Category Archives: Cancer

Jun 9 2014
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Public Heath Campaign of the Month: ‘Know: BRCA’

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched three very pink infographics aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer among young women who may not realize they can be at risk for the disease—usually because of a gene mutation inherited from their mother or father.

The campaign, called “Know:BRCA” uses pink for all three of the new infographics because that color is widely identified with breast cancer awareness campaigns. The graphics focus on:

  • Knowing about BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Knowing that everyone has BRCA genes
  • Knowing your genetic risk factors
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According to the CDC, most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. However, each year in the United States about 9,000 women younger than 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. In this younger group the cancer is generally more aggressive, found at a later stage, has lower survival rates and can often be linked to a mutation in one or two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Usually the BRCA genes protect people from cancer, but mutations to the genes can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in general and especially in younger women. Discussions with physicians and genetics counselors about family history of breast and ovarian cancer can determine the need to test for the gene mutations. And if the tests are positive, health care experts may advise preventive treatment to help avoid breast and ovarian cancer, such as long-term medication or prophylactic mastectomy—the surgery actress Angelina Jolie chose last year because of her family history of breast cancer.

Without treatment, women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before age 70 than other women.

The goal of the new infographics is to encourage women to learn their family history of cancer and then talk to their doctor if they have:

  • Multiple relatives with breast cancer
  • Any relatives with ovarian cancer
  • Relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50

The CDC also recently released a new physician tool to help doctors advise young patients about BRCA testing and prophylactic treatment.

>>Bonus Link: Read a new New York Times story on the evolution of breast cancer treatment 

Jun 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 4

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Study: Medicaid Patients Receive Poorer Cancer Care
People on Medicaid receive poorer cancer care than people with private insurance, according to three new studies presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. Researchers determined that Medicaid patients are less likely to have their cancer caught at an earlier, more treatable phase, as well as far more likely to die from cancer. One of the factors contributing to this disparity is the fact that Medicaid patients have less experience navigating the health care system. "Research has shown that we can screen more patients, but that they get dropped along the way to treatment. We don't give them full access into curative therapy," said Jyoti Patel, MD, an oncologist at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, who's also a spokeswoman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology. "We need to do a better job to make sure that people who aren't savvy or can't advocate for themselves have that helping hand." Read more on health disparities.

CDC: Norovirus is the Leading Cause of Disease Outbreaks from Contaminated Food
Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 20 million people in the United States are sickened by norovirus annually. According to the CDC, because infected workers are often the source of these outbreaks, the food service industry can help prevent outbreaks by enforcing safety practices, including:

  • Making sure food service workers practice proper hand washing and use utensils and single-use disposable gloves to avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands
  • Certifying kitchen managers and training food service workers in food safety practices
  • Establishing policies that require food service workers to stay home when sick with vomiting and diarrhea and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop

Read more on food safety.

N.C. Program Successful in Expanding Dental Care to Young, Low-income Children
A North Carolina program to reduce cavities in young, low-income children, has significantly increased the number of children under the age of four receiving preventive dental care  since the program began in 2000, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The program works to train physicians in basic dental screening and preventive techniques that can be provided quickly and effectively during regular office visits. “Evaluation studies conducted since the initiation of the program in 2000 have found it to substantially increase access to preventive dental services for young, high-risk children who otherwise would be unlikely to use these services in dental offices, reduce caries-related treatments and costs, avert hospitalizations and improve oral health status,” said study was co-author R. Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH, professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, in a release. Read more on pediatrics.

May 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 30

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FDA: Sunlamps to Require Health Warnings
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final order that requires sunlamp products and ultraviolent (UV) lamps for use in sunlamp products to carry warnings stating that they should not be used by people under the age of 18. The order reclassifies the products from low-risk (class I) to moderate-risk (II). “The FDA has taken an important step today to address the risk to public health from sunlamp products,” said Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a release. “Repeated UV exposure from sunlamp products poses a risk of skin cancer for all users—but the highest risk for skin cancer is in young persons under the age of 18 and people with a family history of skin cancer.” People who are exposed to UV radiation as a result of indoor tanning increase their risk of melanoma by 59 percent, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Read more on cancer.

