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US Cancer Deaths Are Plummeting, but Only for the Rich

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New data from the American Cancer Society suggests that while death rates resulting from cancer in the United States have dropped by a stunning 27 percent from 1991 to 2016 – resulting in 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths over the period than if peak 1991 rates remained the same – it has primarily been the wealthy that have benefited from the decline.

The discovery throws into stark relief the yawning socioeconomic inequality that prevails in the U.S., where those with access to health insurance and medical care are able to beat cancer, while those of limited means – the unemployed, the working-poor, and those living in polluted zones – are confronted with often-untreated, late-stage cases of the deadly disease.

According to the report, narrowing racial gaps in cancer mortality have been accompanied by a broadening of the yawning socioeconomic inequality affecting U.S. society, with the residents of the poorest counties in the United States shouldering a disproportionate burden of the most preventable forms of cancer.

The authors note:

“These [poor] counties are low-hanging fruit for locally focused cancer control efforts, including increased access to basic health care and interventions for smoking cessation, healthy living, and cancer screening program … A broader application of existing cancer control knowledge with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer.”

The general decline in cancer has primarily been credited to smoking cessation programs and technological advances in the early detection and treatment of the affliction, resulting in the decline of the four major types of cancer: breast, colorectal, lung and prostate.

However, Rebecca Siegel, report author and ACS strategic director of surveillance information services, told Axios:

“Poor people have less access to quality health care. Not only are they unable to get systematic screenings, but treatment options are oftentimes not the highest quality.”

Indeed, poor working people – who often work irregular shifts, juggle multiple jobs, or work scarce hours – are often deprived of basic social benefits like paid sick leave, let alone the luxury of missing out on precious income by taking the time off to see a doctor.

The data should come as little surprise to those who are often forced to make the choice between paying their monthly rent and seeing a doctor for a regular check-up. And if they do choose the latter, they are often given the choice between treating their eyes, their teeth, their heart – or their pocketbook.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 41 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, which makes the country the second-highest ranked in terms of poverty rates among wealthy countries.

Poor whites, black people, Native American and Latino communities are among those who are faced with the highest levels of exposure to hazardous industrial waste and toxic effluence, and cancer is far from the only deadly health hazard that results from high concentrations of grinding poverty.

In recent years, parasitic diseases and viruses, such as E. Coli, Hookworm, and Hepatitis A that are easily prevented in developed nations, have made a sharp return in blighted regions across the United States.

During his late 2017 tour of poor communities in the U.S., United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston deplored the “great poverty and inequality” he witnessed in cities and towns in California, West Virginia, rural Alabama and Washington D.C., as well as the colonial U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Highlighting the government’s essential role in addressing environmental disparities, illnesses and the other toxic byproducts of a society possessed with great wealth yet riven by increasingly acute socioeconomic disparities, the special rapporteur stressed:

“The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it’s the role of the government — yes, the government! — to ensure that no one falls below the decent level … Civilized society doesn’t say for people to go and make it on your own and if you can’t, bad luck.”

Yet in the face of the ongoing crisis of public health care and rising cancer rates among the poorest regions, the U.S. government continues to shred the nearly non-existent social safety net for poor residents while devoting the lion’s share of its budget toward war and military funds, which amounted to a mind-boggling $716 billion in Fiscal Year 2019 – an amount that the administration of President Donald Trump has promised to increase by next year.

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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