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BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 16 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:411
  1. Alison Tonks, associate editor (

    Early survivors of extremely low birth weight do well as young adults

    Between 1977 and 1982, Canadian researchers began studying a cohort of 166 babies who weighed less than 1000 g at birth. Members of the cohort are now in their 20s and are doing better than expected. According to the latest report, these young adults were just as likely to graduate from high school (82%), leave home (42%), marry (23%), get a permanent job (48%), or enrol in post secondary education (32%) as matched adults of normal birth weight—encouraging achievements, given that more than a quarter of the cohort had neurological or sensory disabilities, most commonly cerebral palsy, blindness, or cognitive deficit. In a study of the same cohort at age 14, more than half had special educational needs or had repeated a grade in school.

    Although overall outcome was good, the study reports subtle differences between the two groups. Those with extremely low birth weight were less likely than their peers to go to university, for example, and the males tended to have semiskilled or unskilled jobs. Boys in the cohort failed to match the achievements of their peers more often than girls.

    The participants in this study were reasonably affluent and most came from two parent families. They also were also born in a country with a healthcare system with universal coverage. The study's optimistic findings may not extend to extremely low birthweight babies born without these advantages.

    Whether a healthy diet protects postmenopausal women from cancer still isn't clear

    Women looking for conclusive evidence that a healthy diet can help them avoid breast cancer will have to wait a little longer. The women's health initiative dietary intervention trial, which included nearly 50 000 postmenopausal women and took more than 10 years to complete, failed to find a significant reduction in breast cancer risk among women eating a healthy, low fat diet, although the trend was in the right direction. The …

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