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Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 25 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

People who take certain popular medicines for heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux may want to proceed more cautiously, researchers reported Monday. The drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors ( PPIs ), appear to significantly elevate the chances of developing chronic kidney disease, according to a study involving more than 250,000 people. An estimated 15 million Americans use PPIs, which are sold by prescription and over-the-counter under a variety of brand names, including Nexium, Prilosec...

Many people have Neanderthal genes in their DNA that predispose them to allergies, two studies published Thursday have found. "So I suppose that some of us can blame Neanderthals for our susceptibility to common allergies, like hay fever," says Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led one of the teams. Scientists once thought of Neanderthals as brutish creatures who had little in common with modern humans. But as more evidence turned...

How safe is it in the United States to be born someplace other than a hospital? The question has long been the focus of emotional debate and conflicting information. Now, Oregon scientists and health workers who deliver babies have some research evidence that sheds a bit more light. The study, which involved more than 75,000 low-risk births in the state in 2012 and 2013, found the risk of death for the baby appears to be twice as high when mothers planned to deliver at a birthing center or at...

Are hospitals doing everything they should to make sure they don't make mistakes when declaring patients brain-dead? A provocative study finds that hospital policies for determining brain death are surprisingly inconsistent and that many have failed to fully implement guidelines designed to minimize errors. "This is truly one of those matters of life and death, and we want to make sure this is done right every single time," says David Greer , a neurologist at the Yale University School of...

There's finally some good news about childhood asthma in the United States: After rising for decades, the number of children with the breathing disorder has finally stopped increasing and may have started falling, according to a government analysis. "That was a big surprise," says Lara Akinbami of the National Center for Health Statistics . "We were expecting the increase to kind of continue. But in fact we saw the opposite." The percentage of U.S. children with asthma doubled in the 1980s...

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The FDA announced Monday that it was replacing a lifetime prohibition with a new policy that will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year. "Relying on sound scientific evidence, we've taken great care to ensure the revised policy continues to protect our blood supply," said Peter Marks , deputy...

Medical advisers to the Food and Drug Administration say that prescription drugs containing codeine should not be used to treat children or the majority of teens suffering from pain or a cough. In their meeting Thursday, the advisers also voted overwhelmingly against the over-the-counter sales of codeine-containing cough syrup for children. Selling such products without a prescription is currently permitted in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The votes to restrict codeine's use among...

When police investigate suspicious deaths, one of the key questions is: When did the victim die? A study published Thursday in Science may lead forensics experts and detectives to a more precise answer in the future. Researchers studying the microbes on decomposing bodies have found that the mix of bacteria and other organisms on dead bodies changes over time in a clear pattern. "It's very clocklike," says Jessica Metcalf , a senior research associate at the University of Colorado and lead...

Since 2003, strict rules have limited how long medical residents can work without a break. The rules are supposed to minimize the risk that these doctors-in-training will make mistakes that threaten patients' safety because of fatigue. But are these rules really the best for new doctors and their patients? There's been intense debate over that and some say little data to resolve the question. So a group of researchers decided to follow thousands of medical residents at dozens of hospitals...

Global warming isn't the only vexing issue the world wrestled with this week. While delegates gathered in Paris to discuss climate change, the International Summit on Human Gene Editing convened in Washington, D.C., to debate another conundrum: How far should scientists go when editing human DNA? The main focus was whether scientists should be allowed to use powerful new genetic engineering techniques to edit genes in human eggs, sperm or embryos — an extremely controversial step that raises...

Throughout history, atrocities have been committed in the name of medical research. Nazi doctors experimented on concentration camp prisoners. American doctors let poor black men with syphilis go untreated in the Tuskegee study . The list goes on. To protect people participating in medical research, the federal government decades ago put in place strict rules on the conduct of human experiments. Now the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a major revision of these regulations...

One of the most intense debates in men's health has flared again: How often should men get screened for prostate cancer? This debate has simmered since 2012, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force shocked many patients and doctors by recommending against routine prostate cancer screening. Some doctors welcomed the change by the influential panel of experts, saying it would save many men from experiencing false alarms and potentially serious complications of unnecessary treatment. Others...

An intense debate has flared over whether the federal government should fund research that creates partly human creatures using human stem cells. The National Institutes of Health declared a moratorium in late September on funding this kind of research. NIH officials said they needed to assess the science and to evaluate the ethical and moral questions it raises. As part of that assessment, the NIH is holding a daylong workshop Friday. Meanwhile, some prominent scientists worry that the NIH...

Biologist Ethan Bier runs a laboratory at the University of California, San Diego where fruit flies are used to help unravel the processes that lead to some human diseases. One day recently, a graduate student in the lab called him over to take a look at the results of the latest experiment. Bier was stunned by what he saw. "It was one of the most astounding days in my personal scientific career," Bier says. "When he first showed me, I could not believe it." His student, Valentino Gantz , had...

A decades-long decline in the death rate of middle-aged white Americans has reversed in recent years, according to a surprising new analysis released Monday. The cause of the reversal remains unclear. Researchers speculate it might be the result of the bad economy fueling a rise in suicides, plus overdoses from prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin, and alcohol abuse. "That could be just a volatile mix that could set off something like this," says Angus Deaton , a professor...

It's become an emotional debate: Do e-cigarettes help people get off regular cigarettes or are they a new avenue for addiction? Until now, there has been little solid evidence to back up either side. But a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could help fill that void. E-cigarettes work by heating up a fluid that contains the drug nicotine, producing a vapor that users inhale. The CDC found that nearly 48 percent of current tobacco smokers said they had tried e...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: We have major news today about how women should be screened for breast cancer. For the first time in more than a decade, the American Cancer Society is changing its recommendations. And NPR health correspondent Rob Stein is here to talk about it. What’s the recommendation? ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Well, Steve, you know, for years, the Cancer Society’s been telling women that once they hit 40, they should go...

Most women don't need to start getting an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer until they turn 45, according to the latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society. Previously, the society recommended women start annual mammograms at 40 and continue every year for as long they remained in good health. The new recommendations also say women can cut mammograms back to every two years once they turn 55 — if they have an average risk for breast cancer. These women can continue that...

Tens of thousands of Americans are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for problems caused by dietary supplements, federal health officials are reporting. The complications include heart problems such as irregular or rapid heartbeat or chest pain, says Dr. Andrew Geller of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , who led the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine . Two other big problems are children ingesting supplements purchased by an...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksU6qudLy0I For the first time, primitive human kidneys have been created in a laboratory dish, by using stem cells. Although the kidneys cannot perform the functions of a fully formed adult kidney, the researchers hope the achievement will someday lead to new ways to treat people suffering from kidney failure. "It's really exciting," says Melissa Little , who heads the Kidney Research Laboratory at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia. She led...

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