Health Buzz: Autism Risk Rises With Maternal Age

The silicon content in beer; is it safe to get Pap smears less often?

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Study Finds Autism Risk Increases With Mom's Age 

A new study suggests that older women are at greater risk of having a child with autism, HealthDay reports. When compared to women giving birth in their mid to late 20s, moms who had babies at age 40 or older had a 50 percent greater risk of having an autistic child, researchers found. The team, from the University of California–Davis, used data from nearly 5 million births collected between 1990 and 1999—and saw that for every five years the moms aged, the risk grew by 18 percent. Researchers also found a higher autism risk in cases where the moms were young but the dads were older. Dads over age 40 having children with women in their 20s had an almost 60 percent increase in risk. Results were published in the journal Autism Research

[Read 4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer's Drug Namenda and How to Get Early Intervention Autism Therapy for Your Child.] 

Lager or Ale? Consider the Silicon Content of Beer 

The evidence on alcohol and health is tricky to interpret. While heavy drinking does no one any favors, there may be benefits in moderate alcohol consumption for those who aren't at heightened risk of breast or colon cancer, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson writes. Some research suggests, for example, that consuming up to two drinks a day for men, one for women, provides some cardiovascular protection. 

A study published in 2005 found that men and women who drank some but not a lot (one drink per day, three to seven days per week) were the leanest. And last year, research suggested that moderate alcohol consumption may also help boost bone mineral density, thus protecting against osteoporosis. The caveat to all this is that there's no direct evidence that drinking causes the benefits that have been observed, just that people who drink moderately also seem to be in better health. But if you do wish to hoist a brew, a new study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture may at least help you decide between a pale ale and a lager. Researchers at the University of California–Davis measured the presence of dietary silicon, the element in beer suspected to benefit bone health. Read more

[Read The Skinny on Alcoholic Beverages and Weight Loss and What to Eat to Feel Happier.] 

Is It Safe to Get Pap Smears Less Often? 

Cervical cancer screening recommendations are changing because of progress in combating the disease, writes Deborah Armstrong, U.S. News's Health Advice expert in oncology. As we've developed a better understanding of the role of the human papillomavirus in cervical cancer, the Pap test has evolved. We can now test not only for abnormal cells that develop in response to HPV infection but also for the virus that causes the disease. The ongoing development of vaccines against HPV means that future generations are less likely to develop HPV-related diseases, and we need to adjust screening recommendations to reflect lower risk. We also recognize that the disease develops slowly, so low-risk women don't need a Pap test every year; testing every two to three years is sufficient. 

The current guidelines recommend that we reduce the intensity of cervical cancer screening for lower-risk women and focus more intensive screening on women at higher risk. Women below the age of 21, women who have had three sequential normal Pap smears, and women who have had a hysterectomy are all considered low risk and don't benefit from intensive screening. Read more

[Read Get Your Pap Smear to Screen for Cervical Cancer—but Less Often and HPV Vaccine: Women Now Have a Choice Between Cervarix and Gardasil.] 

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