FRIDAY, May 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Women who want to delay childbearing increasingly opt to freeze their eggs for future use. But some later regret the decision, new research reveals.
As the procedure — called elective oocyte cryopreservation — becomes more accessible across the United States, the finding suggests women should not bank their eggs without careful consideration.
“This technology is tremendous if it’s the only way of having a biological child and having a family,” said study author Dr. Heather Huddleston, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
“But it’s important that we progress thoughtfully, given all the implications this technology may have for women,” she said in a university news release
Women in urban areas, in particular, are using the approach to avoid age-related infertility while postponing motherhood, the researchers noted.
For the study, they surveyed 201 women who had their eggs frozen for nonmedical reasons at UCSF between 2012 and 2016. None had banked their eggs because of cancer treatment or another health issue.
For the procedure, women undergo about 10 days of injections to stimulate their ovaries. During this time, they have five or six ultrasounds. Once their eggs are mature, they are retrieved with a needle through the vaginal wall.
The survey, completed years after the freezing procedure, found that most of the women felt empowered by their decision to freeze their eggs.
Of the women polled, 89 percent believed they would be glad that they froze their eggs even if they never used them.
But nearly half had mixed feelings, according to the study.
Most of these women had mild regret, but 16 percent had stronger doubts.
“While most women expressed positive reactions of enhanced reproductive options after freezing eggs, we were surprised to discover that for a group of women it wasn’t so simple. Some even frankly regretted their choice,” said study co-author Dr. Eleni Greenwood, a clinical fellow in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
She said this is a “critical finding,” although the study doesn’t reveal all the reasons behind the regret.
“What is clear is that egg freezing is more than just your standard insurance transaction for many women,” Greenwood said.
The women completed the survey, on average, about two years after freezing their eggs. By this time, only 6 percent of those polled had actually used their eggs to try and get pregnant. That suggests individual regrets were probably not tied to unsuccessful attempts to conceive a child, the researchers said.
The women who had fewer eggs retrieved were more likely to have mixed feelings. Second thoughts were also more common among those who said they lacked emotional support and those who said they didn’t have enough information about the procedure.
“As oocyte cryopreservation takes off, we wanted to take a step back to understand how this technology might impact the trajectory of women’s lives,” Greenwood said. “We see this work as just the start of that conversation.”
The study was published May 18 in Fertility and Sterility.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more on women and fertility.
FRIDAY, May 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Depression in the man may reduce the chances that a couple struggling with infertility will ultimately conceive, new research suggests.
Depression among women was not linked to lower conception rates, the study authors said.
But women being treated for infertility who also took a type of antidepressant known as non-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (non-SSRIs) were found to have more than triple the risk of first-trimester miscarriage, compared to women not using those medications.
By contrast, the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs was not linked to any miscarriage risk.
The findings are from an analysis of two infertility treatment studies that also screened couples for depression.
Together, the studies included about 3,200 men and women. None was using in vitro fertilization procedures at the time.
Just over 2 percent of the men and about 6 percent of the women had active major depression.
“Our study provides infertility patients and their physicians with new information to consider when making treatment decisions,” said study author Dr. Esther Eisenberg. She made her comments in a news release from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study.
Eisenberg is a medical officer with the fertility and infertility branch of the NICHD.
She and her colleagues detailed their findings in the May edition of the journal Fertility and Sterility.
While the study found a connection between depression and a couple’s chances of conception, it didn’t prove cause and effect.
Learn more about infertility at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
THURSDAY, May 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — As if older women didn’t already worry enough about their bone health, new research suggests that anxiety may up their risk for fractures.
Based on an analysis involving almost 200 postmenopausal Italian women, the finding builds upon previous research linking anxiety to a higher risk for heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.
“Our findings are quite surprising because an association between anxiety levels and bone health was not reported before,” said study author Dr. Antonino Catalano, though the study did not prove that anxiety caused fracture risk to rise.
Catalano is an expert in internal medicine, bone metabolism and osteoporosis with the department of clinical and experimental medicine at the University Hospital of Messina in Italy.
As to what might explain the association, Catalano pointed to a number of factors.
“Our opinion is that anxious women are more likely to engage in poor health behaviors, such as smoking or a poor diet,” he said. “Moreover, the negative effects of stress hormones on bone status may be considered as also enhancing fracture risk.”
