Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Health association publishes women's top health stories

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Women's Health Association of Taiwan (WHAT) yesterday came out with its list of the top 10 most important stories related to women's health last year.

Six of the 10 stories were cancer-related.

The nascent association, which will be officially formed next month, said that the survey of 1,149 Taiwanese women was a way of assessing which health issues are the most pressing to the nation's women.

"Cancers related to the female reproductive system account for four of the top 10 cancers in women," the association's Jeng Cheng-chieh (鄭承傑) said. "In contrast, prostate cancer is the only prevalent cancer striking the male reproductive system."

According to Jeng, a doctor with the Women's Cancer Center at Cathay General Hospital, the survey's results would drive the association's efforts in the future towards increasing public aware-ness of cancer.

The No. 1 story according to the survey is the approval of a vaccine to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Taiwan.

According to Chen Chao-wen (陳昭雯), the vice-superintendent of the Women's Hospital in Changhua, the vaccine Gardisil is a major advance in the fight against cervical cancer because it prevents 70 percent of cancer-causing HPV infections.

However, Chen warned that the vaccine should not be thought of as a replacement for pap smears.

"The vaccine is completely effective against four common strains of HPV," she said, "but completely ineffective if you have got one of the others."

Taiwan is the first country in Asia to approve Gardisil.

However, the vaccine is not yet covered by the national health insurance and costs NT$12,000 (US$364) for a complete course of treatment.

Other cancer-related stories on the list include a report showing that exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of cervical cancer sevenfold and another showing that breast cancer strikes Taiwanese women 10 years earlier than the US and European average.

Another report showed that 74 percent of the nation's women fail to check their breasts for cancerous lumps.

Taiwanese women are not vigilant enough about early detection measures such as breast self-exams and pap smears, Jeng said.

"For too many Taiwanese women, their health comes last, after taking care of everybody else in their family," he said.

Another factor women hesitate to have exams could be misplaced modesty, he said. "Some women still try to avoid internal exams, but it saves lives."

Another of the top-10 stories involves research that shows persistent exposure to cooking fumes leads to a increase in the occurrence of adenocarcinoma of the lungs, the most common form of lung cancer in the nation's women.

Most home cooking is done by women and the high heat involved in stir-frying produces heavy fumes.

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