In Brief

Mortality

Pop stars likely to die prematurely

September 06, 2007

Living fast and dying young has long been part of rock 'n' roll lore. And now there are statistics that affirm the image, according to a study released Tuesday.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, whose report appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, studied a sample of North American and British rock and pop stars and concluded they are more than twice as likely to die prematurely as ordinary citizens of the same age.

The team studied 1,064 stars from the rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronic and New Age genres in the All Time Top 1,000 albums published in 2000. They compared each artist's age at death with that of European and U.S. citizens of similar backgrounds, sex and ethnicity.

Mark Bellis, leader of the study, said his research showed the stereotype of rock stars was true -- recreational drugs and alcohol-fueled parties take a toll.

The report found that, between two and 25 years after the onset of fame, the risk of death was two to three times higher for music stars than for members of the general population matched for age, sex, nationality and ethnic background.

In all, 100 of the stars studied had died -- 7.3 percent of women and 9.6 percent of men. They included Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

The average age of death was 42 for North American stars and 35 for European stars.

Long-term drug or alcohol problems accounted for more than one in four of the deaths, the study found.

Associated Press

CANCER

Lung disease risk goes down very slowly for former smokers

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke quickly, but the risk of lung cancer goes down very slowly. A new study may help explain why.

The report, published in the online journal BMC Genomics, compared genes in the lung tissue of eight current smokers, 12 former smokers and four people who had never smoked. The researchers found that smoking changes the activity of certain genes. In ex-smokers, some of those changes reverse to normal, but others don't. The irreversible changes may permanently increase the lung cancer risk, the authors say.

Co-author Dr. Stephen Lam, chairman of the British Columbia Cancer Agency's lung tumor group in Vancouver, says the study was prompted by the fact that he and his associates were seeing lung cancer in patients who had stopped smoking 10 to 15 years earlier. "Something was perpetuating the damage," he says.

One gene that did not return to its normal state was a tumor-suppressing gene that helps prevent cancer from forming. As a result, "when the cells become abnormal, the body is less capable of controlling them," Lam says. "The best thing is to never start."

Los Angeles Times

OBESITY

Overweight preschoolers have high rate of iron deficiency

Pudgy toddlers have an alarmingly high rate of iron deficiency, and Hispanic youngsters are more affected than other groups, a new study finds.

The study is the first to discover a link between obesity and low iron levels in preschoolers. Iron deficiency can cause mental and behavioral delays, so the findings underscore the importance of healthy eating habits in children ages 1 to 3.

The researchers found that 20 percent of obese toddlers have iron deficiency, compared with 7 percent of normal-weight toddlers. Lack of iron reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the body by the blood and can cause anemia.

Experts blamed parents who let toddlers drink cow's milk and juice from a bottle, instead of weaning them and introducing iron-rich foods such as meat, beans, eggs, spinach and fortified breads.

Associated Press

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