Parents' perceptions skewed

when it comes to child's weight

Studies show that about 35 percent of American children ages 6 to 17 are overweight or obese. Problem is, most of their parents don't believe it.

More than 40 percent of parents with obese children between 6 and 11 years old described them as "about the right weight." Less than 10 percent said they were "very concerned" about weight, according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

Only about 13 percent of parents thought their children were very overweight. But that number zoomed to 31 percent among parents whose children were ages 12 to 17.

The survey was conducted last summer by Knowledge Networks Inc. for the Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital, which released findings last week.

Part of the problem, the researchers say, may be that obesity is based on a calculation known as the body mass index - not something that parents can easily judge. A 6-year-old boy of average height - 3 feet, 9.5 inches - is considered obese if he weighs 55 pounds or more.

The researchers say their findings are about more than just whether parents see their kids through rose-colored glasses. It amounts to a public health concern because parents who fail to recognize their children are overweight are less likely to help them adopt healthier lifestyles.

- Sandy Bauers

Depression therapy

seen as a weakness

Latinos diagnosed with depression feel stigmatized, and that may discourage them from staying on antidepressant therapy, concludes a new study.

Psychiatrists at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J., conducted six focus groups with Latinos who were receiving treatment for depression. Most of the 30 patients, recruited from a community mental health center, were born in Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Stigma was their second most common reason for quitting antidepressant medication. The first was side effects.

The groups said antidepressant use was seen as implying severe mental illness, weakness or failure to cope with problems.

"By understanding these issues, we can better respond to them during counseling," says Alejandro Interian, coauthor of the study in the current issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.

- Marie McCullough

Men with reason to worry are

often unaware of cancer risk

Most men whose female relatives have an inherited susceptibility to breast cancer are unaware that they are at higher risk for prostate cancer and male breast cancer.

That's the finding of a Fox Chase Cancer Center study of families who have defects in the so-called breast-cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Like their female relatives, fathers, sons and brothers can carry mutations in these genes. But the study found little interest in genetic testing among 24 men whose female relatives had tested positive. Nearly half the men thought their cancer risks were unaffected by the women's test results.

The study, presented last week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, shows that genetic counselors need to help women communicate test results to their male relatives, says lead author Mary B. Daly.

- M. M.

Elective C-sections

found to be a risk

A study in the current British Medical Journal suggests that parents should think twice about having an elective cesarean section, but if they do, they should put it off for as long as they can.

Elective cesarean sections, it turns out, can cause problems, particularly when scheduled much before the due date. Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark examined the history of 34,458 babies born at the hospital from 1998 through 2006. They compared the respiratory health of newborns delivered by elective cesarean section with those born vaginally or by emergency C-section.

The study found that those babies delivered by scheduled C-sections were much more likely to require extended oxygen therapy and other medical interventions for breathing problems than either of the unplanned groups.

And the earlier that elective caesareans were performed, the more likely the babies were found to have respiratory difficulties.

The Danish researchers concluded that babies delivered early by elective cesarean section were at 2 to 4 times the risk of respiratory illness.

And they had a recommendation for mothers-to-be: If you want to deliver by C-section, schedule it no earlier than the 39th week of pregnancy in order to reduce the baby's risk of breathing problems.

- Josh Goldstein