CDC: U.S. Measles Cases at a 20-year High
Cases of measles in the United States are at a 20-year high, with international travel by unvaccinated people a major contributor, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that there were 288 U.S. cases between January 1 and May 23 this year—and 97 percent were associated with importation by travelers from at least 18 countries. Approximately 90 percent of the cases were in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, in a release. “Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.” Read more on vaccines.

Type of Increased Heart Risk Depends on Which Blood Pressure Number is High
The type of increased heart risk a person with high blood pressure faces depends on which number in their blood pressure—the top, which is systolic, or the bottom, which is diastolic—is high, according to a new study in The Lancet. Researchers analyzed health care date on more than 1 million people ages 30 and older in England, finding that people with higher systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of bleeding strokes and stable angina, while people with higher diastolic blood pressure were more likely to be diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In addition, they found that a 30-year-old with high blood pressure has a 63 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, compared with 46 percent for a person with normal blood pressure. "With lifetime risks this high, the need for new blood pressure-lowering strategies is paramount," said lead investigator Eleni Rapsomaniki, MD, from The Farr Institute for Health Informatics Research in London, England, in release. Read more on heart health.

May 12 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 12

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U.S. Cervical Cancer Rates Higher than Previously Reported
Cervical cancer rates in the United States are higher than previously reported, especially among women ages 65-69 and African-American women, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. Previous research showed about 12 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women in the United States, with the incidence reaching a peak at age 40-44 and then leveling off. However, those estimates included women who had hysterectomies in which the cervix had been removed and the authors of the new study say excluding these women—who are no longer at risk of developing this cancer—from their analysis, changes the rate to 18.6 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women. The new study also found that incidence increased steadily with age and peaked at a higher rate and at an older age—in women 65-69. Read more on cancer.

ADHD Treatment Linked to Lower Smoking Rates
Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with stimulant medication may reduce smoking risk, especially when the medication is taken consistently, according to an analysis of 14 studies published in Pediatrics. The studies evaluated by the researchers were longitudinal studies of cigarette smoking and ADHD treatment which included 2,360 individuals with ADHD; this is the largest meta-analysis on the issue to date, according to the study authors. The researchers looked at data on nicotine dependence, smoking frequency and whether study participants smoked at the time of the study, and found a significant association between stimulant treatment and lower smoking rates. The effect was larger in those with more severe ADHD and when participants took stimulant medications continuously. The researchers say more studies are needed to determine the recommended timing and duration of stimulant treatment to help lower smoking risk. Read more on tobacco.

Number of Nurse Practitioners Working in Primary Care Increases
Almost half of recently licensed U.S. nurse practitioners (NPs) have become part of the U.S. primary care workforce, according to a report released today by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners shows that in 1992 approximately 59 percent of graduating NPs worked in primary care, decreasing to 42 percent between 2003 and 2007. However, the new survey shows that 47 percent of NPs graduating since 2008 have entered primary care. According to the report, 76 percent of the NP workforce has certification in a primary care specialty, including family, adult, pediatric, or gerontology care, and nearly half have a family NP certification. More than half of the NP workforce works in ambulatory care settings, while nearly a third work in hospitals. Read more on prevention.

Apr 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 22

Study: False-Positive Mammograms Have Minimal Effect on Anxiety
Women whose mammograms suggest the presence of breast cancer that is eventually ruled out by further testing experience slightly increased anxiety that does not affect their overall health, according to a new study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College compared 534 cancer-free women whose mammograms initially suggested breast cancer to 494 women whose screenings were negative. The women were interviewed after the first mammogram but before they were cleared of a cancer diagnosis and again a year later. Immediately after their first mammogram, the women who received false-positive results had more anxiety than those who received a clean bill of health but the anxiety leveled off after one year. There was no difference in overall health between the two groups of women. Read more on cancer.