Catalano added that women who struggle with higher levels of anxiety were also found to have lower levels of vitamin D. “Poor vitamin D status has been previously associated with increased fracture risk,” he said.
The researchers noted that osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease in the world. An estimated 33 percent of women and 20 percent of men will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their lives.
The research team also noted that 7 percent of the world’s population suffers from anxiety disorders.
To see how the two issues might intersect, the researchers focused on patients attending one Italian osteoporosis clinic in 2017.
On average, participants were nearly 68 years old. All underwent in-depth health screenings to assess, among other things, prior fracture history, arthritis diagnoses, heart and lung health, and smoking and alcohol habits. Bone mineral density exams were also done.
A wide range of mental health concerns were also explored, including depression, tension, insomnia, memory and anxiety levels ranging from moderate to severe.
The investigators determined that women who had the most anxiety faced a noticeably higher fracture risk, compared with women with the lowest degree of anxiety.
Higher anxiety was linked to a 4 percent greater risk for a major fracture over a 10-year period, and a 3 percent greater risk for a hip fracture in the same time frame, said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society.
The study was published online May 9 in the society’s journal Menopause.
Higher anxiety was also linked to lower bone mineral density scores in both the lower back area (known as the lumbar spine) and in the femoral neck area (just below the ball of the hip joint).
The findings should encourage physicians to explore anxiety levels among older women when assessing fracture risk, the researchers said.
Pinkerton highlighted a number of steps women can take to minimize fracture risk as they age.
“Women reach peak bone mass around age 35,” Pinkerton noted. “So it becomes important for perimenopausal women and menopausal women to get adequate amounts of calcium.” Experts recommend 1,200 milligrams a day, between diet and supplements, she said.
Getting sufficient magnesium and vitamin D — from either sun exposure or supplements — is also critical, she added, alongside routine strength and resistance training. That, she said, can include walking, lifting weights or using elliptical machines.
Women should also avoid smoking, drinking too much, being sedentary, taking excessive thyroid replacement medications, and/or medications such as steroids or proton pump inhibitors, Pinkerton said.
For women particularly concerned about anxiety, she suggested turning to “mindfulness, cognitive therapy, self-calming strategies, yoga, or seeking help through counseling or, if needed, medications,” she said.
As for hormone therapy, Pinkerton stressed that while it’s not a treatment for depression or anxiety, “it can sometimes be helpful in women, and is sometimes used alone or in combination, depending on whether women have menopausal symptoms or respond favorably to a trial of hormone therapy.”
There’s more on bone health at the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
THURSDAY, May 17, 2018 (American Heart Association) — The percentage of Americans with ideal heart health — measured by scoring seven lifestyle and biological markers — declined over two decades, according to a study that found people who maintain higher health scores over time have less risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
The research, published May 17 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, included detailed medical visits and measurements for 3,460 adults from 1991 to 2008. It showed the number of participants with an ideal cardiovascular health score dropped over that time — from 8.5 percent to 5.9 percent. The decline, the study said, was mostly because of poorer results in body mass index, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
Meanwhile, the research also showed that people who maintained their ideal health throughout the study period had lower risk of heart disease and lower risk of dying, while those who had lower scores for a long time, even if they improved, had a greater risk of death and heart disease.
“We all know what we need to do to maintain a healthy heart,” said the study’s lead author, Vanessa Xanthakis, assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine. “But we are still not doing it. More and more studies are coming out linking poor cardiovascular health with poor outcomes, including stroke, dementia, cancer and other types of diseases.”
People who started with a low score and kept a low score through the study were almost twice as likely as those who kept their score high to develop cardiovascular disease. Yet, those who started low and were able to improve by the end of 20 years still had a 70 percent higher risk.
“This reinforces the notion that you have to start early,” Xanthakis said. “You have to improve your cardiovascular health as early in your life as possible.”
The American Heart Association created what it calls Life’s Simple 7 in 2010 to help track improvements in the health of Americans. The measures are: tobacco use, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar. Some of Life’s Simple 7 are tracked through medical exams. Others can be checked on your own.
Using the seven-item heart health scoring, the study categorized participants as being in “poor,” “intermediate” or “ideal” cardiovascular health. The categories also have been used in several recent studies. In 2014, researchers concluded that even medium scores helped prevent loss of memory and other brain functions. Last summer, research looking into heart failure and Life’s Simple 7 showed the better the score, the lower the risk. And a study in February concluded that recovery after a heart attack in midlife was better for those with higher scores.
