trials. The studies, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, are expected to conclude by 2008.

A new medication may have lung transplant patients breathing easier. The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 70 percent of heart, liver, and kidney transplant patients survive more than five years, compared with only 45 percent of lung transplant patients. A randomized trial has found that a new inhaled version of an antirejection medication may keep lung transplant patients alive longer and improve the performance of the new lung. Nineteen percent of the trial participants who took the inhaled medication died after four and one half years, compared with 50 percent of those taking placebo. Researchers estimate that this represents an 84 percent survival rate after four years.

Screening for early oral cancer may be as easy as saying “Ah…” A study presented at the 96th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research found that saliva tests that look for genetic biomarkers are about 90 percent accurate in detecting oral squamous cell carcinoma. Future studies are needed to validate the results, according to the report, and researchers hope to study the accuracy of saliva tests to screen for precancers and other difficult-to-detect cancers.

Do you feel as though you’re sneezing more than you did 20 years ago? New research published in BMJ shows that allergies to pollen, pet dander, and other common triggers have increased significantly over the past 25 years. The researchers found an almost 5 percent increase in allergies each decade and found no evidence that allergic reactions declined with age. Researchers say they still don’t know the reason for the rise, but they don’t believe it is caused by increased environmental exposures or declining childhood infection.

It’s well known that pregnancy and alcohol don’t mix, but when they do, the harmful effects may not end at delivery. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has shown that alcohol could hinder milk production in lactating women. Researchers say that the centuries-old notion that alcohol acts as a galactagogue is a myth. According to the study, although alcohol may initially help the mother to relax before breastfeeding, moderate alcohol consumption disrupts the hormonal milieu linked to lactational performance, decreasing milk yield and ejection.

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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