Bullying Victims Feel Psychological Effects into Middle Age
Children who are bullied suffer the psychological affects for years to come, leading to increased risk of depression and other mental health issues, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. British researchers have found that children bullied at the ages of 7 and 11 experienced feelings of poor general health at ages 23 and 50 and poor cognitive functioning at 50. The study used surveys that were conducted over 50 years, looking at children who said they were bullied occasionally or frequently at 7 and 11, and comparing the impact at ages 23, 45 and 50. Read more on mental health.

Earth Day: The Impact of the Environment on Health
April 22 is Earth Day and people across the country are taking action to protect and improve our environment. The quality of our environmental has significant effects on our overall health. Air pollution, such as ground-level ozone and airborne particles, can irritate the respiratory system, induce asthma and even lead to lung disease. In addition, UV exposure due to ozone layer depletion can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the immune system. Below are tips to help create a healthier planet today:

  • Conserve energy and improve air quality by turning off appliances and lights when you leave a room.
  • Keep stoves and fireplaces well maintained to reduce air pollution.
  • Plant deciduous trees near your home to provide shade from UV rays in the summer.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances produced by low- or zero-pollution facilities. 

Read more on environment.

Apr 18 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 18

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CDC: Mixed Progress in Food Safety Efforts
A new food safety progress report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows mixed results for the country’s safety efforts. While the rate of salmonella infections was down approximately 9 percent in 2013 compared to the previous three years, campylobacter infections—often linked to dairy products and chicken—are up 13 percent since 2006-2008. The CDC also found that vibrio infections, which are often linked to raw shellfish, were at the highest level since tracking began in 1996. “This year’s data show some recent progress in reducing salmonella rates, and also highlight that our work to reduce the burden of foodborne illness is far from over,” said Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “To keep salmonella on the decline, we need to work with the food industry and our federal, state and local partners to implement strong actions to control known risks and to detect foodborne germs lurking in unsuspected foods.” The report’s data comes from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a group of experts from CDC; ten state health departments; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Read more on food safety.

FDA: Common Procedure to Remove Uterus, Uterine Fibroids Can Spread Cancer
A common procedure to remove the uterus or uterine fibroids can unintentionally spread cancerous tissue—such as uterine sarcomas—according to a new safety communication from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is discouraging the use of laparoscopic power morcellation. The procedure divides the uterine tissue into smaller fragments in order to remove them via a small abdominal incision. “The FDA’s primary concern as we consider the continued use of these devices is the safety and well-being of patients,” said William Maisel, MD, MPH, deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “There is no reliable way to determine if a uterine fibroid is cancerous prior to removal. Patients should know that the FDA is discouraging the use of laparoscopic power morcellation for hysterectomy or myomectomy, and they should discuss the risks and benefits of the available treatment options with their health care professionals.” Read more on cancer.

Approximately 12M U.S. Outpatients Misdiagnosed Each Year
Approximately 12 million U.S. adults are misdiagnosed each year in doctors’ office and other outpatient settings, with an estimated half of those mistakes potentially leading to serious harm, according to a new study set to be published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. The overall total means about one in every 20 patients are misdiagnosed. For the study researchers used data from three studies covering a sample pool of approximately 3,000 medical records. "It's important to outline the fact that this is a problem," said Hardeep Singh, MD, the study's lead author and a patient safety researcher at Baylor College of Medicine and at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, both in Houston, according to Reuters. "Because of the large number of outpatient visits, this is a huge vulnerability. This is a huge number and we need to do something about it.” Read more on access to care.

Apr 16 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 16

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Study: More ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Youth at Higher Risk for Cancer-risk Behaviors
The most “feminine” girls and the most “masculine” boys are also the most likely to engage in behaviors that pose cancer risks, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) analyzed data on 9,354 adolescents in the ongoing Growing Up Today Study, finding that cancer-risk behaviors such as tobacco use, indoor tanning and physical inactivity were significantly more common in adolescents who more closely adhered to the traditional societal norms of masculinity and femininity. "Our findings indicate that socially constructed ideas of masculinity and femininity heavily influence teens' behaviors and put them at increased risk for cancer,” said lead author Andrea Roberts, research associate in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at HSPH. “Though there is nothing inherently masculine about chewing tobacco, or inherently feminine about using a tanning booth, these industries have convinced some teens that these behaviors are a way to express their masculinity or femininity." Read more on cancer.

