Category Archives: Cancer
USDA: $4.5M in Grants to Get Local Foods into Schools, Benefit Communities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding more than $4.5 million in USDA Farm to School grants to help get local food into school cafeterias, especially in rural communities. The grants cover 68 projects in 37 states, plus Washington, D.C. "When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, in a release. "Evidence also suggests that when kids understand more about where food comes from and how it is produced, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices." The grants will also support efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes. Read more on nutrition.
One in Five Breast Cancer Patients Say They are Given Too Many Treatment Options
Women with breast cancer who say they were given too many treatment options—approximately one in five—are more likely to select a treatment they regret, according to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Researchers say this shows the need for doctors to find new ways to communicate with their patients, especially those women who might have less education, about the risks and benefits of options such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. "Some women may feel overwhelmed or burdened by treatment choices, particularly if they are not also given the tools to understand and weigh the benefits and harms of these choices," wrote lead researcher Jennifer Livaudais. Read more on cancer.
CBO: 50 Cent Cigarette Tax Could Stop Millions from Smoking
A tax increase of as little as 50 cents per pack of cigarettes could lead to as many as 3 million more nonsmokers by 2085, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine and based on data from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. It would also mean about 200,000 lives saved. The reduction would be due to both current smokers quitting and nonsmokers deciding never to try cigarettes due to the cost. The current federal tax is $1.01 per pack. Read more on tobacco.
CDC Anti-smoking Campaign Put Real Faces on Health Dangers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Tips From Former Smokers” media campaign effectively raised awareness about the health dangers of smoking, according to a post-campaign assessment. The campaign featured about a dozen former smokers in television, radio, online and print ads discussing the health issues they faced—and continue to face—because of smoking. "What we decided to do was essentially try to give the American people more of a real feeling of what's behind the statistics," said Tim McAfee, MD, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Not helpless, pathetic victims, but people who want their stories told about what's been happening over the last 50 years, and who don't want to see this happen to anybody else." The campaign contributed to a 132 percent increase over the previous year’s time frame in calls to CDC’s 1-800-QUIT-NOW information line—up to 365,000 total calls—while visits to www.smokefree.gov increased 428 percent to approximately 630,000. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Statins Cut Death Rates in Cancer Patients
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may decrease the likelihood of death by 15 percent for people with cancer, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers noted that the drugs cut the rate of death from all causes, not just from cancer. Stig Bojesen, MD, of the University of Copenhagen and the study’s lead researcher, compared the improvement in mortality rates to that of chemotherapy. "The benefit of receiving chemotherapy versus not receiving chemotherapy is 15 percent to 20 percent, depending on cancer type," he said, according to Reuters. "What we see (in the new study) is comparable to that. That's really something." However, both researchers and critics noted that further studied was needed. Read more on cancer.
Parents with Social Anxiety More Likely to Have Kids with Anxiety Disorders
Social anxiety in parents increases the chances that a child will also develop an anxiety disorder, according to a new study in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center said a lack of affection and too much criticism from the parents were the likely contributors, demonstrating the important role that environmental factors play in anxiety disorders. "Children with an inherited propensity to anxiety do not just become anxious because of their genes, so what we need are ways to prevent the environmental catalysts—in this case, parental behaviors— from unlocking the underlying genetic mechanisms responsible for the disease," said Golda Ginsburg, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Read more on mental health.
Meningitis Toll at 29 Dead, 368 Infected
A national meningitis outbreak linked to potentially tainted steroids has now caused 29 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 368 cases in 19 states. New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts, which manufactured the drugs, is under multiple investigations. Westborough, Massachusetts-based Ameridose, a sister company to New England Compounding Center, has also announced a voluntary recall of all its products after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced concerns with the sterility of its facility. Ameridose said there have been no reports of any issues with its products. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Black Women at Greater Risk of Death from Breast Cancer
Black women with breast cancer are at greater risk of death within the first three years of diagnosis than white women, according to preliminary research presented at an American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego, Calif. The study looked at approximately 19,000 women with breast cancer between 2000 and 2007, finding black women were 48 percent more likely to die than white women; Asian women were 40 percent less likely to die than white women. The study linked the higher mortality rate for black women to particular types of tumors. "The results of this study emphasize that clinical management and follow-up for patients with breast cancer, particularly black women, is important in the first few years after diagnosis," said Erica Warner, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Read more on cancer.
