Report Warns of Surging U.S. Demand for Cancer Treatment by 2025

Assessment forecasts shortage of oncologists as increasing numbers of patients are diagnosed with cancer. The influential American Society of Clinical Oncology, in a report released today, said the number of new cancer diagnoses is projected to increase by up to 42 percent over the next 11 years as a result of the nation’s aging population. Over that period, the report said, the supply of oncologists will increase by only 28 percent, leading to a shortage of nearly 1,500 of the cancer specialists by 2025. People living in rural areas will be hardest hit by the shortage, the report predicted. The oncologists’ group called on Congress to stabilize payments to doctors under the Medicare insurance program for the elderly. HealthDay, The Hill, Reuters

House committee launches probe into the response by GM and regulators to complaints about faulty ignition switches. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings, at a time yet to be determined, to scrutinize the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last month General Motors said it would recall more than 1.6 million cars because of a defective ignition switch that, if jostled or weighed down by a heavy key ring, could turn off the car’s engine and electrical system, disabling the air bags. The flaw has been linked to 13 deaths. GM says it was first alerted to the problem in 2004, and despite twice considering fixes, declined to act. Separately, GM said that its internal investigation would be led by a former federal prosecutor, Anton Valukas. The New York Times, The Washington Post

Regulators made a concerted effort to play down the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to aging U.S. nuclear plants. That effort was evident in a review of thousands of internal emails from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant on March 11, 2011. The emails, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, show that the campaign to reassure the public about America’s nuclear industry came as the NRC’s own experts were questioning U.S. safety standards and scrambling to determine whether new rules were needed to ensure that the meltdowns occurring in Japan couldn’t occur here. Spokespeople were told not to reveal that NRC scientists still were studying whether California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant  could withstand a tsunami like the one that hit Japan. NBC News

High lead levels discovered in the soil of homes and a preschool near a Southern California battery recycling plant. The findings by state toxic waste regulators prompted officials to issue warnings and order more testing near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, Calif. Officials, concerned by the initial results from an assessment that covered 39 homes and two schools, directed Exide to create a plan to protect children and pregnant women living in affected homes. It marked the first time state officials found widespread ground contamination in residential areas near the plant, which recycles as many as 25,000 batteries a day. Exide has drawn intense attention since air quality officials found last year that its arsenic emissions posed an elevated cancer risk to 110,000 people living nearby. The recent soil tests, however, didn’t show elevated levels of arsenic. Los Angeles Times

Senate hearing on alleged retaliation against whistleblowers at a nuclear cleanup set to go ahead — without the whistleblowers. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chair of a Homeland Security subcommittee, had planned to call two such individuals, both discharged from their jobs at the Hanford nuclear cleanup site in Washington State in the past six months. The official invitation to those people never went out, though, because Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the ranking minority member of the panel, objected to having them called as witnesses. McCaskill now plans to hold a public “roundtable” discussion with the former workers before today’s hearing in Washington. The Wall Street Journal

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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