Mixed Report on Women's Health Research

Fewer deaths from major killers like breast cancer, but little progress on debilitating diseases like dementia

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FRIDAY, Sept. 24, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Efforts to expand research on women's health issues in the United States over the past two decades have led to lower disease rates and fewer deaths among women from heart disease, breast cancer and several other major diseases, a new government report shows.

The declines in cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer, depression, HIV/AIDS and osteoporosis are due in part to requirements for researchers to include women in studies, according to the Institute of Medicine review.

The decrease also results from increased funding and other resources from public and private sourcesm, and multi-pronged research methods that provide fuller understanding of diseases, according to the institute.

While these findings are encouraging, there has been little progress in several other health issues important to women, including unintended pregnancy, autoimmune disease, alcohol and drug addiction, lung cancer and dementia, according to the report.

Overall, fewer advances have been made on chronic and debilitating conditions that cause significant suffering but have lower death rates. Scientists should give quality of life similar consideration as death when conducting research, said the report authors.

They also noted that socioeconomic and cultural barriers still limit the potential impact of new research, especially among disadvantaged women.

"There is good news and bad news on the state of women's health research," report committee chair Nancy E. Adler, a professor of medical psychology and director of the Center for Health and Community at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a National Academies news release.

"Significant boosts in women's health issues have yielded measurable progress in reducing the toll of several serious disorders. Unfortunately, less progress has been made on conditions that are not major killers but still profoundly affect women's quality of life," she said.

"These issues require similar attention and resources if we are to see better prevention and treatment in more areas. And across all areas, researchers need to take into account the effects of both biologically determined sex differences and socially determined gender differences as a routine part of conducting research."

The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center covers a wide range of women's health issues.

SOURCE: National Academies, news release, Sept. 23, 2010.


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