The Death Rate Is Rising for Middle-Aged Whites – By BETSY MCKAY Nov. 2, 2015 4:24 p.m. ET

Addiction and mental-health issues largely drive a reversal of decades of longevity gains

A syringe along West Main Street in downtown Austin, Ind., earlier this year. A new analysis of government data shows white middle-aged Americans are dying at an increasing rate, largely driven by suicides, alcohol and drug overdoses.

A syringe along West Main Street in downtown Austin, Ind., earlier this year. A new analysis of government data shows white middle-aged Americans are dying at an increasing rate, largely driven by suicides, alcohol and drug overdoses. Photo: News and Tribune/Associated Press

White middle-aged Americans are dying at an increasing rate, a new analysis of government data shows, a startling turnaround suggesting a rising toll of addiction and mental-health issues is reversing decades of gains in longevity.

Suicides, alcohol and drug overdoses, and death from chronic liver diseases largely drove the reversal, which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the analysispublished Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The turnaround occurred primarily among men and women between the ages of 45 and 54 with no more than a high-school education, but rates of those causes of death rose for wealthier middle-aged whites as well as whites in other age groups, according to the study.

By contrast, death rates declined for blacks and Hispanics in that age group over the same period, the study found.

No other rich country has experienced a similar turnaround in mortality rates, said the authors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who are economics professors at Princeton University. Mr. Deaton won the Nobel Prize in economics this year for work that has involved improving the rigor of data on consumption, poverty, health and other measures that underpin public policy.

The findings reveal an under-examined public health crisis and illustrate tragic ways in which many people are responding to physical and mental pain, adversity and changing life situations, the researchers say. The behaviors they have turned to—drinking, drugs and suicide—are so widespread that they have offset declines in other major causes of death in midlife, such as lung cancer, according to the study.

“What we see here is a group that’s in quite a lot of distress,” said Ms. Case, an expert in development and health economics.

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The latest advance in 3D printing: replacement teeth – Dominic Basulto for the Washington Post Saturday 31 October 2015 07.00 EDT

Bacteria-fighting plastic could be the future of dentistry

3D-printed teeth

This dental replica was made using a 3D printer. Researchers are now working on ways to make 3D-printed teeth resistant to bacteria. Photograph: Stratasys

The latest 3D printing innovation could change the way you think about your visit to the dentist. That’s because Dutch researchers at the University of Groningen are working on the creation of a 3D-printed tooth made of an antimicrobial plastic that kills the bacteria responsible for tooth decay on contact.

Imagine teeth that remain white and pristine over time, without all the accumulation of bacteria that cause dental problems. While the thought of having a 3D-printed tooth inside your mouth might not sound so great, is it really any worse than dealing with the constant toothache from a decaying tooth?

For the Dutch researchers, the key step in developing the bacteria-fighting tooth was being able to find the right material to put inside the 3D printer. In this case, the researchers embedded antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside existing dental resin polymers. Once this mix is put into a 3D printer, it can be hardened with ultraviolet light and used to print out 3D replacement teeth.

To test the bacteria-fighting tooth in a lab environment, the researchers coated the material with human saliva and exposed it to the bacterium that causes tooth decay. The anti-bacterial tooth killed more than 99% of all bacteria and showed no signs of being harmful to human cells.

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Why is breast cancer becoming deadlier for black women? – Molly Redden Saturday 31 October 2015 08.00 EDT

The American Cancer Society’s report on rising rates among black women have researchers searching for answers in obesity, medical care and the environment

breast cancer mammogram

Why is breast cancer so much deadlier in black women than in white women? On the heels of an alarming new report that black women have caught up with their white counterparts in breast cancer rates, the question has taken on a fresh urgency.

But the answer is elusive.

The report, which the American Cancer Society released on Thursday, is a warning that breast cancer will cause an increasing loss of life for black women, who are already hit hardest by the disease. Black women are less likely to die of breast cancer today than they were 25 years ago. But a vast racial disparity in mortality rates has continued to widen: in 2012, black women were 42% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Researchers have known for decades that breast cancer takes a deadlier toll on black women. “Hundreds of studies have looked at the differences in incidence and mortality rates between black women and white women,” said Linda Blount, CEO of the non-profit Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Hundreds. We can tell you it exists – the ‘what’. What we don’t know is the ‘why’.”

Thursday’s report points to several possible explanations for why the incidence of breast cancer is rising in black women. (In white women, the rate has remained flat for a decade.) Obesity is on the rise in black women, and black women are having fewer children, later in life. Susan Brown, who directs health education programs for the Susan G Komen breast cancer foundation, added that black women breastfeed at comparatively low rates. All are risk factors associated with breast cancer.

Other researchers have pointed to disparities in comprehensive access to competent medical care to explain both the incidence rate and mortality rate. A 2014 analysis of morbidity rates in the country’s 50 largest cities found that black women in Los Angeles were 70% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. In New York, that number was 19%, leading researchers to believe that the city’s superior hospital and transportation system could be factors.

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How the Deceptive Videos Attacking Planned Parenthood Are Hindering Cures for Deadly Diseases – —By Becca Andrews | Mon Oct. 26, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

People with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other afflictions will pay a price, scientists say.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at Oct 27, 2015 1.54

Since July, an anti-abortion group’s deceptively edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood for allegedly profiting off sales of fetal tissue appear to have prompted at least four arson attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics. And even though the allegations were bogus, the vilification of the women’s health organization has done additional damage: Violent threats and a political chill in the wake of the videos have begun to undermine potentially life-saving research on diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Fetal-tissue donation programs essential to such research have been shut down, supplies of the tissue to labs have dwindled, and legislation is brewing in multiple states that could hinder cutting-edge scientific studies.

“It’s anti-progress,” says Gail Robertson, a veteran researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who uses cell lines derived from fetal tissue to study heart disease, including sudden cardiac death, the largest cause of natural death in the United States. “We’re in a fight for the future of cures to the diseases that will affect us all.”

Since the 1990s, Robertson and her colleagues have developed pharmaceutical technology using cells from embryonic tissue known as the HEK line—research credited with saving lives from fatal heart disease. “If lawmakers were to say, ‘You can’t use HEK cells because they come from fetal tissue,’ it would be impossible to continue my work in my lab,” Robertson says. “It’s something we use every single day.”

“The CEO of StemExpress should be hung by the neck using piano wire and propped up on the lawn in front of the building,” one person threatened.

According to Theresa Naluai-Cecchini, a scientist at Birth Defects Research Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, the political controversy has hurt the work at her lab, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and also supplies other scientific researchers with fetal tissue. “We are in the last year of funding, and if we are unable to supply tissue to the research community we would have to close,” she says. “We may be able to obtain an extension, but the climate in DC does not look favorable in an election cycle.”

Naluai-Cecchini told the Seattle Times that over the past year her lab has distributed 1,109 tissue samples to more than 60 researchers elsewhere who are working on solutions for spinal cord injuries, eye disease, cancer, and HIV. That supply line relies on about two to three samples per day coming into Birth Defects Research Lab, which has long been the lab’s norm. But over the past month, Naluai-Cecchini told Mother Jones, only five specimens in total have come in. If that trend continues, she says, “promising research would stop until a commercial alternative is found. The cost of research would increase dramatically, and new findings would take considerably longer.”


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Dr. Ben Carson’s prescription: Abolish Medicare – By KYLE CHENEY and JASON MILLMAN 10/22/15 07:40 PM EDT

The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether. | AP Photo

The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether. | AP Photo

The GOP frontrunner in the latest Iowa poll would replace Medicare and Medicaid with savings accounts.

Republicans have fended off accusations for years that they’d gut Medicare for seniors and end the program “as we know it.”

Not Ben Carson. The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether.

Carson, who now leads the GOP field in Iowa according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, would eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions. While rivals have been pummeled for proposing less radical changes, Carson hasn’t faced the same scrutiny — and his continued traction in polls has left GOP strategists and conservative health care wonks scratching their heads.

“This isn’t a borderline issue. The politics of this are horrific,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, head of the American Action Forum and health care adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Carson’s stance on the third-rail issue of Medicare is especially risky given his strength among elderly voters. In Iowa, Carson draws a quarter of the senior vote — more than double any other candidate except Donald Trump, with whom he’s statistically tied among seniors. Carson’s support is even higher among voters between the ages of 55 and 64, who are on the verge of Medicare eligibility. He draws 34 percent of that age group, double Trump’s level of support, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

Carson’s GOP rivals are largely holding their fire so far. Trump’s campaign declined to comment, as did the campaigns of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal noted the Louisiana governor’s support for reforming — but preserving — Medicare and Medicaid.