“This is a robust finding, that one’s cardiovascular health status as measured by Life’s Simple 7 has a profound impact on future events,” said Wayne Rosamond, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. He wasn’t involved in the current study but took part in the research on heart attacks published in February.
“Life’s Simple 7 can be an empowering concept. It’s powerful to say, ‘I can do some things to optimize my own cardiovascular health,’ which is a different notion than simply trying to avoid having a heart attack or stroke,” Rosamond said. “It’s a more positive focus to take in improving one’s health. The earlier you establish ideal levels of these behaviors and factors, and the longer you hold onto them, the better you will be.”
Xanthakis agrees, and said the research shows the need for more comprehensive public health policy, starting with local communities and extending to national efforts.
“This is an important public health concern,” she said. “Cardiovascular disease is linked to high costs from hospitalizations and medications. More people are living with cardiovascular disease today than in previous years. We need to boost efforts to target smoking cessation, weight control, introduce healthy diets, emphasize regular physical activity, and screen and control for high levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.”
THURSDAY, May 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — There is more reason than ever for people to make fish a bigger part of their diets, according to the American Heart Association.
The heart group has long recommended that people eat fish — preferably fatty varieties — once or twice a week. Now it is reaffirming that advice based on additional evidence that fish helps ward off heart disease.
Specifically, adults should strive for two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week, the American Heart Association (AHA) said. The best choices are oily fish with large doses of omega-3 fatty acids. The options include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines.
Whatever you choose, just don’t fry it, the group warned.
That’s because studies have found that fried-fish lovers have increased rates of heart failure.
The main omega-3 fatty acids in fish are EPA and DHA, said Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
EPA has anti-inflammatory effects that might help counter the hardening and narrowing of arteries that can lead to a heart attack, Angelone said.
Beyond that, she said, omega-3 fats may also make the blood less prone to clotting, while high doses can help lower triglycerides — a type of blood fat.
Oily fish is not the only source of omega-3, said Angelone, who was not involved in the AHA recommendations.
“Chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are good sources of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor to EPA — which is then converted to DHA,” Angelone said.
The problem, she added, is that only a small amount of that ALA is converted. And a persons’ gene variants help determine that conversion.
In contrast, the heart association noted, 4 ounces of salmon each week would provide adults with the recommended daily intake of omega-3 — which is around 250 milligrams.
The latest heart association advice does not differ from its previous recommendations, issued in 2002. But there is now much more evidence to back it up.
Eric Rimm, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, is the lead author of the AHA report, published May 17 in Circulation.
“Scientific studies have further established the beneficial effects of eating seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially when it replaces less healthy foods, such as meats that are high in artery-clogging saturated fat,” Rimm said in an AHA news release.
A number of large studies have found that people who eat fish at least once a week have moderately lower risks of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and sudden cardiac death, according to the new report.
Across two large U.S. studies, replacing just 3 percent of protein calories from processed meat with protein from seafood was tied to a 31 percent reduction in the risk of dying from heart complications or stroke.
So it seems key to replace red or processed meat — or other less-than-healthy fare — with fish, the heart association advised.
Except, maybe, if that fish is fried. Two studies involving more than 90,000 Americans found that people who ate fried fish at least once a week were up to 48 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who rarely fried their seafood.
Fish may even benefit people who’ve already suffered heart trouble, the heart association said. A study of heart attack survivors found that those who were told to eat fish twice a week were 27 percent less likely to die over the next two years, versus those given standard care only.
Seafood does contain mercury, the AHA pointed out. And pregnant women and young children should avoid certain large fish that are high in mercury — such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel.
But for most adults, the benefits of eating fish outweigh any potential harms associated with mercury, Rimm’s team said.
If you don’t like fish, are fish oil supplements a good substitute? No, according to the AHA. In a previous report, the group said supplements are not recommended for preventing heart disease, due to a lack of evidence that they work.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on omega-3 fatty acids.
THURSDAY, May 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — While much attention has been paid to the dangers of e-cigarette use among teens, new research shows that more than half of all tobacco smoked by young people comes from hookahs.
The researchers warned that smoking cessation strategies should include these water pipes, which are gaining popularity in this age group.
