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‘Long-term statin benefits'; ‘Drinks safe in pregnancy’; 'Hip size a cancer pointer'

An expert view on the big health stories in the nationals this week

An expert view on the big health stories in the nationals this week

‘Long-term statin benefits'

The story People who take cholesterol-lowering drugs are protected from heart disease and premature death years after they stop taking them, report the Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian.

The source The West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study followed-up 6,345 men with an average age of 55 who were treated with pravastatin 40mg daily for five years. Ten years after the completion of the trial, the risk of death from coronary heart disease or non-fatal myocardial infarction was 8.6%, compared with 10.3% in the placebo group.

Expert view Professor Derek Yellon, professor of cellular cardiology at University College London, said the results suggested statins had a long-term protective effect on the heart.

‘I think what we are seeing here is what is known as the pleiotropic effects of statins, the things they do over and above lowering lipids, one of which we believe is a direct protective effect on the vasculature as well as on muscle cells,' he said.

‘Drinks safe in pregnancy'

The story Pregnant women are being given conflicting advice over whether they can safely drink alcohol, report the Guardian, Telegraph and Times.

The source Draft guidelines from NICE published this week suggest that a glass of wine a day has no harmful effects for pregnant women. The advice directly contradicts Department of Health recommendations released in May urging women to abstain completely during pregnancy.

Expert view Mr Patrick O'Brien, consultant obstetrician at University College London, said: ‘I do think the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology's advice is most sensible, namely that pregnant women should drink no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

‘The department has taken a public health stance but the best thing is to tell women what the evidence is and let them decide for themselves. What we really want to avoid is heavy or binge drinking.'

‘Hip size a cancer pointer'

The story Children born to mothers with wide hips are seven times more likely to have breast cancer, report the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

The source After comparing the hip size of 6,000 Finnish mothers and their daughters born between 1934-44, researchers at the University of Southampton found a daughter's risk of breast cancer increased by 60% if her mother's hips were wider than 11.8in (30cm) across.

This risk was seven times higher if the child was carried for the full 40 weeks or had siblings, the study reported in the American Journal of Human Biology. The researchers said their findings could lead to the development of a drug to prevent breast cancer within three years.

Expert view Dr Sarah Cant, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘Although this study is interesting, more research is needed before a link can definitely be made between breast cancer risk and the size of your mother's hips.'

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