CDC: Mississippi has highest teen birth rate in U.S.
ATLANTA — Mississippi now has the nation’s highest teen birth rate, displacing Texas and New Mexico for that lamentable title, a new federal report says.
Mississippi’s rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, according to state statistics released last Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The teen birth rate for that year in Texas and New Mexico was more than 50 percent higher.
The three states have large proportions of black and Hispanic teenagers — groups that traditionally have higher birth rates, experts noted.
The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have rates that are roughly half the national average, which is 42 births per 1,000 teen women. Ohio was slightly below the national average with 40 births per 1,000.
It’s not clear why Mississippi, with 68 births per 1,000, surged into first place. The state’s one-year increase of nearly 1,000 teen births could be a statistical blip, said Ron Cossman, a Mississippi State University researcher who focuses on children’s health statistics.
The New Mexico rate was 64 per 1,000; Texas was 63. New Hampshire, with a rate of 19 per 1,000, was the nation’s lowest.
More than a year ago, a preliminary report on the 2006 data revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen for the first time in about 15 years. But the new numbers provide the first state-by-state breakdown.
The new report is based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states.
“It’s pretty much across the board” nationally, said Brady Hamilton, a CDC statistician who worked on the report.
About 435,000 of the nation’s 4.3 million births in 2006 were to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19. That was about 21,000 more teen births than in 2005.
Numerically, the largest increases were in the states with the largest populations. California, Texas and Florida together generated almost 30 percent of the nation’s extra teen births in 2006.
Some experts have blamed the national increase on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that does not teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception. They said that would explain why teen birth rate increases have been detected across much of the country and not just in a few spots.
There is debate about that, however. Some conservative organizations have argued that contraceptive-focused sex education is still common, and that the new teen birth numbers reflect it is failing.
Other factors include the escalating cost of some types of birth control and their unavailability in some communities, said Stephanie Birch, who directs maternal and child health programs for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Glowing media portrayals of celebrity pregnancies don’t help, either, she said.
“They make it out to be very glamorous,” said Birch, who cited a calculation by Alaska officials that teen births were up 6 percent in that state in 2006.
A variety of factors influence teen birth rates, including culture, poverty and racial demographics. For those and other reasons, kids in mostly white New England likely would delay child birth, said David Landry, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based organization which supports abortion rights and gathers research on sexual and reproductive health.
“It’s more costly for youth in the Northeast to have a teen birth than for youth in the South, in terms of opportunities they’ll miss,” he said.
Ark. scientists developing breast cancer ‘vaccine’
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Scientists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) hope to begin clinical trials this spring on a vaccine to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer.
If successful, the vaccine would not replace traditional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation but could be an additional treatment for patients, said Laura Hutchins, the principal investigator, professor of internal medicine, and director of the division of hematology and oncology.
Thomas Kieber-Emmons, director of basic breast cancer research at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, said the vaccine was developed over a decade of study on the immune system. He said the key was understanding how different molecules work together to combat disease.
Breast cancer cells are covered with molecules, called antigens, that are capable of triggering the production of antibodies that fight breast cancer cells. But the carbohydrate antigens on cancer cells don’t stimulate a strong immune system response.
Kieber-Emmons and his team came up with an alternative approach with a six-year, $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. They developed peptide antigens that mimic the carbohydrates.
A peptide is a compound consisting of two or more amino acids. The peptide-based vaccine tricks the body into producing antibodies that target both the peptides in the vaccine and the carbohydrates they resemble on the breast cancer cells.
The trials will be done in phases. The first phase will last four to six months, and involve women with cancer that is actively spreading and women whose cancer has come back after going into remission. The women will receive five doses of the vaccine.
The second phase will last about a year and include women who have had breast cancer but are in remission and considered at high risk of getting it again. The women will have to have been off chemotherapy for at least six months.
The number of patients participating in the study hasn’t been determined.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women and the second most-common cause of cancer death in white, black, Asian and American Indian women. In 2004, 40,954 women died of breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data. That same year, 362 men died of the disease.