Entries in Death (52)


Vinegar Test May Help Reduce Deaths Caused by Cervical Cancer

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A medical study in India found that a test utilizing an acetic acid solution -- vinegar -- could help prevent cervical cancer in women.

The study analyzed over 150,000 women between the ages of 35 and 64, who did not have prior history of cancer. The women were randomly assigned to determine whether or not they would receive biennial screening using visual inspection with acetic acid.

The women in the control group received one round of cancer education at their enrollment. Comparatively, the women who were screened biennially also received multiple rounds of cancer education. Any women in either group who were diagnosed with cervical cancer received free treatment.

Women who were screened regularly were diagnosed with cervical cancer at a rate of 26.7 per 100,000 patients. Women in the control group registered a slightly higher rate of 27.5 instances of cervical cancer per 100,000.

While the overall rate of invasive cervical cancer was similar in the two groups, researchers found biennial screening to have other advantages. Women who received regular screening saw a 31 percent drop in their cervical cancer-related death rate. In fact, women who were more frequently screened saw their overall death rate drop by seven percent, because cancer was often diagnosed earlier.

The research has limited potential in high income countries such as the United States, because screening using Pap smears has already diminished the rate of cervical cancer incidence by about 80 percent. However, in other nations, including India, large-scale Pap smear screening or HPV DNA testing is not possible. In those countries, the so-called "vinegar test" could be a major breakthrough.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Calcium Linked to Reduced Risk of Death in Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While the benefits of taking calcium supplements are frequently debated, a new study shows that they may reduce the risk of death in women.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, analyzed data from over 9,000 patients and determined that calcium intake did not significantly impact the rate of death in men. However, women who used calcium supplements had a noticeably lower risk of death than women who did not.

The benefits of increased calcium intake were seen by women who received 1,000 milligrams per day of the common dietary supplement, regardless of whether the supplement contained vitamin D. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, vitamin D is often included in calcium supplements because of the role it plays in helping the body to absorb calcium.

According to research, 15.2 percent of women take calcium supplements alone, 3.7 percent take vitamin D supplements alone and 29 percent were taking the two in tandem. Comparatively, just 7.3 percent of men take just calcium supplements, 4.4 percent take only vitamin D supplements and 15.4 percent use both.

While researchers say that they do not know the full risks or benefits of the two supplements are not yet known, they continue to recommend that clinicians "assess dietary intake to meet calcium and vitamin D requirements for bone health and to consider supplementation as necessary to meet the requirements."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Rock, Pop, Rap Stars Die Young

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though their music may never die, rock, pop and rap artists do.  And according to a new report in the British Medical Journal, they die young.

The study, led by Mark Bellis of the Centre for Public Health in Liverpool, found that the average lifespan of American musical superstars in these three genres is only 45.  European stars, meanwhile, don't even make it to 40 -- they die, on average, at age 39.

You don't have to think very hard to come up with high-profile examples of musicians who lived fast and died young: Amy Winehouse, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain are all part of "the 27 Club" -- famous musicians who died at age 27.  

Whitney Houston passed away earlier this year at the age of 48.  And the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, lived to celebrate his 50th birthday -- apparently a ripe old age by pop star standards.

Bellis said it's hard to pin down exactly how many years someone's life may be cut short when he or she shoots to fame in the music world.  That's because "rock god" and "rap impresario" are fairly recent job descriptions, and many of the musicians who now top of the charts are still relatively young.

"We can show how much higher or lower the chance of dying is compared to a similar person in the population if they weren't a pop star," he explained.  "So for instance at the extreme, a North American pop star 40 years after fame has a chance of survival of only around 87 percent of what would be expected in the matched general population."

Bellis said his team reviewed the lives of nearly 1,500 rock, pop and rap stars, including artists who found success on top 40 charts and in international popularity polls.  They gleaned details about their deaths, personal lives and childhoods from websites, published biographies and anthologies.

During a 50-year period, from 1956 to 2006, 137 of their subjects -- almost 10 percent -- passed away.  Solo performers were twice as likely to die before their time as someone who played in a band.  Gender and the age they skyrocketed to fame didn't affect life expectancy but ethnicity did: Non-white stars were the most likely to die at an early age.

