Healthy Choices

Sacramento outpaces other cities in heart disease, cancer deaths

Cardiologist Michael Chang, left, and cardiac surgeon Allen Morris talk about the technologically advanced cardiovascular operating room at the Alex Spanos Heart Center. Sacramento ranks second highest for heart disease deaths, with 244 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 246 in Detroit and 134 nationwide.
Cardiologist Michael Chang, left, and cardiac surgeon Allen Morris talk about the technologically advanced cardiovascular operating room at the Alex Spanos Heart Center. Sacramento ranks second highest for heart disease deaths, with 244 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 246 in Detroit and 134 nationwide. rpench@sacbee.com

Every two weeks, we gather some of the most interesting and intriguing studies from health researchers around the world. Here are the latest:

City of Trees ranks near-worst for heart disease, cancer

Sacramento residents are dying more frequently from cancer and heart disease than residents of other major cities, according to data from the Big Cities Health Inventory released this month.

The inventory report, released in February by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, compares mortality rates among 14 major cities, including Sacramento, using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System.

While all 14 cities have experienced a decrease in cancer and heart disease mortality rates since 2004, Sacramento maintains higher-than-average rates for both conditions. Sacramento recorded 284 cancer deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 211 per 100,000 in Detroit and 163 per 100,000 nationwide.

Sacramento ranks second highest for heart disease deaths, with 244 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 246 in Detroit and 134 nationwide.

Sacramento County’s public health department has said it is working hard to address the problems and has seen the numbers come down in recent years. Heart disease and cancer have both been tied to obesity, smoking and lack of exercise.

Study explores mental, physical health among transgender service members

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Utah evaluates how many active-duty transgender soldiers suffer lifetime mental and physical health problems.

Transgender people are currently excluded from serving in the military based on medical and psychological fitness policies. But according to a study of 106 transgender active duty service members and veterans, 30 percent of soldiers suffer depression and 18 percent suffer anxiety. That’s comparable to the 27 percent of non-transgender military members who suffer depression, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Two percent of transgender active duty service members reported having a substance abuse disorder, and less than half reported physical health problems, with knee problems being the most common ailment.

The study is one of few that looks specifically at the mental and physical health of active service members who identify as transgender.

“Our data do not indicate that transgender active duty service members report levels of lifetime mental or physical health problems at rates that should necessarily bar them from service,” wrote the authors in their conclusion.

Young, poor minorities face harder time beating Hodgkin lymphoma

Insurance coverage, economic status and access to treatment may be lowering the survival odds for black adolescents with Hodgkin lymphoma, a new UC Davis study found.

Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured about 90 percent of the time when diagnosed early.

The study, published this month in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, tracked 9,353 patients ages 15-39 who were diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma between 1988 and 2011. Epidemiologists used California Cancer Registry data to examine how race and ethnicity, neighborhood, health insurance and types of treatment patients received impact survival rates.

“This study identifies vulnerable subgroups of young Hodgkin lymphoma patients at higher risk of dying from their disease and points to disparities in treatment delivery and follow-up care as likely contributing factors,” said Theresa Keegan, associate professor in the UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology. “Identifying and reducing barriers to recommended treatment and follow-up care is critical to improving survival for all patients.”

Regardless of the disease’s stage at diagnosis, African Americans were 68 percent more likely to die from Hodgkin lymphoma than non-Hispanic whites, the study found. Hispanics who were diagnosed at later stages of the disease were 58 percent more likely to die than non-Hispanic whites diagnosed at similar stages.

Adolescents and young adults who were uninsured or had public health insurance were twice as likely to die from the disease, even when their disease was diagnosed at an early stage.

Keegan said adolescents and young adults are more often uninsured, and may be more likely to fail to receive medical care after diagnosis.

“Are they getting the surveillance to make sure that any complications or late effects of treatment are caught early?” she said. “We need to understand the continuity of health insurance over time and other barriers to care.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola

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