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February 21 NewsBriefs

This is the first of my ongoing NewsBriefs email. Each month I’ll look at both clinical and consumer news and send you a few quick overviews. Some will be business-oriented, others more directly related to health, so there’s something for everyone in here.

Biden Stresses Addressing Minorities & COVID

Before Black History Month officially ends, it’s important to emphasize the current administration has a greater focus than the previous one on ensuring Black—and brown—populations do not get ignored in COVID vaccination deliveries. These are the populations in many ways most at risk. They’ve never stopped working outside with others, for example: stats say nearly 25 percent work in service areas and Blacks are 30 percent of nursing groups.[1]

To partially help minority access (many can’t drive or afford car services), the Biden administration is launching a plan. It is moving to deliver vaccines to pharmacies in minority and underserved communities.[2] They will need outreach programs that encourage these folks to get their shots, such as collaborating with pastors of Black communities. The chair of Biden’s Covid-19 Equity Task Force, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, addressed one such group in January.[3]

Artificial Light Causing Cancer?

Not everyone has heard about ALAN. It’s not someone’s first name. It stands for Artificial Light at Night. Since regular usage of electric light, humans stay up day & night. It’s not like folks in Little House on the Prairie who—even with lanterns—usually got to sleep not too long after sunset.

Now a study indicates all this artificial light could increase thyroid cancer, at least among those deeply exposed. A news summary notes that thyroid function is dependent on our circadian rhythm. Also, thyroid cancer has some characteristics of breast cancer—and the latter has already shown there’s an increased breast cancer risk when there are “high levels of light at night.”(1) The report says that cancer risks seem to elevate with melatonin levels and circadian rhythms interrupted. One note: the increase comes from a small number in the study: 856 out of 464,371 studied over 13 years. Still, the risk in that subgroup is significant enough—55% showed increase risk of thyroid cancer—that study leader author Qian Xiao, PhD, said, "We hope our study will motivate researchers to further examine the relationship between light at night and cancer, and other diseases.”[4]

Masks with Proper Fits Critical

Whether you’re a mask manufacturer, employer handing them out, healthcare pros, or just general consumers helping yourselves and loved ones, there’s a key masking point to remember. That’s make sure every mask fits properly. A report in Science News notes that simple guideline can “protect wearers from about 96 percent of…aerosol particles thought to spread” COVID. It also quotes CDC director Rochelle Walensky: “The bottom line is this: Masks work, and they work best when they have a good fit and are worn correctly.”[5] Two smart pointers: only buy (or provide) adjustable masks and consider double-masking, especially if you are someone who must regularly be out among others.

SOURCES [1]Why are people of color more at risk of coronavirus complications,” William F. Marshall, III MD, Mayo Clinic expert answers [2] “Biden’s Covid-19 Vaccination Aims: Speeding the Rollout and Addressing Racial Disparities,” Stephanie Armour, 2/8/21, Wall St. Journal. [3] “Biden Administration promises equitable vaccine access to Black and brown communities,” Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN, 2/18/21 [4]Artificial nighttime light exposure may increase thyroid cancer risk, study suggests,” Erica Carbajal, 2/8/21 Beckers Hospital Review summary of American Cancer Society report. [5] “Making masks fit better can reduce coronavirus exposure by 96 percent,” Tina Hesman Saey, 2/12/21, Science News.

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