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Posted - Feb. 24, 2004 at 7:40 a.m.



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Feb 24, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- DOS AND DON'TS BEFORE A PAP

The best time for a Pap smear screen for cervical cancer is between days 10 and 20 of a woman's menstrual cycle, doctors advise. This is the ideal time to evaluate the cervix and uterus cells under a microscope, ensuring the most accurate results possible, says Dr. Mack Barnes of the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He also advises women to abstain from sex for at least 24 hours before the test since intercourse can wash away or hide abnormal cells, resulting in inaccurate results. Barnes also cautions against using vaginal cleansing products, such as douches, powders and vaginal medications, for two days prior to the test.

TV ADS TO BLAME FOR OBESITY?

Scientists say TV ads directed at naive, trusting children may be partly to blame for the unhealthy eating habits at the root of today's obesity epidemic. A task force of the American Psychological Association is recommending advertising targeting children under age 8 be restricted. The group says $12 billon a year of advertising is aimed at youth, and the average child watches more than 40,000 TV commercials a year. The team of child psychologists found youngsters under 8 lack the cognitive development to understand the persuasive intent of advertising so are especially susceptible to its influence. Task force chair Brian Wilcox of the University of Nebraska says this is a particular concern because the most common products marketed to children are sugared cereals, candies, sweets, sodas and snack foods.

TEST CAN GUARD AGAINST 'MAD COW' DISEASE

Researchers have devised a test that may help protect the food supply from "mad cow" disease. The test detects minute amounts of animal-protein contamination in livestock feed. The researchers at the University of California, Davis, say the test uses DNA analysis to identify protein from ruminants -- cows, sheep, goats and deer -- in feed products intended to be eaten by other ruminants. The use of ruminant protein in livestock feed has been banned in the United States since 1997, because evidence suggests livestock feed containing material from the carcasses of animals infected with mad cow disease can transmit the disease to healthy animals and, in turn, to humans. The school has filed a patent application on the new procedure, which might be available for commercial use late this year. "This test provides feed processors and regulators with a powerful tool for protecting livestock and consumers from mad cow disease," said Jim Cullor, who led the team that developed the test.

WEIGHT LOSS CLASSES WORK

New moms can shed pounds by participating in a program of weekly meetings that focuses on diet and nutrition, researchers say. The findings, published in the Journal of Women's Health, show women who complete a structured diet and physical activity intervention during the early postpartum period successfully lose weight, but not so those who get general advice about diet and exercise, says principal investigator Mary O'Toole of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The study is important in addressing the obesity epidemic because it focused on women who were overweight when they became pregnant, the authors said. "Obesity has become such a severe problem that we need to identify times when people are at risk of becoming obese and prevent it from happening," O'Toole says. "The postpartum period is a time we know women tend to retain the weight they gained during pregnancy and start in a downward spiral."

(Editors: For more information about PAP, contact Tracy Bischoff at (205) 934-8935 or tracy@uab.edu. For ADS, Pam Willenz at (202) 336-5707 or pwillenz@apa.org. For MAD, Pat Bailey at (530) 902-3349. For WEIGHT, Nancy Solomon at (314) 977-8017)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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