Study: Casual Marijuana Use Can Cause Dangerous Changes in Youths’ Brains
Casual marijuana use in young people can lead to potentially harmful changes in the brain, according to a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers from Northwestern University's medical school, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School determined that casual marijuana smoking—defined as one to seven joints per week—could lead to changes to the nucleus accumbens and the nucleus amygdale, which help regulate emotion and motivation. "What we're seeing is changes in people who are 18 to 25 in core brain regions that you never, ever want to fool around with," said co-senior study author Hans Beiter, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, according to Reuters, adding, "Our hypothesis from this early work is that these changes may be an early sign of what later becomes amotivation, where people aren't focused on their goals.” Read more on substance abuse.

CDC: ‘Herd Immunity’ Helped Reduce H1N1 Flu Strain’s Impact This Season
While the H1N1 influenza strain was the predominant strain in the United States this past flu season, prior widespread exposure and its inclusion in the current flu vaccine meant it did not have nearly the impact it did in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to Michael Jhung, MD, a medical officer in the CDC’s influenza division, an overall “herd immunity” helped stop this season from turning into the worldwide pandemic seen in 2009. "This year, not only do we have a vaccine that works well, but millions of people have already been exposed to the H1N1 virus," he said, according to HealthDay. The flu strain also hit differently this season, peaking earlier, although once again younger adults were affected more than the elderly. Read more on the flu.

Apr 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 3

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Study: Fertility Drugs Not Tied to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Fertility drugs are not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a new long-term study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Researchers analyzed records for 9,892 U.S. women who were followed for 30 years after having been evaluated for infertility between 1965 and 1988, finding that about 38 percent of them were exposed to the fertility drug clomiphene and about 10 percent were exposed to drugs known as gonadotropins. There were 749 breast cancers diagnosed during the three decades, but women who were exposed to either drug were just as likely as the women who hadn’t been exposed to fertility drugs to develop breast cancer. The study did note an increased risk of breast cancer for the small group of women exposed to the highest doses of clomiphene. "It's reassuring that if women desire pregnancy and unfortunately have infertility that they can undergo treatment without modification of their overall risk for cancer later," said Kurt Barnhart, MD, president of the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, to Reuters Health. He was not involved in the study. Read more on cancer.

Study: CDC’s Salt Recommendations Are Too Low
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) salt guidelines are too low, according to a new study in the American Journal of Hypertension. Researchers reviewed 25 previous studies, concluding that both too much and too little salt can be harmful. They concluded that the safest intake range was between 2,645 and 4,945 mg of salt a day, although the CDC recommends less than 2,300 mg of salt per day for healthy people under age 50, and less than 1,500 mg per day for most people over age 50. "For most people, there is no reason to change their dietary habits concerning salt, as most people eat what appears to be the safest amount," said review author Niels Graudal, MD, a senior consultant at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, according to HealthDay. Read more on nutrition.

HUD to Provide Disaster Assistance to Washington State Mudslide Victims
Having officially been given a major disaster declaration yesterday, Snohomish County and the Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish and Tulalip Indian Reservations in Washington state will now received federal disaster assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help recover from the flooding and mudslides that began on March 22. Among the assistance:

  • Offering the State of Washington and other entitlement communities the ability to re-allocate existing federal resources toward disaster relief
  • Granting immediate foreclosure relief
  • Making mortgage insurance available
  • Making insurance available for both mortgages and home rehabilitation
  • Offering Section 108 loan guarantee assistance
  • Information on housing providers and HUD programs  

"Families who may have been forced from their homes need to know that help is available to begin the rebuilding process,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. "Whether it's foreclosure relief for FHA-insured families or helping these counties to recover, HUD stands ready to help in any way we can." Read more on disasters.