“Most hookah smokers in the U.S. are not daily users, whereas many cigarette smokers smoke multiple times a day, so it may seem that the vast majority of public health and policy-related interventions should be directed at cigarette smoking,” said study author Dr. Brian Primack. He directs the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.
“What our research shows is that hookah smoking contributes significantly to the burden of tobacco smoke-related toxicants inhaled by our young people,” Primack said in a university news release.
“Therefore, public health and policy efforts should explicitly address hookah smoking in addition to cigarette smoking,” he added.
Hookahs expose users to lower, but still significant, levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide, the researchers found.
For the survey, the researchers examined the responses of over 3,200 adults aged 18 to 30 who completed questionnaires about their tobacco use. Nearly two-thirds of the participants were women. Of the entire group, about 18 percent were Hispanic, and roughly 10 percent were black.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, found that roughly one in 20 participants said they had used a hookah in the month leading up to the survey, while 23 percent said they had smoked cigarettes.
Only about 3 percent reported smoking both cigarettes and hookahs in the past 30 days, according to the report, which was published May 17 in the journal Tobacco Control.
The researchers pointed out that it takes about 10 to 12 puffs to smoke one cigarette, which contains about 50 milliliters (mL) of smoke. In contrast, one 45- to 60-minute hookah session can involve up to 100 inhalations of about 500 mL of smoke. As a result, hookahs can be harmful even when used less often.
The study found that hookahs accounted for 55 percent of the smoke inhaled by young smokers. These water pipes also accounted for nearly 21 percent of the tar, about 10 percent of the carbon monoxide and 2.4 percent of nicotine the survey participants consumed over the past 30 days.
“Smoking tobacco from a water pipe attracts young users because it is flavored and sweetened, done in a social setting and is often less irritating compared to cigarette smoking,” Primack said.
But, “besides being a direct source of toxicants itself, hookah smoking has been linked to transition to cigarette smoking,” he added.
“All of this, combined with our new findings around the volume of hookah smoke consumed, should guide future efforts to prevent young adults from becoming hookah smokers,” Primack said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hookahs.
THURSDAY, May 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Male cancer patients seem to fare significantly better following immunotherapy treatment than female patients, new research indicates.
“Both sex and gender can potentially affect the strength of the body’s immune response,” explained study author Dr. Fabio Conforti, from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy.
For example, Conforti noted that women generally show stronger immune responses than men in reaction to medical treatment. That, he said, seems to explain why infections occur less frequently — and are often less serious — among women than men, and why women also typically respond better to vaccines than men.
“On the other hand, women account for roughly 80 percent of all patients with systemic autoimmune diseases worldwide,” Conforti said. “Therefore, it’s possible that differences in the immune system of women and men could be relevant to the natural course of chronic inflammatory conditions such as cancer, and potentially how they respond to drugs.”
The new finding is based on a review of 20 studies that assessed survival rates among cancer patients. All were treated with immunotherapy drugs, a type of advanced cancer therapy developed over the last decade that has now become the standard treatment for several types of cancer, including melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer.
Taken together, the studies had enrolled more than 11,000 patients. Researchers found that all the patients fared better on immunotherapy treatment than they would have on another treatment (or no treatment at all). But following treatment, male cancer patients saw their survival extended by twice as much as female patients.
Patients in the studies were struggling with advanced cancers, including melanoma, kidney cancer, urothelial cancer, head and neck cancer, and lung cancer.
The investigators noted an important caveat in their finding: In roughly half of the studies women only accounted for less than a third of participants, making it hard to conclusively identify gender differences in outcomes.
Conforti and his colleagues reported their findings in the May 17 issue of The Lancet Oncology.
In an accompanying editorial, Omar Abdel-Rahman, of Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and the University of Calgary in Canada, wrote that “caution needs to be exercised before jumping directly to radical conclusions and before changing the current standard of care.”
He noted that the analysis includes a diverse group of solid tumors that might act differently in men and women.
“Moreover, there are also lifestyle or behavioral characteristics that differ between men and women that might also have confounding effects,” Abdel-Rahman added.
Visit the American Cancer Society for more on immunotherapy.
WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — For years, the drug Herceptin has helped women with an aggressive form of breast cancer beat the disease.
But there’s one downside: In a minority of cases, the drug can trigger heart damage.
Now, a new study finds that women who need the drug might get away with taking a shorter, less toxic course of Herceptin.
