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Research Briefs

Rural complications - For people with HIV, depression is a serious complication. "HIV-infected patients with depression experience poorer physical and social well-being and greater bodily pain," wrote DMS 's Timothy Lahey, M.D., et al. in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases. HIV patients with depression are less likely to follow treatment regimens strictly, and they have lower CD4 counts. Lahey found that this problem is worse in rural areas, where people with HIV are more likely to suffer from depression than are those in cities-possibly, he concluded, due to a lack of social support systems.

A smoking gun - It's great when an actor lights up the silver screen, but not so great when one lights up on the silver screen. That's because, according to research from Dartmouth's Hood Center for Children and Families, smoking in movies encourages adolescents to become smokers themselves. After tracking the film-watching habits and smoking behaviors of about 2,000 adolescents over seven years, the researchers concluded that about a third of those who took up smoking wouldn't have done so if not for repeated exposure to smoking in movies. "The implications of this finding are highly significant for prevention," they wrote in Pediatrics.

A DMS team analyzed 200 randomly chosen press releases put out by 20 academic medical centers and concluded that they often overstate research findings and fail to acknowledge study limitations.

Which breast option is best? - Most physicians consider breast-conserving surgery the better treatment for women with early-stage breast cancer, but many such women opt for a mastectomy. A DMS team led by E. Dale Collins, M.D., surveyed 125 patients before they learned about their options, after they watched an informational video, and after they talked to a surgeon. The researchers concluded that the women understood the options' risks and benefits, but 44 of them still chose mastectomy. Collins wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that even "when women fully comprehend the key facts, many will [prefer] mastectomy, the more invasive procedure."

Assessing steroid effects - High-profile male athletes make headlines when they're caught taking steroids, but it's not just men who use performance-enhancing drugs. "Young women constitute the demographic with the most rapidly increasing AAS [anabolic androgenic steroid] use," reported a DMS team in Neuroscience. To learn more about the side effects of steroids in women, the researchers administered three types of AASs to female mice and found that the steroids altered signaling in a region of the brain that's involved in aggression and anxiety, possibly hinting at behavioral effects of steroid abuse in women.

DMS's Yinong Young-Xu, Sc.D., coauthored a paper showing that the cost of end-of-life care is much higher for minorities than for whites, due mostly to geographic, demographic, and other differences.

Talking to teens - A $100 personal digital assistant (PDA) can improve communication between primary-care physicians and adolescents. For teens, "health risks occur mainly because of behavioral rather than biomedical issues," wrote DMS researchers in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Using PDAs, they asked teens at five primary-care practices to answer a series of questions about nutrition, exercise, drug use, and other behaviors before their check-ups. Those who did the digital screening were more likely to discuss behavioral health risks with the physician.

Unlocking genetic secrets - Jason Moore, Ph.D., a DMS geneticist, was part of an international team of researchers who reported in the journal Science the results of a large-scale study of the genetics of Africans and African-Americans. The researchers analyzed DNA from thousands of people and determined that Africans are descended from 14 ancestral populations. Generally, genetic differences corresponded to cultural and linguistic diversity. The data may eventually be used to help design medical treatments. "Our in-depth characterization of genetic structure in Africa benefits research of biomedical relevance in both African and African diaspora populations," the authors wrote.

DMS grad student Courtney Kozul coauthored a paper showing that even low levels of exposure to arsenic, like those often found in well water, increase susceptibility to the H1N1 flu virus.

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