Breast cancer rates in the United States dropped by 7 percent from 2002 to 2003, possibly as a result of millions of women who discontinued hormone replacement therapy, the Associated Press reported Dec. 15. The analysis was reported at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Breast cancer cases dropped most among women 50 and older, the age group taking hormones. In 2003, there were only 124 cases per 100,000 women, the biggest decline in the breast cancer rate since the 1970s. That year, nearly 200,000 cases of breast cancer had been expected, but about 14,000 fewer women actually were diagnosed with the disease.

The decline in the number of women taking hormone replacement therapy came just after publication of the Women’s Health Initiative trial in 2002, which revealed that health risks among recipients were elevated, especially for breast cancer and stroke.

“This is big news,” said Dr. Jay Brooks of the Ochsner Health System, in Baton Rouge, La. “This has profound public health implications for women in this country.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A group of young mothers and other women in Montana succeeded in convincing Albertsons, the nation’s second largest supermarket chain, to post federal government warnings about mercury hazards in all stores nationwide, according to Women’s Voices for the Earth, an environmental health and justice organization in Montana and Idaho. The women took on the effort after fish from their local Albertsons store in Missoula showed mercury contamination above the safe level recommended by the government. Nationally, an estimated 7 million women and children consume fish with mercury over the level considered “safe” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Ban Ki Moon, the new secretary general of the United Nations, has hinted that he would name a woman to the position of deputy secretary general, reported the Times of London Dec. 15. U.N. insiders say the short list is headed by Rima Khalaf, a former deputy prime minister of Jordan. Other finalists include Fayza Abulnaga. Egypt’s Minister for International Co-operation and Thoraya Obaid, a Saudi woman who heads the UN Population Fund. Moon said that he would name the new deputy secretary-general before taking office next month.
  • A large majority of women aged 18-39 are choosing not to “opt out” of the work force after giving birth, according a Lifetime Television survey released Dec. 13. Eighty-five percent of the respondents in the 18-39 age group said they plan to be in the work force after having children, and of those who already have children and are currently not working, 71 percent plan to return to work.
  • For the second year in a row, the number of African American women participating in college sports jumped to all-time high percentages, according to the 2005 report card issued by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. For instance, 43.7 percent of women participating in Division I college basketball are African American, and in Division I college sports for women overall, 15.4 percent of athletes are African American. African American women also make up 26 percent of the track and field-cross country rosters, the highest level since 1996.
  • Nadia Al-Saqqaf, editor in chief of the Yemen Times, has been awarded the 2006 Gebran Tueni Award from the World Association of Newspapers, which honors an editor or publisher from the Arab region. Al-Saqqaf is the first woman ever to be appointed an editor in Yemen; the Yemen Times is the largest English-language publication in that country. Al-Saqqaf received the award for her objectivity, neutrality and upholding human rights and press freedom.
  • Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara won the women’s 200-meter dash Dec. 11 at the Asian Games while wearing a hijab, Reuters reported Dec. 11. She was the only Arab woman to win two medals at the games. “Wearing conservative clothes has encouraged me,” Al Ghasara said. “Wearing a veil proves that Muslim women face no obstacles and encourages them to participate in sport. This is a glory to all Muslim women.”
  • Sunita Lyn Williams, an Indian American female astronaut, will perform three demanding spacewalks during a six-month stint aboard the International Space Station, becoming only the sixth female NASA astronaut to walk in space since the first space walk in 1965, reported the India news site, Zeenews.com.

For more information:

Women’s Voices for the Earth:

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport:

World Health Organization, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health:


Half of the world’s pregnant women still lack access to skilled care at childbirth, contributing to a high number of women and infants who continue to die every day, according to the United Nations Population Fund. There are 529,000 maternal deaths in the world annually.

Large numbers of poor Nigerian women are giving birth without the help of trained medical professionals, and only 12 percent of the poorest 20 percent have access to skilled medical care during childbirth, according to the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 report. Rather than going to a hospital, women are giving birth in churches and in their own homes because they cannot afford medical help, the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust reported Dec. 13.

In order to reduce maternal and newborn mortality, midwives and public health experts from 20 countries around the world have gathered in Tunisia for the first-ever International Forum on Midwifery in the Community. The World Health Organization estimates that 334,000 more midwives are needed around the globe to reduce maternal and newborn death and disability.

“A strong midwifery profession is key to achieving safer childbirth, and all pregnant women should have access to a midwife,” said Thoraya Obaid, head of the U.N. Population Fund.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Police in southern China publicly humiliated 100 female sex workers and some of their male customers, the Mail and Guardian reported Dec. 13. Handcuffed and wearing bright yellow prison tunics, the women were paraded through the streets of Shenzen as police revealed their names, hometowns and dates of birth while publicly sentencing them all to 15 days in prison. The All-China Women’s Federation filed a formal protest to the ministry of public security, saying the parade was “an insult to all the women in China.”
  • According to the Iraqi minister of women’s affairs and local organizations, female prisoners in Iraq are often held without charge and they are sometimes raped and tortured, the U.N. news agency IRIN reported Dec 13. Women’s Minister Faten Abdul Rahman Mahmoud said the number of female prisoners in Iraq is unknown, but they are held in many prisons.
  • Some hospitals in Massachusetts are violating the year-old state law that requires hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims by imposing “serious restrictions,” the Boston Globe reported Dec. 14. According to a survey of 69 hospital emergency departments by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, officials at 7 percent of the hospitals stated that providing emergency contraception may be left to the doctor’s discretion and another 7 percent indicated that a woman may have to undergo a rape exam before being offered the treatment.

Irene Lew is editorial intern and Nouhad Moawad is Arabic intern at Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].