Mar 28 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 28

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CDC: 1 in 68 U.S. Children on Autism Spectrum
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has significantly increased its estimates of the number of U.S. children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to a new surveillance summary report, approximately 1 in 68 children—or 14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds—are on the spectrum. The new estimate is about 30 percent higher than previous CDC estimates. The report also found that ASD continue to be five times more common among boys than girls; more common among white children than Black of Hispanic children; and that most children are still not diagnosed until after age 4, despite the fact that ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2. “The number of children identified with autism continues to increase and the characteristics of these children have changed over time,” said Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MS, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, in a release. “While progress has been made, there is an urgent need to continue the search for answers and provide help now for people living with autism.” Read more on pediatrics.

New Cancer Cases Dropped Slightly from 2009 to 2010
Rates of new cancer cases dropped slightly for both men and women in the United States from 2009 to 2010, according to the new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, Invasive Cancer Incidence—United States, 2010. The report saw the incidence rate drop to 446 per 100,000 persons from 459 per 100,000 persons. Rates varied by state, from a high of 511 to a low of 380. The rate was higher for men than it was for women, with the highest rate of all among black Americans. Read more on cancer.

HHS Releases New Security Risk Assessment Tool for Small-to-Medium-Sized Health Care Organizations
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new security risk assessment (SRA) tool to help health care providers in small-to-medium sized offices conduct risk assessments of their organizations. A collaborative effort of the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the tool enables the organizations to conduct and document a thorough risk assessment at their own pace by allowing them to assess the information security risks under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule. The SRA tool’s website contains a User Guide and Tutorial video to help providers begin using the tool. Videos on risk analysis and contingency planning are available at the website to provide further context. The tool is available for both Windows and operating systems and iOS iPads. Read more on technology.

Mar 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 17

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Poison Prevention Week 2014
March 16-24 is Poison Prevention Week this year, and an important opportunity to remind health officials and consumers about the resources provided by the National Poison Prevention Program and Hotline (1-800-222-1222). The National Poison Control Program is a program of the Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA). Programs include:

  • Poison centers serving all states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia and American Samoa.
  • A single, national toll-free number (1-800-222-1222) that connects callers with the poison center serving their area.
  • A nationwide media campaign to educate the public and health care providers about poison prevention, poison center services and the 1-800 number.
  • Programs to support the enhancement and improvement of poison education, prevention and treatment.
  • Partnership development with other federal agencies and national organizations to advance poison prevention awareness.
  • Development of uniform patient management guidelines so that poison centers can provide uniform treatment recommendations.
  • Improvement of data collection systems and toxic exposure surveillance for enhanced capability to capture national poisoning data.
  • Multilingual interpreter service in 161 languages to anyone who calls the 1-800 number. 

Read an FAQ on assistance available from the Poison Prevention Program for consumers and health providers. Read more on prevention.

Colon Cancer Incidence Rates Decreasing Steeply in Older Americans
Colon cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the United States in the last 10 years among adults 50 and older because of the widespread use of colonoscopies, according to a new study in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The largest decrease has been in people over age 65. Colonoscopy use has almost tripled among adults ages 50-75, from 19 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2010. The study relied on data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Program of Cancer Registries.

The "larger declines among Medicare-eligible seniors likely reflect higher rates of screening because of universal insurance coverage," according to the study authors. Mortality rates from colon cancer have also declined most rapidly within the past decade. From 2001 to 2010, death rates from colon cancer decreased by approximately 3 percent per year in both men and women, compared with declines of approximately 2 percent per year during the 1990s. The data is being released as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launches a nationwide effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent by 2018. Read more on cancer.

DOT Proposed Rules on Electronic Log Books for Large and Bus Drivers to Help Reduce Fatalities and Injuries
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced a proposal to require interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in their vehicles to improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work. According to DOT, the proposed rule will ultimately reduce hours-of-service violations by making it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their time on logbooks and—significantly—help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year, for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million. Impaired driving, including fatigue, was a factor in more than 12 percent of the 129,120 total crashes that involved large trucks or buses in 2012. Read more on injury prevention.