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February 15, 1996


Recruitment starts for national study of women's health

Women who receive phone calls from Pitt in the next few months may be asked if they want to participate in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a project funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to examine the physical, psychological and lifestyle changes of women in their 40s and 50s.

Pitt received a five-year, $1.7 million NIA grant and is one of seven research centers participating nationwide.

"We are trying to see how women physically and mentally approach midlife," said Karen Matthews, principal investigator of the study in Pittsburgh and a Pitt professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and psychology. "Our study site is unique in that we are including a large population of African-American women, in addition to Caucasian women, and we will compare various health behaviors and cardiovascular risk factors of the two groups." The SWAN study will evaluate other aspects of women's health, including changes in body composition, bone density and clinical episodes of depression and/or anxiety. In addition, researchers will examine the influences of other factors on health in midlife, including: socioeconomic factors; lifestyle changes such as diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption; social support; and occupational factors.

Social and psychological aspects affecting the women's lives also will be studied. Nationally, SWAN will recruit approximately 3,200 women; of those, Pitt will recruit 450. Women will be chosen for the study through a random-digit-dialing process only.


First adjuvant therapy for melanoma proven effective in study

Interferon alfa-2b is the first therapy that significantly increases the survival of people surgically treated for melanoma who are at risk of disease recurrence, according to results of a 10-year, multi-center study published in the January issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Patients who received interferon were 24 percent more likely to live past five years than those who did not receive the drug. In addition, treated patients were 42 percent more likely to survive five years without a relapse. Overall median survival increased by more than a year, and survival without a relapse of the cancer increased by nine months.

Principal investigator for the study was John Kirkwood, professor and chief of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and director of the Melanoma Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

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