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Many Asian American Women With Lung Cancer Are Never-smokers

Despite progress in lowering lung cancer incidence and death rates in the U.S., studies published over the last few years reveal a puzzling and troubling trend: Lung cancer rates are increasing 2% per year among nonsmoking Asian American women. While lung cancer is traditionally associated with cigarette smoking, as many as 20% of cases in the U.S. happen in people who have never smoked. But more than 50% of lung cancers in Asian American women are in never-smokers according to an article published March 7 by NBC News. For Chinese and Indian American women who have lung cancer, that percentage rises to 80% or higher. The article also highlights the efforts of three Asian American researchers to find answers, despite barriers that include poor-quality data.

At High Temperatures, Some Acne Products Can Create Cancer-causing Chemicals

High levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, can form in acne treatment products containing benzoyl peroxide, according to a new report from Valisure, an independent laboratory. These findings, reported by CNN on March 6, suggest that dozens of acne products containing benzoyl peroxide can create high levels of benzene when stored at high temperatures, such as in a car. Valisure sent a citizen petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including a description of its initial analysis of 175 acne treatment products, which found that 99 of the products contained benzoyl peroxide. Among these, Valisure detected benzene in 94 products. The organization requested recalls and a suspension of sales for products that contain benzoyl peroxide. Last year, the FDA alerted drug manufacturers about the risk of benzene contamination in products including some hand sanitizers and aerosol sunscreens, noting that benzene is a known human carcinogen that causes leukemia and other blood disorders.

All Veterans Exposed to Toxins During Service Eligible for VA Health Care

On March 5, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that all veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military—at home or abroad—are eligible to enroll directly in VA health care. This expansion of VA health care eliminates the phased-in approach established by the PACT Act—meaning that millions of veterans are becoming eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than written into law. For many health conditions, the VA requires a veteran to prove military service caused a condition, but it has also designated certain “presumptive conditions,” which are automatically attributed to the person’s service. Under the PACT Act, signed in 2022, over 20 presumptive conditions were established for burn pits, Agent Orange and other exposures, according to an article in Deseret News. But now, service members who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 or who were exposed to toxins during active or inactive duty in the U.S. don’t need to exhibit any symptoms or conditions to enroll for VA health care.

Michigan Proposal Aims to Ensure Coverage for New Cancer Treatments

After ProPublica published a 2023 story detailing Forrest VanPatten’s battle with Priority Health over the health insurer’s refusal to pay for CAR T-cell therapy to treat his lymphoma, a Michigan lawmaker introduced a bill on March 5 requiring health plans to cover cutting-edge cancer treatments. Michigan previously required health insurers to cover proven cancer treatments, but Priority Health, one of Michigan’s largest health insurers, took the position that because CAR T-cell therapy is a gene therapy, it doesn’t count as a drug and was not subject to the mandate, even though the Food and Drug Administration had already approved CAR T-cell therapy for lymphoma. VanPatten tried unsuccessfully to get Priority Health to cover the cost of the treatment for his aggressive lymphoma and died in 2020 while still trying, according to the March 5 ProPublica article about the legislation. “I feel that the insurance company in this case was painting outside the lines,” said state Sen. Jeff Irwin, who introduced a bill that explicitly includes genetic therapy and immunotherapy, like CAR T-cell therapy, to be covered. “This change that we’re making, I think, is going to make it hard to impossible for someone to make that same decision again around these particular treatments.”