STAT Medical News: The Link Between Cats and Infant Eczema

May 22, 2006

-- KITTY ALLERGIES A study of 400 homes revealed that children who grew up with a cat in the home were more likely to develop eczema by the time they were 12 months old. Presented this weekend at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, the results show that nearly 27 percent of children with cats in the home developed eczema, compared to 17 percent of children without cats. Eczema was especially prevalent in children of nonasthmatic mothers. The study also suggested that having more than two dogs at home offered a protective effect against eczema.

THE TWIN DIET? A comparison of women who ate a regular diet, a vegetarian diet or a vegan diet (no meat, no dairy) finds that the women who consumed animal products were more likely to have twins. Compared to vegan dieters, women who did not exclude milk from their diet were five times more likely to have twins. Dr. Gary Steinman from Long Island Jewish Medical Center published his study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. Steinman says this research is preliminary, but that it is possible a growth factor in the milk acts to stimulate the women's ovaries, creating more twins.

BROKE & STRESSED A study of 193 adults making various amounts of money finds that lower socioeconomic circumstances are associated with higher levels of three stress hormones. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University sampled saliva and urine from the participants and screened them for levels of the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. The results, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, show that poorer people had, on average, higher levels of all stress hormones. They also had more unhealthy behaviors, such as skipping breakfast and a greater likelihood of smoking.

OBESITY & BREAST CANCER More evidence today that women who gain weight in adulthood have a higher risk of breast cancer of all types, according to research on more than 44,000 postmenopausal women. The new study, published in the journal Cancer by researchers from the American Cancer Society, finds that women who gained more than 60 pounds were almost twice as likely to have noninvasive breast cancer tumors and almost three times as likely to have invasive disease.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.