Their survey found that only 11 percent of 19-20th century women in the age range 30-39 had HFI. However, in the modern sample, 40 percent of women in that age group were found to be developing the condition. Any number of factors could be to blame, May says. Hormones added to food are one culprit, but not the only one. Women are now having fewer children and getting pregnant later in life. The period of time women breastfeed has also been shortened considerably, from three to four years a century ago to an average of less than six months today. Women are also consuming additional amounts of hormones through birth control medications. It's now common for girls to be on "the pill" in their early teenage years.
There is currently no cure for HFI, but detection of the condition remains important, says Prof. Hershkovitz, who was among the first scientists to investigate the development of HFI in the human skull. "It's an alarm within the human body, telling you that your body is out of balance and there is a pathological process going on," he explains. It can also be a symptom of metabolic diseases.
Not just for women
Although most frequently found in the female population, HFI is not an exclusively female condition. Prof. Hershkovitz points to the case of Farinelli, a famous male opera singer in the 18th century, who suffered from HFI probably as a result of castration to preserve his falsetto voice.
Prof. Hershkovitz, Dr. Peled and May discovered a high prevalence of HFI in men who have been treated for prostate cancer. One of the treatments for prostate cancer, explains Prof. Hershkovitz, is chemical castration. Since the cancer itself feeds on testosterone, this treatment option literally starves
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University