Boys More Likely Than Girls to Abuse OTC Drugs
New research suggests boys are more likely than girls to abuse over-the-counter drugs. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati looked at 2009-2010 survey results for students in grades 7-12 in 133 schools, finding 10 percent of students overall abused drugs such as cough syrup or decongestants, which can lead to accidental poisoning; seizures; and physical and mental addictions, according to HealthDay. "Findings from this study highlight and underscore OTC drugs as an increasing and significant health issue affecting young people," said Rebecca Vidourek, an assistant professor of health promotion, in a release. The preliminary results were presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in San Francisco. Read more on prescription drugs.
Hurricane Sandy Kills 16, Leaves 7 Million Without Power
Hurricane Sandy left 16 people dead and more than 7 million without power when it slammed into the U.S. East Coast Monday night. However, the effects are far from over, as those without power face cold weather while repair crews work to fix outages and rescuers assist people endangered by server flooding. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, where the hurricane made landfall, said the damage was “incalculable.” Read more on the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and read a post on the public health role in preparedness and response.
Smoking Bans Cut Hospitalizations for Severe Conditions
“Smoke-free laws” significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations for severe cardiovascular and breathing problems, according to a new study in the journal Circulation. Researchers found a 15 percent drop in hospitalizations for heart attack; a 16 percent drop for strokes; and a 24 drop for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory issues. The meta-analysis study looked at 45 studies on smoking bans across the globe and demonstrates the public health benefits of not just stopping people from smoking, but also from protecting people from secondhand smoke, according to HealthDay. "Smoke-free laws have dramatic and immediate impacts on health and the associated medical costs," said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. “More comprehensive laws have bigger effects. Less comprehensive laws were associated with more hospitalizations." Read more on tobacco.
Despite Over-diagnosis, Breast Cancer Screening Saves Lives
Despite the fact that it can sometimes lead to unnecessary surgery and other risky treatments, breast cancer screening saves lives, according to a new study in The Lancet. Research by the charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and Britain's Department of Health found that approximately 1,300 British deaths are prevented each year because of early screening, though about 4,000 women receive treatment for cancers that would not actually have caused them problems. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for British women and health outcomes can be dramatically improved through early detection. "Screening remains one of the best ways to spot the very early signs of breast cancer, at a stage when treatment is most likely to be successful," said Harpal Kumar, chief executive of CRUK. Read more on cancer.
Medical-Legal Partnerships Identify, Help At-risk Communities
Sometimes medical problems have legal solutions. A new study in the journal Pediatrics used pattern recognition, in conjunction with medical and legal expertise, to identify children and communities in need of legal assistance to address inadequate housing and other issues that negatively impact health. By addressing social and environmental factors, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can improve both individual and public health, while also identifying additional areas where people did not realize they could be helped legally. “The government has enacted laws and regulations to address the negative health impact of hunger, insufficient income, unsafe housing, and disability,” wrote Barry Zuckerman, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, in a commentary. “When families do not receive the benefits or protections of these laws, health is undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed by using legal strategies.” Read more on medical-legal partnerships.
Substance Abuse Up Significantly Since 2001
The number of substance abuse diagnoses climbed approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Study lead author Joseph W. Frank, MD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, identified a number of possible explanations for the increase, including a rise in prescription drug use and increasingly effective treatments, such as methadone and talk therapy. "This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation's community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues," according to the study. Nearly 15,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on substance abuse.
Blood Pressure Improving for U.S. Adults with Hypertension
More and more U.S. adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, according to new research in the journal Circulation. About 47 percent of patients said their blood pressure was under control in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2001. Study authors cited an increasing use in multiple drugs as a reason for the improvement, as well as lower medication costs and greater awareness. The study also identified at-risk groups prone to higher blood pressure, including older Americans, blacks, people with chronic kidney issues and people with diabetes. The study also found that only 34 percent of Mexican-Americans had their blood pressure under control and recommend further research into the reasons. Read more on heart health.
3-D Mammogram Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses
A new type of 3-D mammogram produces sharper images than traditional CT scans that will allow physicians to identify and treat cancer earlier, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Approximately 210,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and almost 41,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new technique combines X-ray imaging and equally sloped tomography to produce an image. It also uses a lower radiation dose than current CT scans. However, researchers noted that the technology to use the technique in a clinical setting does not yet exist. Read more on cancer.
