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Attending the Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Adolescentology in Otaru

The 29th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Adolescentology was in Otaru on the weekend of August 28-29. It was my fourth visit to Otaru, but my first in some time, and I had so much fun learning new things in Otaru that I decided to write about them in my message today.

More than thirty years ago, pediatricians, gynecologists, urologists and doctors from other fields specializing in endocrinology got together to study issues related to adolescent development. This led to a research group, which grew to become the Japan Society of Adolescentology. At that time, a decision was made not to use the term "adolescent medicine" so as to encourage the participation of anyone studying or working in a field related to puberty.

As a result, membership currently consists of not only physicians, but others in the field of medicine such as medical nurses, midwives, public health nurses, those in education such as teachers at elementary, junior high and senior high school, and school nurses, bureaucrats, as well as scholars and researchers in public health, psychology, and sociology who study adolescence. In this respect, it is similar to the two societies in which I am involved: the Japanese Society of Baby Science and the Japanese Society of Child Science. With a membership of approximately 1900, over 400 people participated in the 29th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Adolescentology in Otaru.

The 29th conference in Otaru was held at a seaside hotel where not only yachts but other boats, including motorboats glistened white in the summer sun. Covering all of the issues related to adolescence today, the conference featured a full program of three special lectures, two lectures by the director and president of the assembly, two luncheon seminars, two symposia, and 97 presentations. It was truly comprehensive.

The President of the Society in Otaru is Professor Noriaki Sakuragi, Department of reproductive endocrinology and oncology, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, gave a lecture on the treatment of ovarian and uterine cancer in young women and puberty with consideration given to fertility preservation and emphasis on difficulties during surgery.

Beyond director's professional interest, however, this topic was one of special interest at the conference because the vaccine for cervical cancer has finally become a possibility in Japan, nearly ten years after its introduction in Europe and the United States. With the approval of the Ministry of Health, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, artificially made in the US, can now be imported and used in Japan. It is reported that vaccinating girls of junior-high school age will prevent between 60% to 70% of the cases of cervical cancer. In advanced industrialized countries of Europe and Canada, for example, vaccination of girls aged 4 to 16, now under way for nearly a decade, and moreover, at public expense, has been effective. This topic was the subject of the special lecture, two presentations, and one conference, which led to very lively discussions.

Every year, sexually transmitted diseases are a major theme at conferences on adolescentology, and fortunately, several researchers at this meeting reported that cases were on the decline. After a vigorous debate on the reasons, it was concluded that sex education, as it is carried out in Europe and the US, had had a major effect. In this age, Japanese-style sex education may be over.

In addition, presentations also addressed hormonal problems during puberty and genital deformation as well sexual behavior of children, unwanted pregnancy, eating disorders (Anorexia nervosa), and emotional problems. Sexuality is considered to be related to culture, and the sexual behavior of children has changed dramatically in recent years. Many attributed the decline in pregnancy in minors and sexually transmitted diseases not only to sex education, but also to cultural factors. Anorexia nervosa is related to young girls' role models today, which are not their mothers, but actresses. This indicates that onset mechanism of anorexia nervosa is not the same as in the past.

Traveling to Hokkaido is always fun. This summer was especially hot, but even so, the temperature was 2 to 3 degrees lower than in Tokyo, so the cool breeze from the ocean made this trip even more pleasant. The express train ride from Chitose Airport through Sapporo to Otaru was a short trip of one hour and fourteen minutes and I enjoyed looking out of the window at the passing scenery. Dark green forests of the north continued for some time after we left the airport. Reflected in the summer sun, the white bark of the birch trees stood out in the green forest and reminded me of the forests in Norway. I recalled fishing in the sea with professors from Hokkaido and Kyushu a long time ago, the three of us. These two friends are no longer living.

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