Health Buzz: Cancer as World's Leading Killer and Other Health News

Why women get less treatment for heart attacks; controversy over value of vitamins and supplements.

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Cancer Expected to Become Leading World Killer

Cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the world's leading cause of death by 2010, killing more people than the combined death toll of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, HealthDay reports. There could be 27 million new cancer cases annually by 2030, compared with an expected 12.4 million new cases in 2008, reports. The projections come from the 2008 World Cancer Report, issued this week by the World Health Organization. The report names tobacco use as a major factor driving the increase. Less developed countries are particularly at risk. "The burden of cancer is shifting from developed countries to developing nations," Otis Webb Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said during a teleconference reported by HealthDay. "And with a growing and aging population, we must take steps to address this problem now."

In November, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz listed seven things to consider if breast cancer runs in your family. In September, Katherine Hobson explained what you need to know about mapping the cancer genome.

How Heart Attacks Affect Women

If a woman suffers a particularly serious kind of heart attack, she is twice as likely as a man to die from it, Deborah Kotz reports. But a woman's overall risk of dying from a heart attack in a hospital is about the same as a man's, according to a study of 78,000 people treated for heart attacks published yesterday in the journal Circulation. Doctors, it seems, have improved their recognition and treatment of heart disease in women. A decade ago, women had a higher overall death rate than men after heart attacks. Some disparities still exist, which could explain the higher death rates for the small group of women who have a type of heart attack called ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), usually caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery.

Earlier, Kotz listed seven heart attack warning signs every woman should know. In November, she explored whether people should get tested for inflammation for heart disease prevention, and she described six ways to fight inflammation that don't involve taking a statin.

Can Vitamins and Supplements Improve Your Health?

Vitamins and mineral supplements, often heralded as weapons in fending off chronic and age-related diseases like cancer and heart disease, have taken a battering in recent years, Katherine Hobson reports. In November, researchers from the Physicians' Health Study-II reported that neither vitamin E nor vitamin C reduced the odds of major cardiovascular problems. A few days later, researchers said that more data from the study showed those vitamins didn't help stave off cancer, either. And another recent study found that supplemental B vitamins, including folic acid, didn't lower the risk of breast or other cancers. Because much of the food in our diets is fortified with nutrients, once common deficiency diseases such as scurvy and rickets (caused by a lack of vitamin C and D, respectively) have nearly disappeared in the U.S. and other developed countries. Researchers generally believe that with a few exceptions, like pregnant women or the elderly, most people don't need supplements.

This month, two studies found that selenium and vitamins E and C won't prevent prostate cancer. In April, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reported on four old-fashioned diets that promote health and described the Mediterranean diet, Asian diet, Latin American diet, and vegetarian diets.

—January W. Payne

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