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Media Watch 'Cervical treatment raises premature birth risk'

The story A routine treatment to remove abnormal cervical cells detected in smear tests doubles the risk women will give birth prematurely, warn the Times, Daily Mail and Scotsman.

The source Researchers at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, assessed the effect of loop excision on pre-term birth rates in more than 5,000 women between 1982 and 2000. The results, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed the treatment increased the risk

of delivering before 37 weeks by

1.72-fold. An alternative, laser ablation, did not increase this risk.

Expert view Professor Philip Steer, editor of the BJOG, described the new research as 'a very important issue'.

'A few initial studies suggested there was no additional risk associated with loop excision, but in the light of new evidence it's not sustainable to keep telling women this.

'GPs have a duty to explain to women that loop excision is not innocuous, but that there is a substantial risk to later pregnancies. Laser ablation is a safer alternative that women should ask for when and where available.'

'Dental X-rays help bones'

The story Dental X-rays could help women beat osteoporosis, report the Times and Daily Mail.

The source A study by a University Of Manchester team used 'active shape modelling techniques' to detect jaw cortex widths of less than 3mm, a key indicator of osteoporosis. They measured the thickness of parts of patients' lower jaws using special software. The study was published in the journal Bone.

Expert view Dr Jonathan Bayly, associate lecturer at the University of Derby and member of the NICE osteoporosis guideline group, said: 'This is quite a technical paper and needs to be interpreted carefully. The use of this radiological technique is less effective than cheap peripheral DEXA scans, where we can now get 90 per cent sensitivity and specificity for 20 per cent of the radiation exposure.'

'Pill risk for obese women'

The story The health risks associated with the contraceptive Pill are five times higher for obese women, reports the Daily Mail.

The source A study by European Active Surveillance looked at women from seven countries, including the UK, and suggested the risk of developing blood clots increases dramatically for women with a BMI between 30 and 35. The results were reported in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare.

Expert view Toni Belfield, director of information at the FPA – formerly the Family Planning Association – said: 'Current UK guidelines specifically say women with a BMI of 35 or more should not be given oral contraceptives, and those with a BMI between 30 and 34 are looked at very closely. As new research comes out, guidelines will be looked at, but you also have to think about what would happen if women didn't take contraceptives.'

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