Sickle cell trait in blacks might not elevate death risk significantly – Modern Readers

Sickle cell trait in blacks might not elevate death risk significantly

For years, blacks with a sickle cell trait have been expected to die earlier than those without one, as it causes a muscular disease common in people with physically intense lines of work that can potentially be fatal. However, a new study suggests that the risks for African-Americans might not be as great as once thought.

The study revealed this week that African-American men and women who have a sickle cell trait aren’t any more likely to die early than those who don’t have the feature but suffer from risk factors such as obesity, advanced age, or engage in unhealthy habits such as smoking. Still, that didn’t change the fact that the feature can still result in premature death, especially for African-American individuals.

Earlier studies had linked sickle cell genetic features to early death in African-American men and women. For blacks, these features occur in about one out of 13 people, or a shade over 7.5 percent.

Two copies of the gene variant result in sickle cell disease, which, in the short-term, causes occasional, yet gripping attacks of pain, and eventually shortens the average sufferer’s lifespan to about 40 to 60 years. One copy of the trait had earlier been linked to a higher risk of early death from exertional rhabdomyolysis, which takes place when the kidneys suffer from muscle breakdown. ER is known to be common among servicemen and football players.

According to the study’s findings, black soldiers with a sickle cell gene feature were only 54 percent likelier to suffer from ER than soldiers who didn’t have the condition. This may be a higher risk, but it is also comparable to the death risk for those who take prescription drugs, as well as obese or elderly individuals and smokers.

Study lead Dr. Lianne Kurina of Stanford University said that decreased ER incidence may have come about due to a recent military ruling that required soldiers who get regular exercise to take the necessary precautions, such as consuming enough fluids, working up ahead of more intense exercise, and resting when hot. These are all effective ways to reduce exercise-related fatality, whether a person has a sickle cell feature or not.

“The most important thing to come out of this study is the really reassuring news that under conditions of universal precautions against dehydration and overheating, we don’t see an elevation in the risk of mortality in people with sickle cell trait,” said Kurina in a press statement.

Still, the researchers did acknowledge that more extensive studies may be needed, meaning studies with a more comprehensive sampling of subjects across more different occupations.

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Source:: Google – Health