u.s. Hispanics live longer than whites, blacks
American Hispanics outlive whites by more than two years and blacks by more than seven, according to the government's first calculation of Hispanic life expectancy. The report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the strongest evidence yet of the "Hispanic paradox" — long life expectancy for a population that has a large share of poor, undereducated members. A Hispanic born in 2006 could expect to live about 80 years and seven months, the government estimates. Life expectancy for a white is about 78, and for a black, just shy of 73 years. Until recently, federal researchers didn't calculate life expectancy for Hispanics as a separate group. An estimated 40 percent of U.S. Hispanics immigrated here, and in some cases they arrived after arduous journeys to do taxing manual labor. It takes a fit person to accomplish that, suggesting that the United States is gaining some of the healthiest people born in Mexico and other countries, said Dr. Peter Muennig, an assistant professor at Columbia University's school of public health. But experts say that immigrant hardiness diminishes within a couple of generations of living here, thanks to smoking, fast-food diets and other bad habits.
Cancer itself may impair memory
Cancer survivors often complain about "chemo brain," a mental fog and inability to concentrate that persists long after treatment. But the problem may not be limited to cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, a study suggests. Researchers analyzed data gathered from 2001 to 2006 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 9,819 adults ages 40 and older, of whom 1,305 reported a history of cancer. While 8 percent of the respondents who had never had cancer reported memory impairment, 14 percent of those with a history of cancer reported problems. "These problems may be related to treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapy, or to something about the disease itself which can change brain chemistry, or to psychological distress," said Pascal Jean-Pierre, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Commentary urges limited codeine use
Common wisdom says that codeine is safer than morphine. But in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, two doctors argue that morphine's effects are more predictable. Codeine works because it is converted to morphine in the body. But it can cause dangerous complications and even death for the almost 1 in 10 Americans who have a genetic variation that makes them metabolize it very rapidly. In 2007, after a 13-day-old breast-feeding infant died, the Food and Drug Administration warned nursing mothers that if they took codeine after childbirth, their newborns might be at risk for a morphine overdose. The doctors argue that use of codeine should be severely restricted, especially in children, infants and nursing mothers. "For children in the hospital, there is no particular reason to give them codeine," said a co-author of the editorial, Dr. Stuart M. MacLeod. "It is more logical, if they have severe pain and need to be treated, to give them morphine."