Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 11:43 AM

People 2 People July 8 & 9, 2017

According to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women under 60 years old are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women in the same age group. In fact, data from 2015 showed black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

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New research from Emory University, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute points to differences in health insurance as the culprit.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included data from the National Cancer Data Base on 563,497 black and white women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer between 2004 and 2013.

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The researchers examined five factors for the study: 

  • Demographics (age, stage, state, year of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Comorbidities (other health conditions)
  • Insurance (lack of insurance, private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.)
  • Tumor characteristics (size, type, stage, etc.)
  • Treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, surgery, etc.)

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The findings

They found that insurance explained one-third of the additional risk of death among the black women compared to white women diagnosed by early-stage breast cancer.

Additionally, almost three times as many black women (22.7 percent) were either uninsured or had Medicaid insurance compared to white women (8.4 percent).

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“Lack of insurance is a barrier to receipt of timely and high-quality treatment and screening services,” study authors wrote.

Other major factors that explained the differences: tumor characteristics (23.2 percent), comorbidities (11.3 percent) and treatment (4.8 percent).

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Nearly 80 percent of the women in the study had the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and according to the researchers, when matched for factors such as insurance, comorbidity and others, those factors accounted for a combined 76.3 percent of the total excess risk of death in black patients.

The authors noted that when it came to treatment differences, black and white women contrasted most for hormone therapy, which, according to ACS, is typically used after surgery to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

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“Several studies reported that black women are less likely to complete chemotherapy and hormone therapy,” study author Ahmedin Jemal told the ACS. “This could be for many reasons, including problems with transportation or the inability to pay for medicine.”

Additionally, previous research has shown that black women get lower quality mammograms and are less likely to have a follow-up appointment after receiving abnormal mammograms.

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And insurance is vital for both high-quality cancer care and for early detection.

“We know so much about cancer prevention and control,” Jemal, who is also vice president of the ACS surveillance and health services research program, said. “But we’re not applying it to the whole population equally. We have to make the standard of care available to everyone, including people with low income. And blacks are disproportionately represented in that group.”

Read the full study at ascopubs.org.

Learn more about the study and more about how women can protect themselves from breast cancer at cancer.org.

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Lack of sunlight may cause winter weight gain, research suggests

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:02 AM

If you're having a hard time losing weight, here are some questions to ask yourself Do you snack between meals? How active are you? Is your weekend diet too relaxed? Do you drink enough water? How are you sleeping? Are your medications part of the problem?

We often blame our added winter pounds on the holidays. All the gatherings of family and friends combined with good food, often take the toll on our waistlines.

But if you're one of the many who laments adding a few pounds in December, it may not actually be entirely due to changes in your diet. In fact, new research suggests that a lack of sunlight may be causing some of that unwanted weight gain.

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The study, published by researchers at Canada's University of Alberta in the scientific journal Nature, reveals that blue light emitted by the sun actually causes fat cells sitting beneath the skin to shrink. In the winter months, when there is generally less sunlight in many regions and people readily cover their skin to stay warm, the cells store more fat.

"When the sun's blue light wavelengths − the light we can see with our eye - penetrate our skin and reach the fat cells just beneath, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don't store as much fat," Dr. Peter Light, who led the research said, according to The Independent.

In other words, the illusion of looking thinner after a day tanning at the beach may not be entirely an illusion. The sunlight we're exposed to actually has a slimming effect on our fat cells.

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However, Light also cautions against using exposure to sunlight as a means of losing weight.

"We don't yet know the intensity and duration of light necessary for this pathway to be activated," he told Global News, explaining that the findings are preliminary and more research is necessary.

Light also explained that the discovery happened by accident. The research team was attempting to engineer fat cells to create insulin to help treat type 1 diabetes. Along the way, the scientists noted how the fat cells responded to sunlight.

Cracking a joke about the findings, Light told CBC that he's "finally living up to his name."

Forecasters expect a mostly sunny sky with highs in the upper 70s today. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)(Palm Beach Post Staff Writer)

Benefits of sunlight

Many people have long turned to tanning beds during the winter month, but Light said these methods don't necessarily have the same effect as direct exposure to the sun.

"We think that that great big nuclear reactor in the sky, the sun, is what's required," he explained. "We need really intense light to actually penetrate the skin."

The sun is already known to help our bodies generate vitamin D, and now Light believes his research has shown another important benefit to sunlight exposure.

"It may help regulate your body weight and a lack of it may actually lead to extra storage of [fat] in the winter," he said.

Next steps

While Light cautioned against jumping to any rash conclusions, he is optimistic that sunlight may one day be used in the treatment of obesity.

"Maybe this mechanism contributes to setting the number of fat cells we produce in childhood — thought to stay with us into adulthood," he said.

"Obviously, there is a lot of literature out there suggesting our current generation will be more overweight than their parents and maybe this feeds into the debate about what is healthy sunshine exposure," he added.

As of now, the research is only preliminary and more work is needed to determine the full effects and benefits of sunlight on weight. At the same time, the discovery has already suggests many interesting possibilities.

"Our initial first observation certainly holds many fascinating clues for our team and others around the world to explore," Light said.

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Mother of two dies just day after flu diagnosis

Published: Saturday, December 02, 2017 @ 12:24 PM

5 Reasons to get a Flu Shot

A young mother of two in Arizona died just one day after receiving a flu diagnosis, devastated family members said.

Alani Murrieta, 20, was diagnosed with the flu Monday and died Tuesday in the hospital, family members told KSAZ.

