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Monday, July 11, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to the week! Here's what you need to know about the big news in health care today. 

E-cigs used by teens who wouldn't otherwise smoke, study finds

A new study out this morning could fuel the heated debate over whether e-cigs are a preferable alternative to traditional cigarettes among teens or if they’re encouraging smoking among people who otherwise wouldn’t have picked up the habit. USC researchers tracked tobacco use among five groups of high schoolers who graduated in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2014.  The number of high school seniors who’d smoked in the past month fell from 19 percent in 1995 to 9 percent in 2004. That number has fallen to about 8 percent now. But the group of graduates from 2014 were unique — they were the first cohort who also had e-cigs at their disposal. When the question was expanded to ask whether the students smoked or vaped, 14 percent said they had.

That suggests some e-cig users are teens who otherwise wouldn’t have smoked, the study’s authors suggest. The landscape of e-cigs is changing, though. Last month, California raised the minimum age to purchase e-cigs from 18 to 21, and the FDA announced in May it would start regulating e-cigs, too.

Inside STAT: An epic quest to crack the mysteries of our DNA

Molly Ferguson, Dominic Smith for STAT

STAT’s Carl Zimmer is taking an epic quest through the human genome, starting with his own. He has the ability to hold his As, Cs, Ts, and Gs in a hard drive that fits in the palm of his hand. He’s taken his genome to leading scientists, letting them dive into the depths of his genetic code and parse out what makes him the person he is. “It was as if I was a frog that had hopped into an anatomy class with my own dissecting scalpel, asking the students to take a look inside,” Zimmer said. Read the first part of the three-part series here.

Measles outbreak in Arizona traced to detention center staff

An ongoing measles outbreak in Arizona has been tied to employees of a single immigration detention center, and that has public health officials up in arms. All 22 cases of measles since May in the state can be traced back to the facility, but some employees are resisting vaccination. Officials are now sending health care providers to the detention center armed with free vaccines in an effort to curb the outbreak.

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Does nail biting benefit the microbiome? 

There might be an upside to the frowned-upon habit of nail biting — a new study out this morning finds that kids who bite their nails or suck their thumbs are less likely to develop allergies than those who don’t. Researchers wanted to test the idea that those habits might introduce more bacteria into the microbiome, bolstering the immune system and potentially preventing allergies. They studied more than 1,000 children between the ages of five and 11 in New Zealand, 31 percent of whom regularly sucked their thumbs or bit their nails. The difference was slight — 40 percent of kids who had either habit developed allergies by age 13, while 45 percent of those who didn’t developed allergies. 

House set to talk hospital preparedness for natural disasters

A House hearing this morning will cover how hospitals and other community institutions need to prepare for natural disasters. Hospital director Donna Moravick from New York’s Southside Hospital will discuss how the facility dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She’ll be joined by volunteer coordinators and citizens to explain what did and didn’t work, and what lessons can be gleaned from that to help other hospitals prep for future disasters.

Share your favorite science reads with us

We’re putting together a list of great summer reads on health, medicine, and life science, and I’d love to hear what Morning Rounds readers would recommend. Fill out this form and you might see your choice pop up on a list alongside recommendations from STAT staff and notable figures in health care.

Cancer risk rises after type 2 diabetes diagnosis

Doctors and researchers are increasingly focused on the chronic health conditions that occur alongside one another — called comorbidities — and new research puts a spotlight on the potential connection between diabetes and cancer. Researchers pulled data from more than 1 million adults and observed that cancer risk is elevated during a three-month window of time after a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. They offer a couple of theories why: It could be that patients are making more frequent medical visits after a diabetes diagnosis, and those visits are catching cancers, too. Or,  it could be that shared risk factors are contributing to the development of both diabetes and cancer in some patients. Read the research in Cancer.

What to read around the web today

  • What Purdue Pharma knew about an L.A. OxyContin ring that pushed more than a million pills. LA Times
  • China's military hospitals offer illegal, experimental cures. Reuters
  • Journal editors want to ditch impact factor as a metric. Nature

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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