Discrimination Due to Depression a Barrier to Social Lives, Jobs
Despite continually increasing understanding of the disease, nearly 80 percent of people with depression say they’ve been the victims of discrimination, according to a study in The Lancet. The discrimination was so significant that many reported avoiding personal relationships or even applying for jobs. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults experience depression according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Our findings show that discrimination related to depression is widespread, and almost certainly acts as a barrier to an active social life and having a fair chance to get and keep a job for people with depression," Graham Thornicroft, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, who lead the study. Read more on mental health.
Weight Surgery Helps Reduce Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes
Weight loss surgeries are more effective than drugs for weight loss and diabetes at quickly reducing the chance of heart disease or stroke, according to a new study in the journal Heart. Researchers at the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Cleveland Clinic analyzed studies covering approximately 20,000 people, finding impressive improvements in blood pressure and diabetes management in patients who underwent procedures such as gastric band surgery. "The magnitude of effect on [cardiovascular] risk factors is impressive, and to date, no pharmacological therapy for weight management or diabetes has shown a comparable effect over these short time periods," stated the study. Read more on obesity.
Healthy Lifestyle Major Factor in Survival for Older Women with Cancer
A healthy lifestyle plays a major role in the survival rate of older women with cancer, according to research presented at the cancer prevention conference of the American Association for Cancer Research. "Elderly female cancer survivors who achieve and maintain an ideal body weight, stay physically active and eat a healthy diet have an almost 40 percent lower risk for death compared with women who do not follow these recommendations," said Maki Inoue-Choi, a research associate in the division of epidemiology and community health in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, in a release. Researchers looked at the health history of more than 2,000 women diagnosed with cancer between 1986 and 2002, finding the death rate was 37 percent lower for women who maintained the health life style (and taking other risk factors into account). Read more on cancer.
Survey: Most Americans Would Seek Treatment for Depression
Today is National Depression Screening Day, and a new survey shows that 72 percent of Americans would seek treatment for depression if they started showing symptoms. The number is slightly higher if the person also knows someone receiving treatment for depression. "These findings tell us that our efforts to reduce stigma and increase the public's knowledge of depression through events like National Depression Screening Day are having an effect," said Douglas Jacobs, MD, founder of Screening for Mental Health Inc. "The goal of the program is to educate people on the symptoms of depression, assess their risk for mood and anxiety disorders and connect those in need with local treatment services," said Jacobs, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Read more on mental health.
Study: Rate of Strokes is Up for Younger Americans
Risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are likely contributing to a dramatic rise in strokes in younger Americans, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. From 1993 to 2005, the rate of strokes for people below the age of 55 nearly doubled. The rate was higher for black Americans than for white Americans. Lead researcher Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said in addition to an increase in risk factors, the improved ability to detect strokes was also a contributor to the rising rates. Read more on access to health care.
Blood Test Could Help Detect Early Mesothelioma
A blood test to detect the protein fibulin-3 may help doctors diagnose and treat mesothelioma much earlier than was previously possible, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Harvey Pass, MD, a professor of thoracic oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said fibulin-3 was present in much higher concentrations in patients with mesothelioma. The cancer—which is often the result of asbestos exposure—can take year to develop, making it especially difficult to diagnose. Read more on cancer.
Digital Screenings Most Effective at Detecting Breast Cancer
A new study in the journal Radiology shows digital mammography to be more effective than film mammography at early detection of breast cancer. Researchers analyzed 1.2 million screening mammograms—13 percent of which were digital—and found high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ at a greater rate in the digital screenings. Debra Monticciolo, MD, professor of radiology at Texas A&M College of Medicine and section chief of breast imaging, said the study confirms the effectiveness of digital imaging supported in earlier studies. Read more on cancer.
Reading Doctors Notes Empowers Patients, Improves Treatment
A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that patients who read their doctors’ notes feel more empowered in their treatments—and are therefore more compliant with their treatments. Approximately 14,000 patients had access to the notes of 105 physicians under the year-long OpenNotes program. “Although a limited geographic area was represented, the positive feedback and clinically relevant benefits demonstrate the potential for a widespread adoption of OpenNotes. Moreover, it is a powerful tool in helping improve the lives of patients,” according to release from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. OpenNotes is an RWJF program. Read more on access to health care.