“This new trial shows that a shorter length of treatment can benefit patients just as much as a longer treatment, with less risk of cardiac side effects,” Dr. Bruce Johnson, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), said in a news release from the organization.
“This is a win-win for patients with breast cancer who are receiving this common treatment,” said Johnson. Results from the study, called the Persephone trial, will be presented in June at the annual ASCO meeting, in Chicago.
One breast cancer expert was similarly enthused about the findings.
“This is fantastic news for patients and physicians,” said Dr. Alice Police, who helps direct breast surgery at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. “Persephone was a Greek goddess of spring and vegetation, and this is a wonderful spring gift.”
Herceptin (trastuzumab) targets the HER2 gene, a key to malignancy for a subset of tumors known as HER2-positive breast cancers.
“HER2-positive breast cancer is a type of more aggressive breast cancer,” Police explained. “Herceptin was our ‘miracle’ that saved countless lives and gave all of us who fight this disease, along with our patients, new hope.”
And while Herceptin’s side effects were noticed, “the 5 to 10 percent incidence of heart problems seemed like a small price to pay at the time,” Police said.
But could women possibly take Herceptin for a shorter period, minimizing the risk?
To find out, British researchers led by Dr. Helena Earl of the University of Cambridge conducted a randomized phase 3 clinical trial involving almost 4,100 patients with HER2-positive, early stage breast cancer.
All of the women received standard chemotherapy during the trial. However, half of the women took Herceptin for six months, while the other half remained on the standard 12-month regimen. Outcomes were tracked for four years.
Earl’s group reported that six months of Herceptin was just as effective as 12 months of treatment with the drug, in terms of fighting cancer. Taking the drug for a longer period of time appeared to provide no additional benefit.
Specifically, the rate of disease-free survival was 89.4 percent for those on the drug for six months, compared to 89.8 percent among those taking the drug for one year.
Heart side effects declined with shorter treatment. Just 4 percent of women who took Herceptin for six months had to stop treatment due to heart issues — compared to 8 percent of women on the one-year course.
“Everyone involved in this study is very excited by these results,” Earl said in the ASCO news release. “We are confident that this will mark the first steps towards a reduction of the duration of [Herceptin] treatment to six months in many women with HER2-positive breast cancer.”
Dr. Stephanie Bernik is chief of surgical oncology and a breast cancer specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She called the new findings “important.” But Bernik agreed with the study’s authors that “analysis should be carried out to see if these results pertain to all stages of HER2-positive cancers, to help ensure that women are not undertreated.”
Since these findings are to be presented at a medical meeting, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Cancer Society provides more information on HER2-positive breast cancer.
WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Less than 2 percent of the 7 million Americans who are or once were heavy smokers get screened for lung cancer, new research shows.
“Our analysis reveals a markedly low and inadequate rate of lung cancer screening for both 2016 and 2017,” said study author Dr. Danh Pham. He’s a chief fellow in the department of hematology/oncology at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Pham pointed to several possible reasons why such a high-risk group would not get screened.
“It is only speculation at this point, but I believe it to be a combination of provider responsibility, as well as patient awareness,” he said.
“Controversy unfortunately still exists among providers of the cost benefit of screening,” he explained, “while patients at risk of lung cancer also lack adequate awareness of the benefits of screening.”
Pham added, “unfortunately, lung cancer screening does not have national attention the way that, for instance, breast cancer does.”
What’s more, given that smoking is the big driver of lung cancer, many patients “may be reluctant to get screening if a potential cancer diagnosis would be confirmation of a poor lifestyle choice,” Pham said.
The late age at which lung cancer is typically diagnosed — 70, on average — may also undermine screening efforts, he said, as seniors with a history of smoking embrace a “fatalism mentality.”
Still, guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2013 say smokers between the ages of 55 and 80 — whose habit amounts to a pack-a-day for 30 years and otherwise show no symptoms of disease — should get new low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening.
According to lung experts, prior research suggests that such scans do, in fact, catch early signs of a scourge that claims the lives of more than 154,000 men and women in the United States every year.
For its part, the American Lung Association advises smokers and former-smokers aged 55 to 74 — including those who quit within the last 15 years — to discuss lung cancer screening with their doctors. Those who already have symptoms, such as coughing up blood or weight loss, should more aggressively explore diagnostic options, which may or may not include an LDCT.
Pham’s team came to its conclusions following an analysis of data collected at 1,800 lung cancer screening sites across the United States.
