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Health Highlights: June 30, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Transgender Ban Lifted by U.S Military

Transgender people will be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Thursday.

There are already thousands of transgender U.S. military personnel but until now they've had to hide that fact to avoid being discharged, The New York Times reported.

Last year, Carter called the ban on transgender service members outdated and ordered the military to examine the steps necessary to repeal it.

While there was opposition from some high-ranking military officials, several studies concluded that lifting the ban is unlikely to have any significant effect on the readiness of the armed forces, The Times reported.

A ban on gay men, lesbians and bisexuals openly serving in the military was lifted in 2011.

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Heart Disease Still Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the United States in 2014, followed by cancer, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says.

The next most common causes of death are: chronic lower respiratory diseases such as emphysema; unintentional causes such as traffic crashes and drug overdoses; stroke; Alzheimer's disease; diabetes; the flu and pneumonia; kidney disease; suicide; septicemia; chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; high blood pressure; Parkinson's disease; and lung diseases caused by external agents, CNN reported.

There has been little change in the rankings over the years. Heart disease was the leading cause of death last year. Alzheimer's disease moved ahead of diabetes in 2013, and lung disease deaths caused by external agents moved ahead of homicide in 2010.

The CDC also said that adult and infant death rates reached a record low in 2014, with adult deaths falling one percent and infant deaths declining 2.3 percent from 2013, CNN reported.

While life expectancy increased for black men and Hispanics, it fell for white women. The overall death rate for blacks was 1.2 times higher than for whites.

Women still outlive men, but the gap has narrowed from about 7.8 years in 1979 to 4.8 years in 2014, the CDC said.

The leading causes of death among infants remained the same in 2014: congenital malformations, low birth weight, maternal complications, SIDS, accidents, cord and placental complications, sepsis, respiratory distress, circulatory system diseases and neonatal hemorrhage, CNN reported.

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Federal Funding Could be Cut if Cancer Researchers Don't Release Findings: Biden

U.S. government funding could be halted for cancer studies that don't publicly disclose their results, Vice President Joe Biden warned Wednesday at a cancer summit in Washington, D.C.

He said the culture in cancer research is hindering progress in finding new treatments and that he was "committed to doing everything in my power" to change that culture, the Associated Press reported.

Prominent medical centers that receive millions of federal dollars are ignoring a stipulation that they submit their results to a publicly accessible database within a year, according to Biden.

"Doc, I'm going to find out if it's true, and if it's true, I'm going to cut funding," Biden said. "That's a promise."

The vice president has been asking for months for cancer researchers to be more open with their data and clinical trial results so that scientists can build on each others' successes in order to develop new treatments, the AP reported.

Biden's warning at the summit was the first time he suggested that researchers who don't share their findings could lose their National Institutes of Health funding.

The White House said it is developing a rule to punish researchers and organizations who ignore the requirement to release findings within a year, the AP reported.

The world is "on the cusp of breakthroughs," but the cancer community is essentially standing in its own way, Biden said at the summit, part of his "cancer moonshot" effort. He singled out major research hospitals for poor collaboration and drug companies for unwarranted price hikes.

But cancer researchers and institutions claim they already share large amounts of data and often work together and with the government, and also say government rules make it difficult to develop treatments quickly and get them approved for patients, the AP reported.

Biden announced the "cancer moonshot" effort last year after his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died of brain cancer, the AP reported.

"This isn't about him, it's not about a single person, it's about us," Biden said. "Not giving up hope. And having the urgency of now."


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