The most common causes of death?  Many died of cancer and cardiovascular disease, which Bellis pointed out could very well be the result of living a hard-charging life.  

The younger a star died, the more likely it was the death was related to a risky behavior like drugs and alcohol, or violence or suicide.  Nearly half of those who died as a result of drugs, alcohol or violence had at least one unfavorable factor in their childhoods -- for example, child abuse, domestic violence, or a close family member with mental illness.  Four out of five dead stars with more than one of these childhood experiences died violently or from substance abuse.

What Bellis found interesting is that in the past, researchers suspected fame and fortune encouraged stars to throw caution to the wind.  But it could be that risk-taking and wild behavior predate fame as a way to cope with a difficult past.

"A career as a rock or pop star may be attractive to those escaping an unhappy childhood, but it may also provide the resources to feed a predisposition to unhealthy and risky behaviors that may not necessarily be available to other people so easily," he said.

He also said he suspects musicians who play with bands live longer because their bandmates help buffer negative influences and provide emotional support.

Bellis said the results of his study and the short lives of pop divas and guitar heroes should serve as a lesson for aspiring musicians: "It is important that children recognize that substance use and risk-taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


You Really Can Be Scared to Death

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here's something to keep in mind this Halloween: A good scare can kill you -- even if you're perfectly healthy.

If a shock to the system is sufficient enough it can trigger a massive surge of adrenaline, stunning your heart so severely it ceases to beat.

Consider the case of a 60-year-old woman who was given terrible news about her husband's health.  As she and her husband left the doctor's office, a tightness suddenly gripped her chest and she was unable to breathe.  Lucky for her, she was standing right outside the office of cardiologist Dr. Holly Anderson when it happened.

"After I had whisked her off to the emergency room and hooked her up to an EKG, I was surprised to see her whole heart had stopped moving, yet she had perfect blood supply to the heart," recalled Anderson, who is also the director of education and outreach at the Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.  "She was so emotionally overwhelmed about her husband's condition it literally stopped her heart."

Women, particularly older women, are far more susceptible to dying of fright, also known as the "broken heart syndrome."  They account for about 90 percent of reported cases, according to Dr. Martin Samuels, chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

He said postmenopausal women are at risk mainly because they no longer enjoy the known cardio-protective benefits of estrogen.

Experts estimate that about 1 percent of men and 7 percent of women with suspected heart attacks have stress cardiomyopathy instead.

And it is more common than thought.  Samuels said the average sudden death in any major city is about one per day.  Studies show this number goes up slightly for about a week after a catastrophic event such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack and may increase on days that have a negative cultural significance, such as Friday the 13th.

"I don't believe there are any studies showing that Halloween falls into this category," Samuels said.

This type of abrupt cardiac event goes by several names.  Technically it's referred to by medical experts as stress cardiomyopathy because it usually occurs immediately following an intense emotional event.  When the syndrome was first identified by Japanese scientists in 1990, they dubbed it "takotsubo syndrome," after the strange balloon shape resembling a Japanese octopus trap the heart takes on when it occurs.  Here in the U.S. it's usually known as "broken heart syndrome" because it often strikes after the victim has received gut wrenching news, such as the death of a loved one.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mystery of King Tut’s Death Solved?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The mystery of King Tut’s death might finally be solved, according to one scientist who argues that the secret to the young Pharaohs demise is hidden in plain sight.

Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, a lecturer and surgeon at the Imperial College London, says the key to the mystery lies in the art of the time, which depicted King Tut with highly feminine features, including enlarged breasts.

The enlarged breasts, he argues, are indicative of a condition known as gynecomastia, which, when added to a host of historical and familial evidence, indicates that Tutankhamun might have suffered and eventually died from temporal lobe epilepsy.

Ashrafian says the first clue is in the relatively early deaths of other rulers who were directly related to Tutankhamun.

“For all of them to die sequentially at younger ages is a sign of a genetic inheritance of some sort,” Ashrafian said, adding “you could argue one of them died in battle, one of them was poisoned but none of them did die in battle. They could have been poisoned, of course, but it’s very odd for sequential pharaohs who were aware that they could have been killed to be killed at such a young age.”

