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PERSONAL HEALTH : HEALTH WATCH : Why Pesticides Seem to Zero In on Women

August 31, 1993| Compiled from wire-service reports

Why are pesticides potentially more harmful to women than to men?

The differences are caused by female hormones like estrogen and the physiological changes brought on by menstruation and menopause, according to medical experts who attended a recent Washington seminar on women's health and the environment. Interaction of these factors with toxins can lead to a range of disorders from cancer to chronic fatigue syndrome, they said.

For example, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organo-chlorines (such as DDT) have estrogen-like activity; as a result, they can replace natural estrogen in cells.

Diseases related to estrogen include breast and uterine disease.

Teaching Docs to Listen

Think of it as Bedside Manner 101. At some hospitals and medical schools across the country, actors--called "standardized patients"--are playing roles as sick patients. The goal is to improve the doctor-patient relationship by making physicians more sensitive.

"I think maybe it's a recognition that basic clinical skills are important and that these skills, and communication, which were considered not really teachable, can be taught," says Dr. Paula Stillman, curriculum dean at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a proponent of the teaching method.

Checking on Physicians

How can you find out if the specialist who is treating your medical condition has, in fact, undertaken the required three to seven years of post-medical-school training? The American Board of Medical Specialties has developed a verification system for physicians in more than 30 specialties and 70 sub-specialties. To check, call (800) 776-2378 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Mondays through Fridays.

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