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Health & medicine in brief

U.S. infant death rate drops to new low in 2001

Compiled from Times wires
Published September 17, 2003

ATLANTA - The U.S. infant death rate dropped to a record low in 2001, in part because of a decline in SIDS deaths, but it is higher than that of other industrialized countries, the government said Tuesday.

The U.S. rate in 2001, the latest data available, fell to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births from 6.9 the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate has declined 38 percent since 1983, when it was 10.9 per 1,000 live births. It has dropped to a new low in each of the past four years after a brief plateau in 1997 and 1998.

The 2001 decline was attributed largely to an 11 percent decline in deaths from sudden infant death syndrome, one of the three leading causes of infant death along with congenital malformations and low birth weight.

The CDC said SIDS declined because of public health campaigns that encourage mothers to take such steps as making their babies sleep on their backs.

Despite the improvements, the U.S. rate is more than twice that of other developed countries. In Sweden and Japan, for example, the rate was about 3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000, the latest data available from the United Nations.

Experts say the difference is in part because of more premature births and poorer access to health care in poor communities in the United States.

Prostate cancer patients who see higher levels of specific protein face risk

WASHINGTON - Research suggests men who have had prostate cancer treatment might be at dramatically increased risk of dying from the disease if levels of a cancer-linked protein double during the first three months after treatment.

The findings suggest those men need immediate hormone-suppression therapy to try to delay the deadly spread of their returned prostate cancer and should consider experimental treatments, the researchers reported Tuesday.

Blood levels of a protein called PSA rise as a prostate enlarges or cancer develops. So PSA testing is used to screen men for prostate cancer.

But it's also used to tell if prostate cancer has returned after initial surgical or radiation treatment. How quickly PSA is detected and how rapidly it rises are well-known signals of how aggressive the returning cancer is, and doctors use them to make treatment decisions. But how those PSA increases correlate with a man's risk of death isn't clear.

Dr. Anthony D'Amico at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston tracked 8,669 men after initial prostate cancer treatment. Those whose PSA levels doubled in less than three months were nearly 20 times more likely to eventually die from their cancer than men with slower PSA returns, D'Amico reported Tuesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Median survival for the men with the rapid PSA rise was six years, D'Amico said.

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