Roundup: An Upward Tick in U.S. Death Rate Raises Questions; Possible Link Between Obesity, Prostate Cancer

The U.S. death rate, measured by the number of deaths per 100,000 people, has been declining for years. But for the first time in a decade, the death rate has increased, according to 2015 premilinary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reasons for the higher mortality rate includes more people dying from drug overdoses, accidental injuries, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, the death rate from heart disease, which had been declining for decades — and offsetting increases in deaths from other causes — has flattened. In contrast, positive gains continue on the cancer front as the disease is killing Americans at a lower rate.

The overall death rate rose to 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, up from 723.2 in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It was one of the few times in the past 25 years that this rate has increased.

There is no single factor contributing to the rise in the death rate, officials say. And it’s yet to be determine if the jump was a statistical fluke or part of a new trend.

“There’s no smoking gun here,” said Farida Ahmad, mortality surveillance lead for the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told The Washington Post. She described the increase as “unusual” because it’s the first time since 2004-2005 that the rate went up, instead of down.

She added: “It’s something that we’re going to be looking into, and watching to see if it holds for 2016. It could be that it’s just a blip as it was 10 years ago.”

Historically, the U.S. death rate has seen significant progress over the last 60-plus years. For example, in 1950 the death rate per 100,000 Americans was 1,446. But by 2014, the rate had fallen to half that — 723.

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Having Large Waistline Linked to Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer

Men who are overweight or have a larger waistline may have a higher risk for developing prostate cancer, a new study says.

Researchers found that every four-inch increase in waist circumference can raise a man’s chances of developing fatal prostate cancer by 18 percent. The risk can also increase if a man has a high body mass index (BMI), the report said. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the “overweight” range. Any number above 30 is considered with the “obese” range.

The study, by scientists at the University of Oxford, looked at more than 140,000 men across eight countries with a mean age of 52 years. After 14 years, 7,000 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed, of which 934 were fatal. It also found that high-grade prostate cancer, an aggressive form of the disease, was exacerbated by obesity.

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK, said the findings “show that the association between body size and prostate cancer is complex and varies by disease aggressiveness; men who have greater adiposity (body fat composition) have an elevated risk of high-grade prostate cancer and prostate cancer death. Our results are in line with health advice for other non-communicable diseases. Men should try to maintain a healthy weight.”

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First Case of Dengue in Key West Since 2010

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County has confirmed a case of the dengue virus in Key West. The infection was contracted by a tourist who was treated and left the country. The case of dengue appears to have been transmitted locally, health officials say. No other cases have yet been confirmed.

Dengue is a flu-like illness, with symptoms that include severe muscle aches and pain, fever and sometimes a rash. Usually, there are no respiratory symptoms. Key West saw a dengue outbreak in 2009, with 47 cases. The southernmost city experienced another 65 cases in 2010 — but no cases since.

U.S. and Florida public health officials are now focused more on another mosquito-borne disease, Zika virus, which has spread rapidly in Latin America over the last several months.

Read the latest updates on Zika from the Florida Health Department.

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