Roundup: U.S. Cancer Death Rate Declining; Food Allergies Misdiagnosed; and Chocolate Candy Warning

U.S. Cancer Death Rate has Dropped 27% in 25 Years

The U.S. cancer death rate had been increasing until the early 1990s, but it has been dropping ever since. A new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) finds that deaths from cancer have fallen 27 percent between 1991 and 2016.

Even lung cancer, the No. 1 cancer killer, has seen striking improvement, helped along by the declining U.S. cigarette smoking rate. The lung cancer death rate has dropped by nearly 50 percent among men since 1991.

Advances in early detection and treatment, along with lower smoking rates, have mostly contributed to the falling cancer death rate, experts say. Cancer remains the nation’s No. 2 killer behind heart disease. The ACS projects there will be more than 1.7 million new cancer cases, and more than 600,000 cancer deaths, in the U.S. this year.

The ACS report also showed some concerning trends. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer falling. Moreover, there is a growing gap in death rates based on income level. For example, between 2012 and 2016, the overall cancer death rate was about 20 percent higher among adults living in the poorest U.S. counties, compared with those in the most affluent counties. Moreover, socioeconomic inequalities in cancer deaths have widened over the past three decades overall, the study found.

The nation’s growing obesity epidemic is behind the increasing death rates of some cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, uterus and liver. Currently, obesity accounts for a third of liver cancer deaths, and is more of a factor than hepatitis C infections spread among people who abuse drugs, the ACS report found.

The ACS report also found that the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.3 percent for men and 37.7 percent for women, which is a little more than 1 in 3.

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Millions of U.S. Adults Misdiagnose Themselves With Food Allergies

Food allergies can range from mild adverse reactions to life-threatening anaphylaxis which can impair breathing and send the body into shock.

However, new research finds that U.S. adults may be over-diagnosing themselves with food allergies. A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open reports that nearly 19 percent of Americans think they have food allergies, but less than 11 percent actually do.

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed more than 40,000 adults from across the United States. Participants were asked if they had food allergies and for a description of their symptoms. They were also asked if they’d ever received a formal test and diagnosis of a food allergy by a doctor.

“While we found that one in 10 adults have food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food related conditions,” lead author Ruchi Gupta, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet.”

The study also concluded that only half of U.S. adults with a “convincing” food allergy had an actual diagnosis from a doctor, and less than 25 percent of that group reported having a current epinephrine prescription, like an EpiPen, for treatment of a severe allergic reaction.

The researchers found the following to be the most prevalent food allergens among U.S. adults (with the estimated number of adults affected in parenthesis):

  • Shellfish (7.2 million)
  • Milk (4.7 million)
  • Peanut (4.5 million)
  • Tree nut (3 million)
  • Fin fish (2.2 million)

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FDA: These Chocolate, Caramel Candies Could be Contaminated with Hepatitis A

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers that a brand of chocolates produced in Kentucky could be contaminated with hepatitis A, a contagious infection that usually affects the liver.

The product is Bauer’s Candies Modjeskas, an individually wrapped marshmallow candy dipped in chocolate or caramel, the FDA says.

“We are advising consumers not to eat and to throw away any Bauer’s Candies Chocolate or Caramel Modjeskas, purchased after November 14, 2018, because a worker in the facility tested positive for hepatitis A,” the FDA states in its warning.

At this time, the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not aware of any cases of hepatitis.

People infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV), may not have symptoms until 15 to 50 days after exposure. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes (known as jaundice), dark urine and pale stool.

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