Special Report

The Best Health News Over the Last Decade

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Smoking rates at all-time low
> Year: 2018
> Category: Habits

The short and long-term health problems smoking causes have been well-documented for decades. Today cigarette smoking among U.S. adults is at an all-time low — 13.7% in 2018, according to the CDC.

While smoking regular cigarettes is down, smoking e-cigarettes is on the rise. About 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. A recent Gallup survey found that 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds vape regularly, more than twice the national average for all age groups.

There has been a recent outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette. At least 47 deaths and 2,290 lung injuries have been confirmed by the CDC as a result of vaping as of Nov. 20, 2019. The agency has identified vitamin E acetate, an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarettes, as the likely cause for the lung injuries.

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Cystic fibrosis treatment approved by FDA
> Year: 2019
> Category: Treatment

About 30,000 Americans live with cystic fibrosis, a fairly common genetic disease that affects the lungs and other organs, limiting one’s ability to breathe as the disease progresses. About 1,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

The FDA approved in 2019 what it called a “new breakthrough” therapy to treat the condition. The medication, sold under the name Trikafta, is available to patients who are 12 years or older and have the F508del mutation, the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. It is found in 90% of the people living with the disease. The treatment can increase the life expectancy of patients, which is now around 44 years.

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Second HIV patient goes into remission
> Year: 2019
> Category: Diseases

A second person since HIV was identified in the 1980s has been said to be in sustained remission. The patient, who was treated in London, has not been given antiretroviral therapy for 18 months, and the virus has remained undetectable. The good news comes more than a decade after the “Berlin patient,” known as the first person to have been “cured” from the infection. Both patients received a stem cell transplant.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the most serious global health challenges. Almost 38 million people live with HIV worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Just over 60% are receiving treatment.

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Blood test detects breast cancer 5 years early
> Year: 2019
> Category: Diagnoses

Even though deaths from breast cancer have declined, the disease remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, according to the CDC. More than 40,000 women die from it a year.

Improved rates of early detection have helped drive up survival rates. A recent British study offers hope that the condition could now be detected five years before there are any clinical signs of it. The new method is a blood test that identifies the body’s immune response to antigens produced by tumor cells. The test may be available in clinics in about five years.

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Finding a cure for arthritis
> Year: 2019
> Category: Treatment

2019 has been an exciting year in the field of health technology and scientific research. In addition to such technological developments as organ printing and gene editing, recent research has shown promise for a cure for arthritis. Millions of people suffering from joint inflammation — from osteoarthritis, for example, which is the most common form of arthritis — may be helped.

A recent study published in the Science Advances journal has found that “cartilage in human joints can repair itself […] to regenerate limbs.” The body was previously believed to be unable to do so. People have a molecule that helps with joint tissue repair, and that molecule is more active in ankles and less active in knees and hips. The findings can help develop treatments that may prevent, slow, or even reverse arthritis.

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