Archive for April, 2010

Black Women Wait Longer For Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Researchers from the George Washington Cancer Institute looked at 581 breast cancer patients who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. and found that insured black women and uninsured white women waited more than twice as long to be given a definitive breast cancer diagnosis than insured white women. 

Lack of health insurance slowed the speed of diagnosis among white patients, but having insurance did not lead to quicker diagnosis among insured black women.

Overall, black patients waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis. 

The findings highlight the need for improved outreach and other types of assistance for black patients.

Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Diet With Vitamin B Is Heart Healthy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

According to Japanese researchers who analyzed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and almost 36,000 women part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study diets with good levels of the vitamin are good for your heart.

The study found that women who ate more foods with the B-vitamins folate and B-6 were less likely to die from stroke and heart disease, while men who ate a diet high in these B-vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.  The study appears online in the journal Stroke.

During a median 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the people died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin B-12 intake was not associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers believe that folate and vitamin B-6 may help protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that’s affected by diet and heredity. Previous research suggests that too much homocysteine may damage the inner lining of arteries and promote the formation of blood clots.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance library of information, fish, liver, meats, whole grains and fortified cereals are sources of vitamin B-6, while vegetables and fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans and legumes are sources of folate.

Blacks Hit Hardest By Lung Cancer

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

According to a new report from the American Lung Association, environmental factors, biological factors, cultural attitudes and biases in the health-care system conspire to make this deadly disease even deadlier among members of this minority group.

Despite lower smoking rates, African-Americans are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than whites. African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed later when the cancer is more advanced. Also, African-Americans are more likely to wait longer after the diagnosis to receive treatment or perhaps to refuse treatment and to die in the hospital after surgery.

Black men bear an even more disproportionate share of the burden, being 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer and 22 percent more likely to die of the disease than white men. 

Only 12 percent of blacks will be alive five years after their lung cancer diagnosis, compared with 16 percent of whites, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. 

The ALA report points to a number of factors that could explain the disparity, including differences in socioeconomic status, big business behavior and environmental exposure.  Blacks have higher rates of smoking menthol cigarettes than other groups. Smokers of menthol cigarettes tend to have higher blood levels of cotinine, an indicator of how much nicotine a person is absorbing. 

Education and income levels also play a role. Not only do these factors impact lifestyle choices and access to health care, including health insurance, but they largely determine where blacks are likely to work and live.

According to one study, predominantly black neighborhoods have noticeably higher levels of air pollution than other communities.

Being Overweight Increases Stroke Risk

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Being overweight puts an individual at significantly higher risk of ischemic stroke, with a serious possibility of permanent disability and reduced life expectancy.

Ischemic strokes occur when blood vessels supplying the brain are blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain, are less common.  Stroke is a leading critical illness according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization based in Los Angeles, California.

While being overweight increases a person’s likelihood of having stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, the question of whether being overweight or obese directly ups stroke risk has not been answered adequately; evidence from past research has been controversial.

Researchers examined medical literature for studies with at least four years of follow-up that looked at stroke risk based on body mass index, or BMI, a standard measure of weight in relation to height used to gauge how fat or thin a person is. They found 25 studies including 2,274,961 people, who had a total of 30,757 strokes.

People who were overweight were 22 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than normal weight people, while the risk for obese people was 64 percent higher, the researchers found. Hemorrhagic stroke risk wasn’t higher for overweight people, but it was 24 percent higher for obese people.

A person’s risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years can be estimated based on their gender, blood pressure, whether or not they smoke, and whether or not they have diabetes.

For example, a 62-year-old man whose systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 125, doesn’t smoke, and does not have diabetes or other cardiovascular problems, would have a 4 percent risk of stroke over the following decade; if the same man had a systolic blood pressure of 160 (140 and above is too high) and wasn’t receiving treatment for high blood pressure, his risk of stroke within the next 10 years would be 15 percent.

Obesity would raise the risk of stroke to nearly 6 percent for the man with normal blood pressure, and to 25 percent for the man with untreated high blood pressure.

Colon Cancer Deaths Drop As Tests Increase

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

According to medical researchers concluding the largest study of the procedure so far this is good news for Americans.

The colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening and is used in millions of people every year.  Until now, it has not been clear how its widespread use impacts the disease’s overall death toll.

The new report, based on close to 2.5 million Canadians, shows that for every one-percent increase in colonoscopy use, the risk of death from colon cancer dropped three percent.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance there were 1.4 million new cancer cases in the United States.  Approximately 10 percent were colon cancer cases.

During a colonoscopy exam, the doctor inserts a slim, flexible tube into the rectum. A camera at the tip of the tube shows the inside of the colon and allows the doctor to identify small cell clumps that might one day turn into a cancer tumor. The tube, or scope, can also be used to biopsy or remove the abnormal cells.

For their study, researchers used healthcare databases from Ontario, Canada, to link colonoscopy rates and colon cancer deaths in the province over 14 years. 

They followed more than 2.4 million people, who were between 50 and 90 years old at the outset of the study and did not have colon cancer. By 2006, about 1 in 100 had died from the disease, which mostly attacks older people.

Over the same period, as colonoscopy rates nearly quadrupled, the risk of dying from colon cancer tapered steadily, even after accounting for factors such as income and age.