Disease

Although there are measles outbreaks occurring all over the world at the moment (sigh), Italy's outbreak is of particular concern. 

This year, the country has reported 1603 measles cases (through April 16th) according to the Ministero della Salute. To put into perspective how above average that number is - there were 840 cases in all of 2016 and 250 in 2015.

Most cases have occurred in people older than 15 (the median age is 27 for people affected.) It is hypothesized that the effects of people not vaccinating their babies 20 years ago are now coming to light in these adults who are susceptible to measles. 

Italy is a hot destination for travelers...

Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finalized a controversial recommendation that general breast cancer screening should begin at age 50, not before then. The decision was controversial not just because of its implications for health insurance coverage but because society has been conditioned to believe that screening is a valuable part of preventive medicine. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily true.

The reason is due to false positives. If an initial screen produces a positive result, a doctor is likely to recommend a more invasive test. Not only does this cost the patient in terms of psychological distress and money, it also poses new...

Watching an autopsy has a way of changing one's view on death. Every single one of us – rich, poor, white, black, male, female, religious, atheist – will one day be on a cold metallic cart with a tag on our toe. And the medical examiner will open us up, poke around, extract and weigh a few organs, then ship your lifeless corpse on to the funeral home.

So, the question isn't if we are going to die, but when and how. Science has little to say about the former, but it has collected quite a bit of data on the latter. That's what makes the CDC's weekly report on the dead and dying so morbidly fascinating.

This week, the CDC listed the top 10 causes of death for Americans based on sex. The top 10 causes of death are not the same for men and women. (...

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause more than two million infections per year in the US, resulting in ~23,000 deaths. These infections incur an estimated $20 billion in direct healthcare costs and $35 billion in lost productivity, and these costs are expected to rise rapidly over the next several years. The threat of antibiotic resistance is especially critical in the case of Gram-negative bacterial pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Infections caused by MultiDrug Resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria result in higher mortality rates, longer hospital stays and higher treatment costs compared to antibiotic-susceptible infections.

Patients with MDR Gram-negative bacterial infections have a mortality...

It's impossible to keep up with every "alternative fact" or crazy conspiracy theory on the Internet. By the time a lie has circled the globe, the Truth has just put its shoes on1. For some reason, people find falsehoods much more entertaining and believable than the truth.

I thought that I had heard every possible vaccine conspiracy theory out there: Vaccines cause autism. Vaccines aren't necessary and are pushed on us by greedy pharmaceutical companies. Vaccines are used for mind control. Bill Gates is using vaccines to control the human population.

So, even I was slightly surprised to discover yet another vaccine conspiracy theory. A couple days ago on Facebook, I came across the following comment:

"The key to surviving the flu is to get a...

Pancreatic cancer.

When news of this type of diagnosis is mentioned, those two words strike fear and dread in most every adult – whether family member or friend – who knows anything about cancer and survivability of its different forms.

That, of course, is because pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive, least treatable form of the disease and in a large majority of cases it reduces the victim's life expectancy to a matter of months. In short, more than any other cancer, those two words carry the approximate weight of a death sentence.

Why is this type of cancer so ravenous and what makes it accelerate so rapidly? German researchers say they have discovered the answer to this question, and they've traced the cancer's aggressiveness to a key factor in its earliest...

Mention high blood pressure and most of the diet-conscious among us think "lower salt intake" to manage it. And there has been controversy about who should decrease their salt consumption and by how much — as we've previously discussed. What's less often addressed is the role of potassium (K+) in the management of hypertension (HTN). However, a recent review in the American Journal of Physiology addresses the possibility that diets higher in K+ may well be as important a means of reducing the toll of HTN — thus decreasing the prevalence of cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Led by Dr. Alicia A. McDonough, a...

My colleague, ACSH Senior Nutrition Fellow Dr. Ruth Kava, wrote about a recent study on trans fats and their possible role in reducing heart attacks and stroke. The study made use of a statistical technique called Difference-in-Difference (DID) and it's worth explaining the underlying concept, because it was not a prominent feature of the statistics course I took in school.

Observational studies are different than experiments. what most people think of as science, in that they observe a population over time. Observational studies, often case-control or cohort studies, can be difficult to interpret, in part, because of difficulty in truly identifying the...

One of the more controversial moves during the administration of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the banning of synthetic trans-fatty acids (TFAs) from NYC eateries (in 2007) because of concern about deleterious influences on blood cholesterol. Other New York State counties, mostly surrounding the NYC area, followed suit, and that eventually led the FDA's ban of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs — the sources of synthetic TFAs) which is set to take effect in 2018. Synthetic TFAs can still be used in bakery products. e.g. breads. cakes, pies and pastries as well as other foods in which a solid or semi-solid type of fat was desired but most other products have voluntarily stopped using them.

Dr. ...

A few years ago we profiled a meta-analysis in The Lancet that supported the notion that even healthy adults could benefit from taking statin drugs (which lower LDL or 'bad' cholesterol). The benefit for the people studied was the reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events such as health attack or stroke. Since then, more studies have investigated this use of statins for so-called primary prevention, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has reviewed the data and agreed that this use of statins is valid for certain adults. Their recommendations are presented...