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Inside STAT: In colorectal cancer hot spots, young men are dying at higher rates

J'Haun Egerson-Carter holds a picture of her and her late husband, Omhar Carter. (TIMOTHY IVY FOR STAT)

There are 232 counties in the mainland U.S. that are hot spots for early-onset colorectal cancer, where men aged 49 and under are at unusually high risk of dying from the disease. In these hot spots, Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease and less likely to survive it than white men. Chadwick Boseman, star of the blockbuster "Black Panther" who died from stage 4 colon cancer at age 43, was from one of those counties. So was Omhar Carter, a beloved youth basketball coach from Jackson, Miss., who died last year at 46. Researchers are trying to understand what's behind this trend. “We don’t know where this is coming from,” one expert told STAT's Nicholas St. Fleur, adding, “Just like we don’t really know why Black people have the highest chance of getting and dying from it.” Read more here.

In an accompanying piece, Nick invited STAT to film his first colonoscopy, which he underwent just before turning 30. Family history, increased risk for colorectal cancer, and Boseman's death pushed him to get screened, he shares. Watch his journey here.

Former CEO of genetics company Proove indicted on fraud charges

The former CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based genetic testing company Proove Biosciences has been indicted on felony charges in federal court. Brian Meshkin and eight others associated with the company were charged with conspiring to defraud the Medicare program of over $45 million in illegal kickback claims, half of which was paid out by Medicare, among other charges. A STAT investigation in 2016 found that, contrary to the company's claims, Proove's genetic test to assess the risk of opioid addiction lacked scientific basis. Federal investigators subsequently raided the company's offices and recently announced charges against the company. The indictment claims that Proove guised its kickback program as clinical research fees, offering between $100-$150 to physicians in exchange for every Proove test they ordered. This latest announcement follows a guilty plea from Proove's former VP last year, who admitted to the scheme. 

White House may miss timeline target for sharing Covid-19 vaccines globally

The White House yesterday announced its plans for distributing worldwide 55 million Covid-19 vaccine doses — but they may not arrive by the end of June as promised due to delivery delays. The supply isn't the actual problem, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, adding, "We have plenty of doses to share with the world — but this is a Herculean logistical challenge." The announcement comes on the tails of a similar announcement made at the beginning of June for allocating 25 million additional doses. In the new announcement, 41 million doses will be shared through the international facility known as COVAX, with Latin American, Asian, and African countries being the main beneficiaries. The additional 14 million will go to places deemed regional priorities, such as Pakistan, Egypt, and the West Bank and Gaza. 

New report shows disconnect between providers' and patients' perceptions of dementia

A new AARP report shows significant differences in the perceptions of dementia held by patients and health care providers. Only 1 in 5 patients expressed they would feel ashamed if diagnosed with dementia, for instance, while 70% of health providers think their patients would respond that way. This disconnect is consistent with other aspects of a dementia diagnosis: 91% of patients said that they would want to know if their doctor diagnosed them with dementia, but only 78% of doctors said they tell patients the truth. These findings may be explained by differences in how patients and providers perceive the impact of a dementia diagnosis: Only a third of patients thought their families would experience financial setbacks due to such a diagnosis, whereas 70% of providers thought the same.

Study sheds light on the link between birthdays during the pandemic and Covid cases

A new study suggests gatherings for birthdays could have contributed to rising Covid cases. Researchers tracked infection rates across 2.9 million households from January to November 2020, and matched them with household birthdays. There was a 31% increase in the likelihood of a Covid infection in households with a birthday in two weeks prior to a diagnosis compared to those without a birthday. This association was stronger for a child’s birthday than an adult's birthday or a milestone (like a 50th) birthday, suggesting small, informal gatherings may have been to blame. Shelter-in-place policies implemented during the pandemic focused on avoiding large gatherings, but this research underscores the importance of limiting and tracking smaller, in-home gatherings as well.

Patients claim national medical chain Modern Vascular pushes unnecessary treatments 

Modern Vascular, a national medical chain that says it works to prevent unnecessary amputations — such as those for complications from diabetes — is doing the opposite, according to several lawsuits from patients and allegations made to Searchlight New Mexico by current and former employees. Together, these statements claim that the chain — which has clinics across seven states — puts profits over patients, pushing for procedures that aren't needed and relying on referrals from a network of physicians who are investors in the company. And beyond patient lawsuits in New Mexico and Arizona, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Modern Vascular, although the scope of the investigation is not clear. “We don’t do unnecessary procedures, and there’s no inappropriate relationships” with referring physicians, Scott Brannan, the chain's chief of endovascular surgery, told Searchlight, which has the full story here.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday (two-week average): 12,637
New deaths yesterday (two-week average): 294

What to read around the web today

  • How missed calls became a Covid lifeline in parts of rural India. Slate
  • Man with Alzheimer’s forgot he was married to his wife. He proposed, and they wed again: ‘There wasn’t a dry eye.’ The Washington Post
  • Biogen isn’t the only drug company that will profit from Aduhelm. STAT+
  • Watchdog: Nursing home deaths up 32% in 2020 amid pandemic. Associated Press
  • Desperate for Covid care, undocumented immigrants resort to unproven drugs. The New York Times
  • A new research effort aims to vet digital health data from wearables. STAT+

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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