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Hair-raising Health Concern


Studies suggest shaving, clipping, and waxing the genital region increases your chances of contracting an STI

If someone were to ask you what the latest fashion phenomenon was, what would pop into your head? Maybe the latest body-hugging pants for women or the newest European cut men’s jacket would come to mind.

Dr. Francois Desruelles, of the Department of Dermatology at Archet Hospital in France and noted case study lead author, has a much more brazen idea of the latest “fashion” trend influencing the masses. “Genital hair removal has become a fashion phenomenon in the last decade," he explains. While Desruelles’ definition of fashion can be called into question, the premise of his statement stands firm, backed by behavioral data collected in recent years.

But like most things we do for the sake of aesthetics, the hairless-body craze does not come without a downside.  French researchers caution that pubic hair removal to any extent, including shaving, clipping, and waxing, may boost one’s risk for a pox infection, and possibly more pathogenic sexually transmitted infections. The irritation to the skin brought on by the removal of the protective pubic hair could explain the recent increase in cases of molluscum contagiosum, a minor sexually transmitted virus.Genital Grooming

"At the same time, the number of cases of molluscum contagiosum has risen," Desruelles added in reference to the rise in both trends and the possible correlation. But he errs on the side of caution, explicitly explaining that the correlation still needs to be confirmed by controlled studies. Even with the disclaimer accompanying his theory, Desruelles remains confident that the growing popularity of genital grooming, which occurs in both men and women, raises the risk for this type of infection.

Genital hair removal may also increase the risk of developing genital warts due to infection with papillomavirus, he adds.

The group of researchers led by Desruelles describes their theory in greater depth in a letter published in the journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections on 19 March 2013. Although the correlation theory is just a theory, to investigate a possible link between the condition and hair removal, the authors studied 30 infected French patients who sought the services of a private skin care clinic in Nice, France in 2011 and 2012.

Although the findings revealed that one-third of patients suffered from various other skin disorders, including warts and cysts, the research group ultimately theorized that the pox virus may have spread through “self-infection;” specifically, damaging or scratching irritated skin likely irritated during the process of hair removal.

So where does this leave those who prefer a shaven genital region? In need of an au naturale makeover? Not necessarily, Desruelles explains your options.

 "Laser hair removal doesn't seem to be involved in this association," Desruelles said, "because there are no microscopic cuts or bleeding during the removal of hair. For the same reason, waxing could be less 'at risk' than shaving."

Screening for ovarian cancer based on symptoms

In a study (Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer Early [DOvE]) funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, women > 50 years of age with symptoms of ovarian cancer were offered CA-125 and transvaginal ultrasound screening.  Of 1455 women enrolled in the DOvE study, 11 invasive ovarian cancers were diagnosed, 9 of which were high-grade serous cancers (HGSCs). This corresponds to a prevalence of 1 in 132 women, which is 10-fold higher than reported rates.  The women in the DOvE study were generally younger, better educated, and English-speaking, compared to clinic patients.  Further, the women in the DOvE study had decreased tumor burden and were more likely to have complete resections than clinic patients (73% vs. 44%).   Because 78% of the HGSCs originated outside the ovaries, the CA-125 levels were not as highly elevated as clinic patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the ovaries had an essentially normal appearance on sonography, the authors recommend focusing on low-volume disease rather than early-stage disease.    

Hormonal contraception increases risk of HIV acquisition and transmission

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle and funded by the NIH and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed that women who use hormonal contraception (especially injectable hormones) have an increase risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV.  The study involved 3790 heterosexual HIV-1 serodiscordant couples in 7 African countries.  Of 1314 couples in which the female partner was HIV-negative, HIV-1 was acquired at a rate of 6.61 and 3.78 per 100 person-years in hormonal contraception users and non-users, respectively (HR = 1.98).  Of 2476 couples in which the male parter was HIV-negative, HIV-1 was transmitted at a rate of 2.61 and 1.51 per 100 person-years in hormonal contraception users and non-users, respectively (HR = 1.97). 

Age associated with mortality in PMP HER2+ women with breast cancer

As published in JAMA, postmenopausal HER2+ women with breast cancer had increased disease-specific mortality and relapse as a function of age.  Specifically, compared with women < 65 years of age, women 65-74 and > 75 years of age had HRs of 1.25 and 1.63, respectively.

Statins increase risk of DM in postmenopausal women


As published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, postmenopausal women who use statins are at increased risk of developing diabetes mellitus (HR=1.71).  The observational study involved 153,840 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative, 7.04% of whom used statins at baseline. 

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