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What We’re Reading: Oklahoma Abortion Ban; Cancer Death Rate Disparities; Earlier Puberty Onset


Lawmakers in Oklahoma pass the nation's most restrictive abortion ban; racial disparities in cancer death rates persist; earlier onset of puberty sparks concern among physicians, researchers.

Oklahoma Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban, Awaits Governor Signature

Legislators in the state of Oklahoma have passed the nation’s strictest abortion law, which prohibits the practice in virtually all instances from the moment of fertilization, The Washington Post reports. The move follows a similar ban put in place by neighboring Texas last year, which forced many women to seek abortions out-of-state, cementing Oklahoma as a sort of refuge destination. The Oklahoma bill still needs a signature from Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, who has vowed to make the state the “most pro-life” in the country. Similar to the Texas law, this legislation permits civilians to file lawsuits against individuals who perform or help facilitate an abortion in Oklahoma. However, a lawsuit cannot be brought against a woman who had or is seeking the procedure.

Racial Disparities Seen in Cancer Death Rates

New data published in JAMA Oncology show that although cancer rates among Black Americans are falling, they remain higher than any other racial group, USA Today reports. Researchers assessed cancer death rates over the past 2 decades which showed this rate decreased about 2% a year for Black individuals between 1999 and 2019. The decreases seen were larger among men than women, with the greatest drops seen in lung cancer in men and stomach cancer in women. Investigators attribute decreases in lung cancer deaths to a decrease in smoking, which fell from about 24% in 1999 to 15% in 2019. Authors concluded more needs to be done to address persistent structural inequities in cancer rates as most of these disparities are preventable.

Earlier Puberty Onset Raises Concerns, Questions

Although the exact cause of earlier puberty onset in children around the world remains unknown, researchers are investigating the potential role of obesity, chemicals found in certain plastics, and stress, according to The New York Times. Data from the 1990s show that girls began to develop breasts around the age of 10, more than a year younger than previously recorded, while the decline in age was even more pronounced in Black girls, who began on average at age 9. Additional research has concluded the age of puberty in girls has declined by about 3 months per decade since the 1970s, with similar but less extreme patterns seen in boys. Earlier puberty in girls has been linked with a host of complications including a higher risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and of developing breast or uterine cancer in adulthood.

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