He also points to the great periods of religious change that Egypt went through, pointing especially to Tutankhamun’s father, Akhenaten, who attempted to change Egypt’s religion from polytheism to a more monotheistic one focused on the God Aten. According to accounts of the time, these changes were made after a series of powerful religious visions had by Akhenaten, visions of the sort that are often associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.

Finally, Ashrafian said, one must take into account the manner of the death itself. “When they did a scan on his body, they found he died from a fracture, he had a fracture on his leg,” Ashrafian said.

“People who have epilepsy have a much higher incidence of dying from accidents and falls at a young age. They can also suffer from something called SUDE, Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy. In general, they have a much higher incidents of dying young.”

Ashrafian says this is another piece of evidence that is supported by the art of the time. “He had lots of depictions of being with a walking stick,” he said. “This was not common with the ancient pharaohs. Clearly, he had a condition where he might have had lots of falls, he might have died from one of these accidental falls.”

When taken together, Ashrafian argues, there is a clear diagnosis: The feminized features, the early deaths, the religious visions, the broken bones.

“There’s one condition linking all these elements together that’s inheritable,” he said, “and that’s temporal lobe epilepsy.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Psychological Distress Linked to Higher Death Risk

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Feeling anxious, depressed or lonely may boost the risk of early death, a new study found.

The British study of more than 68,000 people found those who reported symptoms of psychological distress were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, cancer or injuries.

"Even with low levels of psychological distress -- certainly much lower levels than would attract a diagnosis of anxiety or depression -- these people had an increased risk of mortality from all causes," said study author Tom Russ, a clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  "The greater the level of distress, the greater the risk."

Russ and colleagues used a survey to probe participants on 12 measures of psychological distress, from lost sleep to lost confidence.  After controlling for weight, physical activity and habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, they found those who met seven or more of the 12 criteria were nearly twice as likely to die early than those who met none.

The findings, published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, add to mounting evidence that psychological stress can have physical consequences.

"Other studies suggest symptoms of psychological distress can cause physiological changes in the body," said Russ, referring to stress-induced spikes in blood pressure and hormone levels linked to heart disease, stroke and cancer.  "The fact that we saw such a clear dose-response relationship adds weight to this possibility."

Stress is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.  And some studies suggest that in small doses, it might even be healthy.

"An attempt to produce a stress-free existence seems utopian and ignores the idea of 'good stress,'" Glyn Lewis, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.  "A more useful approach could be to change the psychological interpretation of stressors, because this might reduce their biological impact."

Study author Russ said more work is needed to tease out the link between psychological distress and mortality.

"At the moment, there's no clear evidence that treating these symptoms can reduce the risk we found," he said.  "But that's a study that must be done."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mother of the World’s First 'Test-Tube Baby,’ Lesley Brown Dies at 64

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(BRISTOL, England) -- The mother of the world's first "test-tube baby," born on July 25, 1978, died on June 6 in Bristol, England, The New York Times reports.

Lesley Brown apparently died of complications from a gallbladder infection.

In vitro fertilization was developed by Dr. Robert G. Edwards and Dr. Patrick Steptoe as a stepping stone for couples to treat infertility in the 70's. Although Dr. Edwards and Dr. Steptoe had tried the in vitro treatment on about 60 couples, Louise Brown became the first successful “test-tube baby,” the paper says.

Lesley Brown went on to have another daughter, Natalie, also conceived with in vitro fertilization.  

In 2007, Mr. Brown died at the age of 64.  Mrs. Brown is survived by her three grandchildren and two daughters, according to the Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


If Your Birthday Is Coming Up, Be Careful

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People are 14 percent more likely to kick the bucket on their birthday than any other day of the year, according to Swiss researchers.

The odds grow as people grow older, with those 60 and older at an 18.6 percent greater risk of dying on the day they should be celebrating a milestone.

As a result, the various causes of death also increase substantially on birthdays, such as a 10.8 percent higher risk of dying from cancer, a 21.5 percent greater chance of death from a stroke, a 28.5 percent increased chance of accidental death, including a 44 percent boost in fatal falls, and a 34.9 percent bigger chance of committing suicide on one’s birthday.