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Murrieta, the mother of a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, was healthy before the sudden illness, with no pre-existing health conditions, according to family. She first experienced symptoms Sunday, when she left work early. On Monday, she went to urgent care, where she was diagnosed with the flu and sent home with medications. She was admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning as her symptoms became more severe and she was having difficulty breathing, KSAZ reported.

At the hospital, doctors performed tests and diagnosed Murrieta with pneumonia. She was placed on a ventilator, but her heart stopped. The efforts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

While family members said Murrieta didn't get a flu shot, early results show this year's formula may not be very effective at combatting this year's flu strains.

'Raw water' is the latest health craze, but is it safe?

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 4:20 PM

"Raw water" is a new health fad that may actually make you sick. "Raw" water comes from nature and is not processed by water treatment chemicals. However, drinking unfiltered water may expose you to dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasites. Scientists say you get all the minerals you need from a healthy diet. The United States has an incredibly safe water supply and is safe to drink.

"Raw water", it's the latest bizarre health craze and people are willing to pay a pretty penny to get their hands on it.

A December article in The New York Times brought the trend of drinking "unfiltered, untreated, un-sterilized spring water" into the national consciousness. In San Francisco, the report explained, the co-up Rainbow Grocery was selling 2.5 gallons of the stuff bottled by start-up Live Water for $36.99.

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Since the report, Live Water has increased the price. According to what the co-up told Business Insider, the bottled water now costs $38.49. Refills go for $16.49, previously being $14.99.

Sales of the raw water have also surged, according to Live Water's website.

"First Water Delivery Might Take Longer Than Usual ~ New Orders Will Be Delivered In The Order They Are Received," the company's website says.

Although the new trend has its proponents, mainly those leery of fluoride and contamination from lead or other issues, experts have come out strongly against the idea.

"When water isn't treated, it can contain chemicals and germs that can make us sick or cause disease outbreaks," Vince Hill, chief of the CDC's Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, told TIME.

"Anything you can think of can be in untreated water," he added, mentioning agricultural runoff, naturally occurring chemicals, bacteria and viruses.

Bill Marler, a food-safety advocate and attorney said that: "almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in [untreated] water."

"The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about," Marler said. "It's fine [to drink untreated water] till some 10-year-old girl dies a horrible death from cholera in Montecito, California."

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Among other harmful bacteria and diseases, untreated water can contain cholera, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and giardiasis. As for fluoride concerns, experts say that as long as the chemical is added properly, humans can only see benefits.

Vincent Casey, a senior water sanitation and hygiene manager at clean water nonprofit WaterAid, explained that the levels of fluoride found in normal drinking water throughout the country are not dangerous. Problems only occur when high concentrations of the chemical are present. 

"In low quantities, it is scientifically proven that [fluoride] is beneficial to dental health," Casey said.

"If a water company or a utility is carrying out its treatment to the right standards, there shouldn't be instances where these concentrations are going to hazardous levels at all," he said.

But, Mukhande Singh, the founder of Live Water, whose marketing materials feature him cross-legged and naked at a hot spring, says the goal is not pristine water.

"You're going to get 99 percent of the bad stuff out [if you use a filter]," Singh admitted. "But now you have dead water."

According to him, "real water" has an expiration date. "It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery," he said. "If it sits around too long, it'll turn green. People don't even realize that because all their water's dead, so they never see it turn green."

Singh also believes public water has been "poisoned."

"Tap water? You're drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them," he said. "Chloramine, and on top of that they're putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it's a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health." 

Of course, it must be noted that there isn't any scientific evidence that fluoride is linked to mind control. However, as Casey said, it has been scientifically proven to benefit dental health in low quantities.

Despite the scientific view point, other raw water startups have cropped up. Untreated water was sold at Burning Man by Doug Evans, the man behind the failed juicing company, Juicero, which collapsed in September.

While the fad may have found a viable market, experts are simply left scratching their heads.

"Without water treatment, there's acute and then chronic risks," Dr. Hensrud the director of the Healthy Living Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said. 

"There's evidence all over the world of this, and the reason we don't have those conditions is because of our very efficient water treatment," he explained.

And beyond the fact that raw water goes against established science and the opinions of experts, one must ask why someone would actually want to pay nearly $40 for a couple gallons of water?

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Florida surgeons to remove 10-pound tumor from Cuban boy's face

Published: Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 1:09 PM

File image of a surgery.
Pixabay
File image of a surgery.(Pixabay)

What began as a mere pimple on his son's face two years ago has grown into a life-threatening 10-pound tumor, Emanuel Zayas' father said.

The Zayas family, who live in Cuba, received a medical visa so the 14-year-old boy can have a complex procedure performed by surgeons in Miami, the Miami Herald reported. Dr. Robert Marx, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery for the University of Miami Health System, said the tumor is life-threatening because of its weight and its position, which is pressing down on the boy's trachea.

>> Read more trending news 

Zayas has trouble getting nourishment because of the tumor, and Marx said if left untreated, the tumor could fracture the boy's neck. The tumor is not cancerous, doctors said.

It will take a surgical team approximately 12 hours to perform the surgery, the Miami Herald reported. Zayas will face future surgeries to reconstruct facial features.

The cost of the surgery is expected to be approximately $200,000. The Jackson Health Foundation is raising money on the family's behalf to help cover medical costs. According to the foundation, Zayas was "born with a disorder called polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a condition that replaces multiple areas of bones with fibrous tissue and may cause fractures and deformity of the legs, arms, and skull." 

The surgery will take place Jan. 12 at Holtz Children's Hospital, the Miami Herald reported.