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Items of Interest & Current Events

Another year of high heat

The cool that has settled in to the Piedmont has everyone going ‘ahhhh’ and windows opening in homes where the ac has been on high for more than a month. The stretch of heat busted records and made doing anything outdoors a chore.
Jeff Masters has an extensive look at the record warmth we’ve endured and some thoughts about the trends. You could probably guess them.

The past thirteen months have featured America’s 2nd warmest summer (in 2011), 4th warmest winter, and warmest spring on record. Twenty-six states were record warm for the 12-month period, and an additional sixteen states were top-ten warm.

July 11, 2012 | Comments closed

Study finds areas with high rates of cervical cancer

Using a new cancer registry UNC researchers discovered some areas in North Carolina with unusually high rates of cervical cancer. The counties with the highest overall rates and highest mortality rates are among the state’s poorest. Among the report’s other findings is that African-American women die from cervical cancer at double the rate of white and Hispanic women.

Here’s the release:

UNC study identifies pockets of high cervical cancer rates in North Carolina

A study of cervical cancer incidence and mortality in North Carolina has revealed areas where rates are unusually high.

The findings indicate that education, screening, and vaccination programs in those places could be particularly useful, according to public health researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who authored the report.

“In general the rates of incidence and mortality in North Carolina are consistent with national averages,” said Jennifer S. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and an author of the study published recently online in the journal Preventive Medicine. “However we do see pockets where the rates are among the highest for any of the 50 states. These are the areas where we need to focus our efforts to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, this highly preventable disease.”

Smith, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is director of the Cervical Cancer-Free America initiative, which is guiding states to develop cervical cancer prevention programs aimed at eliminating cervical cancer through education, vaccination, screening and early treatment.

UNC researchers examined data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry on all cervical cancer cases reported in the state from 1998 to 2007. In total, there were 3,652 cases of invasive cervical cancer and 1,208 deaths in that period. The study found cervical cancer incidence and death rates varied greatly by county, with less affluent counties having higher rates. While most cases and deaths were among white women (65 percent and 64 percent, respectively), Hispanic women had the highest incidence rate (18.3 cases per 100,000 women). The rates for African American and white females were 10.6 cases per 100,000 women and 7.3 cases per 100,000 women, respectively.

A greater proportion of African American women died from cervical cancer than other races. The mortality rate was 4.5 deaths per 100,000 women, compared to 2.2 deaths per 100,000 white women and 2.0 deaths per 100,000 Hispanic women.

Results also showed:

* More than 45 percent of cervical cancer cases were in women aged 30-49, but more than half of the deaths occurred among women over age 50. Almost a third of the deaths were of women aged 70 and older.
* The highest rates were seen in the least affluent counties (divided into three tiers of economic strength by the N.C. Department of Commerce; tier 1 = least prosperous, tier 3 = most prosperous). Overall, counties’ incidence rates varied between 3.2 and 15.1 cases per 100,000 women. Mortality rates were from 0 to 8 deaths per 100,000 women. Ten counties (Anson, Chowan, Duplin, Halifax, Hoke, Lincoln, Randolph, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland) had both high incidence rates (more than 11 cases per 100,000 women) and mortality rates (more than 3 deaths per 100,000 women) of cervical cancer (click link to see related map).
* No notable difference was found in the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed for women in rural areas compared to urban settings.
* Women with private insurance were more likely to be diagnosed at earlier, more treatable stages than women with no insurance or with government-sponsored insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, military benefits). There was no difference in stage of diagnosis between women with government-sponsored insurance and no insurance.

“This in-depth, registry-based assessment provides us with a clearer picture of which women in North Carolina are being diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it identifies gaps in our state’s cervical cancer prevention health network,” Smith said. “The cancer registry data will help us, as a state, initiate targeted and appropriate interventions. It’s an important step toward eradicating cervical cancer in North Carolina. The analysis also can serve as a model for other states as they bolster the efforts to reduce or end this cancer across the nation.”