The study, published in the Annals of Epidemiology, doesn’t really get into what explains this phenomenon, perhaps because the researchers don’t know for sure themselves.

They can only speculate that it might have to do with the stress of suffering an anniversary or for the elderly, hanging on long enough to reach another milestone.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mary Kennedy's Children Likely Dealing with Complicated Grief

Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- The four children of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Mary Kennedy face a complicated grieving process in the aftermath of her suicide, mental health experts say.

"Initially, the biggest challenge for kids that deal with the suicide of a parent is taking in that news and all the information and circumstances surrounding the death," said Jon Ebert, assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The couple's four children range in age from 10 to 17, and around that age range, children dealing with the suicide of a parent can experience a number of emotions.

Starting at about age 12 or 13, children have a better understanding of suicide.

"Children can differentiate between death and suicide well, and they usually interpret the suicide by saying that the parent was sick or ill," said Dr. T. Byram Karasu, professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  "They will usually blame the spouse.  They will deny the loss and hate the spouse."

Karasu added that children who lose a parent at such an age end up growing up very quickly.

"Their growth is interrupted," he said.  "Adolescents usually end up becoming adults very fast."

In some cases, children end up identifying with the deceased parent and assuming that parent's role, which can be a healthy defense mechanism, Karasu said.

But in other cases, children may respond by acting out and rejecting authority.

Younger children usually see death and suicide as interchangeable, Karasu explained.  They may feel depressed and anxious but not know why, and may also feel very vulnerable after the loss.

Children also struggle with the unanswered question of why their parent left them, Ebert said.

"It's important to clearly communicate to kids that their mom or dad was sick," he said.  "Suicide is a symptom of depression, and it's a level of depression that is significant to the point that the person felt so helpless or hopeless that they took their own life."

The children's grief is also compounded by the publicity surrounding Mary Kennedy's death and the notoriety of the Kennedy family.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Risk of Some Conditions, Study Shows

Gerald Zanetti/FoodPix(NEW YORK) -- Hey, coffee lovers, here's another reason to defend that java habit you just can't kick. A study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from several common health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, accidents and infections, than non-coffee drinkers are.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute conducted an observational study from data that included 400,000 adults ages 50 to 71. People who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 10-percent lower risk of death from the aforementioned conditions than the non-coffee drinkers.

"Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in America, but the association between coffee consumption and risk of death has been unclear," Neal Freedman, lead author of the study and an investigator in the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics, said in a statement.

"We found coffee consumption to be associated with lower risk of death overall, and of death from a number of different causes,'' he said. "Although we cannot infer a causal relationship between coffee drinking and lower risk of death, we believe these results do provide some reassurance that coffee drinking does not adversely affect health."

And it may not be caffeine that is the protective ingredient. Those who drank caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee had similar health results, which suggests there is some other component in the coffee, not the caffeine, that plays a role in protecting one's health.

Several studies have found that coffee reduces the risk of several other medical conditions, including stroke, depression, dementia and several other cancers.

More than half of American adults drink some form of coffee each day, according to the National Coffee Association, and caffeine is the most frequently consumed stimulant in the world.

Despite the promising benefits, Dr. Cheryl Williams, a registered dietician with the Emory Heart & Vascular Center in Atlanta, said she would advise patients that coffee does indeed contain properties that may promote health, but it also has properties that can negatively affect health. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, she said, and boiled coffee lipids may increase already-high blood cholesterol.

"Overall, more research needs to be done to truly understand the compounds in coffee and their biological activity and effect on health," said Williams.

Drinking coffee is "fine," said Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"It can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle and may even contribute to such a lifestyle," said Ayoob. "I wouldn't want it to push out nutritious foods, but in and of itself, there is no reason to suggest that drinking coffee is negative, and it may be beneficial."

The study authors did note that coffee drinking was also associated with smoking, poor diets and alcohol consumption, but Ayoob noted that this doesn't necessarily mean coffee is bad for your health like some of the others.

"You're picking up on a long-term lifestyle, for better or worse," said Ayoob. "[But] just because coffee drinking accompanies smoking, inactivity, etc. doesn't mean it's bad, it means coffee is hanging around some bad company."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio