Today’s Headlines: Mindfulness, HPV Vaccines and Mammograms

Mindfulness training helpful in those with depression. Medications have been the mainstay of depression treatment because of their proven effectiveness. But new research has shown that careful mindfulness training may also work just as well. “In this study, UK scientists enrolled 212 people who were at risk of further depression on a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) while carefully reducing their medication. Patients took part in group sessions where they learned guided meditation and mindfulness skills. The therapy aimed to help people focus on the present, recognize any early warning signs of depression and respond to them in ways that did not trigger further reoccurrences. Researchers compared these results to 212 people who continued to take a full course of medication over two years. By the end of the study, a similar proportion of people had relapsed in both groups. And many in the MBCT group had been tapered off their medication.” While the findings are encouraging, the team emphasizes caution when it comes to deciding which treatments to use. “The research does not suggest MBCT is useful for all types of depression, nor that it should replace anti-depressant treatment for people with severe disorders who have needed hospital treatment or are suicidal. Patients should only reduce their anti-depressant medication under medical supervision.” (BBC)

HPV vaccine may be useful even in women already infected. The HPV vaccine has emerged as the best way to prevent cervical cancer, but it was only thought to be helpful in those women not already infected. New findings in a carefully designed study have found that those infected might still benefit. “In a randomized controlled trial—considered the gold standard of scientific research—scientists wanted to know if the HPV vaccine protected against cervical, anal and oral HPV. The team followed 4,186 women either vaccinated with a HPV16/18 vaccine or a control vaccine (a hepatitis A vaccine). Cervical samples from the women were collected at their annual visits and oral and anal samples were collected at a four-year follow-up visit.” Using this information, the researchers could tell who was already infected with HPV when they got their vaccine. “The results showed that the efficacy for the vaccine in all three sites was 83% among the women with no evidence of prior HPV exposure and infection, 58% among women with prior HPV exposure, and a 25% among women with active cervical HPV16/18 infection.” The data shows that even if the vaccine comes late, it can still help push the body to fight off a current infection, which may save some women from cervical cancer down the road. (TIME)

Mammogram guidelines emphasize weighing risks, benefits. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes guidelines about how best to prevent illness based on the best available evidence, including how to screen for breast cancer. The USPSTF has just released revised recommendations when it comes to breast cancer. “Mammograms are more beneficial for women 50 to 74 years old than for younger women, while the benefits for women 75 and older are unclear. The USPSTF examined clinical studies on breast-cancer screening, concluding that ‘some women in their 40s will benefit from mammography’ but that ‘most will not, while others will be harmed.’ The panel said those hurt include women who undergo surgery, radiation or chemotherapy for cancers that never would have threatened their health.” The panel instead recommends a careful conversation with a doctor about the risks and benefits of screening for women between 40 and 50. “The main reason why the balance of benefit and harm changes for women older than 50, ‘is that breast cancer becomes more common as people get older.’” (Wall Street Journal)