The findings were released Wednesday, ahead of the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago. Such research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
ASCO President Dr. Bruce Johnson suggested that another obstacle to screening is that “people who would benefit most from lung cancer screening are not the folks with easy access to health care.”
“You can contrast that with the current screening rates for the common malignancies, breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer, where between 60 to 80 percent of the target population is screened,” Johnson said.
“These are diseases that track with a higher socioeconomic status and higher educational levels,” groups that more readily adhere to screening advice, he explained.
By contrast, Johnson said that “cigarette smoking tracks with lower socioeconomic status, and the places where smoking is highest are areas that don’t provide much infrastructure support for medical care.”
American Lung Association spokesperson Dr. Andrea McKee said additional challenges to boosting screening rates include the need to bring radiologists and specialists up to speed with the techniques involved.
And she also highlighted another factor: the newness of the latest screening method itself.
“It is estimated to take about 10 years for a new technique to be fully embraced by the medical community,” McKee said, adding that Medicare reimbursement only kicked in as of 2015.
“So we are probably seven years away from reaching some sort of a steady state,” she added. McKee also serves as chair of radiation oncology at the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Mass.
Going forward, McKee said that what’s needed is “an effective public service campaign to educate the lay and physician communities about CT lung screening.”
To that end, she noted that the lung association and the Ad Council have teamed up to launch the “Saved By The Scan” radio, TV, and print campaign to raise public awareness.
The stakes are high, Johnson said.
“If this was fully deployed,” he said, “and you got up to the rates of screening 60 to 80 percent like we see with some of the other [cancers], you would expect to save about 10,000 lives in the U.S. a year.”
There’s more on lung cancer screening at the American Cancer Society.
WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Another study finds that organ donations from Americans who have died from an opioid overdose have risen dramatically in the past two decades.
“We were surprised to learn that almost all of the increased transplant activity in the United States within the last five years is a result of the drug overdose crisis,” study lead researcher Dr. Mandeep Mehra said in a news release from the University of Utah. Mehra directs the Heart and Vascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
His team found that such transplants are often just as successful and safe as those involving organs obtained from trauma victims or individuals who died of natural causes.
The study echoes similar findings reported in April in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.
“This is a relatively recent phenomenon which has occurred as a result of the tragic opioid epidemic currently faced by the United States,” study author Dr. Christine Durand said at the time. She’s an assistant professor at Hopkins and a transplant physician at the university’s hospital.
“In 2000,” she added, “only one in every 100 deceased donors died from a drug overdose. Today, that number is more than one in every 10 deceased organ donors.” That amounts to a 24-fold increase over the past 18 years, her team found.
In the new study, Mehra and colleagues in Boston and Utah looked at 17 years of transplant records for 2,360 organ recipient patients. The investigators found no difference in one-year post-transplant survival for people who received a donated organ from a victim of a drug overdose, compared to patients who received an organ from someone who died from causes such as blunt trauma, gunshots, hemorrhage or stroke.
The findings should open up more organs for transplant — something that’s desperately needed, since more than 110,000 Americans are now on transplant waiting lists.
“In the unfortunate circumstances where opioid deaths happen, organ donation can extend life of many patients in need of transplant,” study senior author Dr. Josef Stehlik said in the University of Utah news release. “Yet, these organs are often not considered suitable for organ donation,” said Stehlik, who directs the Heart Transplant Program at the university.
A minority of organs donated by overdose victims did have some potential health risks for recipients, the Johns Hopkins study found.
Overdose donors were more likely to have had hepatitis C or be tagged with an “increased infection risk” label, Durand’s team reported. Specifically, 18 percent and 56 percent had hepatitis C or were labeled risky, respectively, over the study period.
This compared with 3 percent and 14 percent among trauma donors, respectively, and 4 percent and 9 percent among natural cause donors, respectively, the study found. Durand added that hepatitis C appears to be increasingly common among overdose donors, rising from just 8 percent in 2000 to 30 percent today.
In any case, Mehra said efforts to curb the ongoing U.S. opioid abuse epidemic are ongoing, so other means of boosting organ donation must be found.
“We must look to new ways to increase organ donor recovery by concentrating on greater use of marginal organs or by expanding the suitable donor pool by using new technologies to improve organ function before the transplant takes place,” Mehra said.
The new study was published online May 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
There’s more on organ donations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.