Roundup: Minorities Face Higher Rates of Flu-Related Hospitalizations, CDC Says; Hair-Straightening Products Linked to Risk of Uterine Cancer; and Latest on U.S. Life Expectancy Rate


CDC: Minorites Hospitalized With Flu at Higher Rates as Vaccine Disparities Persist

Disparities persist in the U.S. when it comes to those who get fu vaccines, resulting in more minorities being hospitalized as a result of serious flu-related illness, according to a new report U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) adults are more likely to be hospitalized with influenza — and less likely to be vaccinated against flu, the CDC said in its latest Vital Signs report. CDC is working to increase flu vaccination rates by increasing awareness of how serious flu can be for the unvaccinated. Vaccination may not always prevent infection, but it can make symptoms less severe and reduce the risk of being hospitalized.

Black, Hispanic, and AI/AN adults were hospitalized with flu at higher rates than White adults during most seasons from 2009 to 2022. Compared to White adults, hospitalization rates were nearly:

  • 80 percent higher among Black adults,
  • 30 percent higher among AI/AN adults, and
  • 20 percent higher among Hispanic adults.

The Vital Signs report examined flu hospitalization rates from 2009–2022 and flu vaccination coverage from 2010–2022 by race and ethnicity. Researchers used two data sources: the Influenza-Associated Hospitalization Network (FluSurv-NET) and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Flu vaccination coverage has been persistently lower among Black, Hispanic, and AI/AN adults since 2010. During the 2021–2022 season, flu vaccination coverage was 54 percent among White and Asian adults, 42 percent among Black adults, 38 percent among Hispanic adults, and 41 percent among AI/AN adults, the CDC stated.

“Flu vaccines are the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications,” stated CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “Improving access to and trust in flu vaccines among people is critical to help reduce inequities.”

The CDC cites several reasons for the disparities, including lack of access to health care and insurance, missed opportunities to vaccinate, and misinformation and distrust that contribute to lower levels of confidence in vaccines. “People from certain racial and ethnic minority groups have higher rates of asthma, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions,” the CDC states. “These increase the risk for serious flu complications. Racism and prejudice also are known to worsen inequalities.”

Over the past two years, CDC has initiated community programs to address barriers to flu vaccination and raise awareness about its importance, specifically among people from racial and ethnic minority groups.


New Study Links Hair-Straightening Products to Higher Rusk of Uterine Cancer

A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that women who reported frequent use of hair straightening products -– or more than four times in the previous year — were more than twice as likely to go on to develop uterine cancer, compared to women who did not use the products.

The NIH emphasizes that there were “no associations with uterine cancer for other hair products” that the women in the study reported using, including “hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms.”

The study involved 33,497 U.S. women, ages 35-74, who took part in the Sister Study, a study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH. The Sister Study attempts to identify risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions. Researchers followed up with the women over nearly 11 years. During that time, 378 uterine cancer cases were diagnosed. 

About 60 percent of the study participants who reported using straighteners in the previous year were self-identified Black women, according to the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “Although, the study did not find that the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer incidence was different by race, the adverse health effects may be greater for Black women due to higher prevalence of use,” the NIH states in a news release.

“We estimated that 1.64 percent of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05 percent,” said Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study, in a statement. “This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context – uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”

Uterine cancer represents about 3 percent of all new cancer cases, but it’s the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, with 65,950 estimated new cases in 2022. Studies show that incidence rates of uterine cancer have been rising in the United States, particularly among Black women.


U.S. is One of 12 Nations That Have Yet to Return to Higher, Pre-Pandemic Life Expectancy Rates

Researchers have found that life expectancy rates have yet to recover from the COVID pandemic in the United States and 11 other nations, mostly in Eastern Europe.

The study, published in Nature Human Behavior, reviewed life-expectancy trends in 29 countries during 2021, a follow-up on data the scientists had reported from 2020. They found that COVID-19 continued to account for most life-expectancy losses in 2021.

Some countries with relatively high rates of vaccination and infection-derived immunity have bounced back. Four countries in western Europe—Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Sweden—have fully restored their population’s life expectancy rates to pre-pandemic levels. Four others have nearly done so. However, the U.S. and the other 11 countries continue to record excess mortality.

The study found that U.S. life expectancy decreased from 78.86 years in 2019 to 76.99 years in 2020 –then to 76.60 years in 2021 

The U.S. improved mortality rates among the elderly in 2021. But it recorded increases in deaths among younger age groups from a range of causes, including COVID, gun violence, opioid overdoses, and deaths related to chronic conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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