Study: HPV4 Vaccine Safe, Only Minor Side Effects
The quadrivalent (HPV4) vaccine is safe for girls and young women, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers looked at an array of potential side effects for the vaccine, also known as Gardasil, finding skin infections and fainting were the most common side effects. The drug is given to girls ages 9 and older to guard against cervical and other cancers. Read more on vaccines.
Incidents of Smoking Up In Top American Films
For the first time in five years cases of smoking were up in top box office movies in America, according to a new study in Preventing Chronic Disease Journal. The study found approximately 1,900 tobacco “incidents” in 134 films, including movies aimed at the youth market, such as “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Green Hornet” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.” “Hollywood has still not fixed this problem,” said lead author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, a professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, in a release. “The result of the increase in onscreen smoking in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to smoke and developing tobacco-induced disease.” Read more on tobacco.
ASTHO Report: $2.4 Billion Could Be Cut From FY 2013 Federal Public Health Budget
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released a new report on how the federal sequester scheduled for Jan. 2, 2013, will affect public health. Sequestration is the process of making automatic budget cuts to federal government programs. The sequester was included as a budget reduction enforcement mechanism in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It will take effect in 2013 unless Congress passes legislation to postpone it or finds other ways to reduce the federal deficit. According to the ASTHO report, these cuts could have a significant impact on public health efforts across the country:
- Between 210,000 and 840,000 children and adults would not get vaccines to help prevent hepatitis B, influenza, measles and pertussis outbreaks.
- Approximately 659,000 individuals in the United States would not be tested for HIV due to reductions in the availability of HIV tests.
- More than 750,000 mothers and infants would be cut from WIC.
- Outbreaks of foodborne disease, meningitis, pneumonia, and other conditions would be investigated more slowly or not at all.
Read more news from ASTHO.
Multifaceted Care a Big Help for At-risk HIV Patients
A new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases finds that multifaceted treatment—such as substance abuse treatment, case management and transportation—can improve the health and extend the lives of people with HIV. The 15-year study followed primarily poor, black patients in Baltimore and shows how multifaceted care can help patients get the most out of advanced treatments, according to the study’s authors. "Just like over time we have developed medications that are easier to take, have fewer toxicities and are more effective, I think we've done exactly the same things in our ability to deliver quality care to this particular population," said lead author Richard Moore, MD, to Reuters. Read more on HIV.
Survey Can Help Identify Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer
A two-minute, three-question survey could help physicians and patients identify early signs of ovarian cancer, according to a new study in Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study looked for six symptoms in 1,200 women ages 40 to 87, finding 5 percent had symptoms, of which 60 percent where later diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "Recent research indicates that approximately one in 140 women with symptoms may have ovarian cancer,” said lead author M. Robyn Andersen. “Aggressive follow-up of these symptoms can lead to diagnosis when ovarian cancer can be caught earlier and more effectively treated.” Read more on cancer.
Private Company, Insurer Partner to Offer Reduced-Price Nutritious Foods
Walmart is teaming with HumanaVitality, a subsidiary of Humana, to provide store credit savings incentives for customers who purchase healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. Studies show higher costs can often stop consumers from selecting healthier foods at the store. "Price is an important factor in incentivizing wellness in America,” John Agwunobi, MD, president of health and wellness, Walmart U.S., said in a release. “By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our healthcare system as a whole. This represents preventative care in its purest form.” Read more on nutrition.
Heavy Smoking, Drinking Can Lead to Pancreatic Cancer Earlier in Life
A new study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology finds that people who smoke and drink heavily early in life are at increased risk for pancreatic cancer—and can develop the deadly disease an average of a decade earlier than their counterparts. The average age of someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 72, according to the American Cancer Society. The study looked at 811 pancreatic cancer patients. Lead researcher Michelle A. Anderson, MD, of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, said the findings could affect how screenings are performed once a reliable pre-symptom screening test is developed. Read more on cancer.
One-third of Pediatricians Fail to Take Blood Pressure
A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows that, despite leading recommendations, pediatricians fail to check blood pressure in approximately one-third of patient visits from 2000-2009. Children should begin receiving annual blood pressure screenings at the age of 3, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Failing to do so could put the kids at increased health risks later in life. "High blood pressure in children can lead to changes in the child's heart and blood vessels, and puts them at increased risk for heart disease and strokes as they get older," said Margaret Riley, MD, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, to Reuters. Riley did not participate in the study. Read more on heart health.