“Without change, they will go bankrupt,” said the spokeswoman, Shannon Dirmann. “Abolishing them is bad policy.”

Carson’s position also puts him at odds with the Republican Party platform, which says the party “is committed to saving Medicare and Medicaid.” In a statement, the Republican National Committee chalked up Carson’s position to the diverse opinions of its candidates.

Carson campaign declined requests to comment for this story.


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The Connection Between Cancer Treatment and Cardiac Problems – By Steve Sternberg Oct. 20, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT

As more people survive cancer, doctors are discovering the long-term side-effects of their treatments.

In this Sept. 5, 2013 file photo, chemotherapy is administered to a cancer patient via intravenous drip at a hospital in Durham, N.C. A leading doctor group, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, announced on Monday, June 22, 2015, that they are proposing a tool to help patients decide how much a drug will cost and how much good it is likely to do. The move is the latest of several recent efforts to focus on value in cancer care.

Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy can create long-terms problems for the heart.

Breast Cancer Cell

When she was just a year old, Brenda Yano was diagnosed with acute leukemia. She was one of the lucky ones, cured by aggressive chemotherapy. Years later, Yano was told the cure had come with a cost: She could never have a baby. But no one cautioned her about the potential damage four years of chemotherapy would do to her heart.

Her unexpected pregnancy late last year, at 25, made a hash of the doctors’ predictions. It also sent Yano careening into progressive heart failure, putting her life at risk and complicating the birth of her daughter, Isabelle, in September.

Surviving cancer is a relatively new phenomenon. Fifteen years ago, breast cancer patients had a 50 percent chance of living five years after their diagnosis. Today, more than 90 percent survive five years or longer. Two decades ago, about 50 percent of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia survived five years; today, with better treatment, more than 95 percent of patients live at least five years.

As survival goes up, the more evident it becomes that chemotherapy, radiation and revolutionary, targeted cancer treatments—such as Herceptin for breast cancer—can wreak off-target havoc in other organs, especially the heart.

“It’s a major set of issues that weren’t a problem 30 years ago, because we didn’t have that many survivors,” says Steven Lipshultz, chief pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Now medicine is starting to fight back. A growing number of academic medical centers are teaming cardiologists with cancer specialists to pioneer specialized “cardio-oncology” clinics for cancer patients. Two of the busiest specialties in medicine – cancer is the nation’s second biggest killerheart disease the first – are beginning to collaborate in unprecedented ways to help cancer patients survive not only their disease but the life-saving treatment.

The overarching goal is to assess newly diagnosed cancer patients’ heart risks, determine which types of patients are most likely to suffer heart damage from chemotherapy and radiation and find new ways to protect the heart, all without letting up on life-saving cancer therapy.

“For the first time ever, what these treatments do to the heart really matters,” says Dr. Javid Moslehi, director of cardio-oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The collaborative approach has won critical backing from such professional organizations as the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which have begun a dialog about the issue. Clinicians who focus on the intersection of cancer and heart disease have formed their own professional association, The International Cardioncology Society, which held a global summit Oct. 15 and 16 in Nashville. A new medical journal has begun publishing research reports.

No one knows precisely how many cancer survivors develop treatment-related heart disease. Many of those who are deemed cured are lost to follow-up. The number of survivors are expected to grow dramatically as new treatments are introduced and as more patients go into long-term remission or are cured. Approximately 14.5 million survivors in the U.S. already owe their lives, at least in part, to chemotherapy or radiation.

“That’s a significant number,” Vanderbilt’s Moslehi says. “Over the next decade, it will probably double.”

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On The Line: Neha Shastry Discusses India’s Mental Health Crisis – Vice News Published on Oct 19, 2015

India is currently suffering a mental health crisis. With only 43 government-run mental hospitals serving a population of 1.2 billion, resources are spread thin. What’s more, mental illness is highly stigmatized in India, especially among women, who are typically committed to mental health facilities with no legal rights, receiving involuntary treatment, and sometimes without a proper diagnosis.

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