Other authors included Sheri Denslow, Ph.D., UNC epidemiology alumna; Gabriel Knop, statistician, Christian Klaus, spatial analyst, and Chandrika Rao, Ph.D., director, all with the N.C. Cancer Registry; and Noel Brewer, Ph.D., associate professor of health behavior and health education at the UNC public health school. Brewer also is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and is director of Cervical Cancer-Free NC, a UNC-led group that is forming coalitions to foster cervical cancer prevention practice activities and research.

The study can be found at:

For a list of all N.C. counties’ cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates, see:

March 12, 2012 | Comments closed

February Almanac

If the recent spell of warm weather has you thumbing through the seed catalogs you may want to check out the new zone map site at the United States Department of Agriculture, which has a nifty GIS driven version interface. Punch in your zip code and drill down. Both the USDA and NOAA are stepping up their climate change monitoring including the effect on plant hardiness. Around here, the maps say we’re a warm Zone 7, but Zone 8 isn’t far away, pushing up from the coast with the line through parts of Harnett, Wake and southern Chatham. Regardless of zone, this month will feature its usual wild swings. Last year, the last day of the month was a record setter with a high of 81.

Sunrise, February 1: 7:15 a.m. Sunset: 5:41 p.m.
Sunrise, February 30: 6:49 a.m. Sunset: 6:08 p.m.

First Quarter – January 30; Full Moon – February 7; Last Quarter – February 14; New Moon — February 21; First Quarter February 29

The Full Moon in February is known as the Snow Moon, Wolf Moon and Hunger Moon
Planets & Stars: Planets are in the night sky in February — Jupiter, Venus and the Moon draw closer together through the month crossing paths finally crossing paths around the 24th with Mercury finally visible after sundown.

February is Black History Month and Heart Month
Significant Dates
• February 1 is National Freedom Day;
• February 2 is Groundhog Day and Candlemas;
• Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is February 12;
• The Feast of Saint Valentine is on February 14;
• February 2 is Groundhog Day;
• February 17 is Random Act of Kindness Day;
• President’s Day is Monday, February 20
• Mardi Gras is on February 21
• Ash Wednesday if February 22
• George Washington’s birthday and, possibly, Groundhog Day is on February 22;
• Leap Day is February 29

There are UNC home basketball games on February 8 (Duke!), 11, 18, and 29.

February 4, 2012 | Comments closed

Langston Hughes in Chapel Hill

Langston Hughes was born 100 years ago today. The author, essayist, poet and newspaper columnist visited North Carolina a few times in his career including a trip to Chapel Hill which he later wrote about in an essay called “Color in Chapel Hill.”
There are several accounts of his visit, the most extensive in this post by the folks at the Southern Historical Colllection, where we learn that Hughes visit later came back to haunt Frank Porter Graham during Graham’s run for the U.S. Senate:

The publication of the Scottsboro issue of Contempo was timed to appear several days before Hughes was to visit Chapel Hill for a public reading. Citizens of the town of Chapel Hill were incensed. UNC President Frank Porter Graham and Chapel Hill town officials received a flood of letters denouncing Hughes as “sacrilegious” and calling for his engagement to be canceled (to put it softly). Graham did not interfere and the reading went on as planned.

The NC Collection blog also had this tidbit:

Hughes spoke before a full crowd on campus and later dined at a local restaurant with a group of white students, only learning later that he had been the first African American to eat in the dining room of a downtown restaurant. Chapel Hill restaurants would not be formally integrated until the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.

February 3, 2012 | Comments closed

Blaming Nixon for NOAA in Commerce

Interesting headline from Politico for a sidebar about President Obama’s proposed consolidation of several agencies and departments. The President explains how the NOAA came to be a part of the Department of Commerce.

“If you’re wondering what the genesis of this was apparently, this had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing the Vietnam War. So he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place,” Obama said in remarks today.

And who was that Interior Secretary?

Answer: Former Alaska governor Wally Hickel, who died in 2010.

January 13, 2012 | Comments closed

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