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Cancer death rates drop but Black Americans still face highest risk

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios 

There's some good news in 2020: Cancer death rates have been falling overall, and the gap between racial and ethnic groups has been narrowing.

Yes, but: Decades of systemic racism and the structures developed under it continue to limit the ability of Americans to benefit equally from cancer advances, some medical experts tell Axios, as seen by Black Americans who've had the highest death rate from cancer for 40 years. And the pandemic is expected to exacerbate the problem further.

Pandemic may drive up cancer cases and exacerbate disparities

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Doctors are concerned the coronavirus pandemic is going to lead to an uptick in cancer incidence and deaths — and exacerbate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities seen with the disease.

Why it matters: The U.S. has made recent advances in lowering cancer deaths — including narrowing the gap between different race and ethnicities in both incidence and death rates. But the pandemic could render some of these advances moot.

Updated Sep 17, 2020 - Science

Hundreds rescued as deadly Tropical Depression Sally sweeps Gulf Coast

A street flooded by Tropical Storm Sally in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

"Catastrophic" flooding from Tropical Depression Sally spilled inland across eastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia on Wednesday, bringing peak winds down to 45 mph winds, per the National Hurricane Center.

Why it matters: The mayor of Orange Beach, Ala., said one person died in the storm and hundreds of others have been rescued, per AP. Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores, before later being downgraded to a tropical storm and later a depression. But the NHC warned late Wednesday it's "still causing torrential rains over eastern Alabama and western Georgia."

Updated Sep 17, 2020 - Science

In photos: Historic wildfires rage across the U.S. West

A woman who lost her home at a trailer park surrounded by burned cars and properties destroyed in the Almeda Fire in Talent, Oregon, on Sept. 16. Photo: Paula Bronstein/AFP via Getty Images

79 large wildfires are burning across the U.S. West, mostly in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, per a Bureau of Land Management statement Wednesday.

The big picture: The mega-fires have killed at least 35 people and burned some 5 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California, where air quality is among the worst in the world. Smoke from the blazes has been affecting East Coast skies this week. It's also been spotted some 5,000 miles away in Europe.

Smoke from U.S. fires reaches Europe

A firefighter works at the scene of the Bobcat Fire burning on hillsides near Monrovia Canyon Park in Monrovia, California on Tuesday. Photo: Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

Smoke from the historic wildfires ravaging the U.S. West was observed over the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe this week, and it will return to the continent this weekend, per European scientists' research.

Why it matters: "The fact that these fires are emitting so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke" some 5,000 miles away "reflects just how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration," said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the European Commission's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which studied the data, in a statement.

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