Mixed Signals on Mammography

i-28888d98b874099d6961e8e6ee1f4de3-mammbuzz.jpgLast month the US government released new guidelines for breast cancer screening mammography, a revision which Orac writes has “shaken my specialty to the core.” For most women, the guidelines now recommend beginning biennial screenings at age fifty, instead of annual screenings at age forty. Around the same time, a study came out which “suggested that low dose radiation from mammography may put young women with breast cancer-predisposing BRCA mutations at a higher risk for breast cancer.” Get some perspective on Respectful Insolence before breaking out the snake oil. Then visit Andrew Gelman on Applied Statistics, who reports that the Senate approved a health-care provision requiring insurance companies to offer free mammograms to women. Bemoaning the mixed signals, Gelman writes “none of this makes sense to me.” And on On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, Dr. Isis wonders if the new guidelines are racially insensitive, considering statistics that show black women are “at a higher risk for developing cancer before 40” and face a lower 5-year survival rate.

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New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

i-e35bf3368d623c47f1f6f1910c0c659d-cellbuzz.jpgOn Wednesday, the NIH approved thirteen new embryonic stem cell lines for federally-funded research, with ninety-six additional lines still under review. These new approvals come as a direct result of the “Obama administration’s new rules on federal funding for stem cell research, which reversed the Bush policy of prohibiting such funding in most cases.” Read more about the new rules and a dismissed lawsuit against them on Dispatches From the Culture Wars by Ed Brayton. On Framing Science, Matthew C. Nisbet suggests that public attitudes toward stem cells are changing, and reminds us that much of the research currently underway uses stem cells of non-embryonic origin. Then for a different kind of cell line, Abel Pharmboy tells us about Henrietta Lacks on Terra Sigillata, a “woman whose cervical cancer gave rise to the most famous human cancer cell line.” Her cells live on today, as does her story.

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Eating Your Words

i-f8b24259e4cb4a4f197409c0bc261682-smorgasbord_small1.jpgWe often hear that “you are what you eat,” but the relationship between what goes in our bodies and what our bodies make of it is really quite complex. On Respectful Insolence, Orac laments that “diet does not have nearly as large an effect as we had hoped” on the prevention of cancer, and that by the time we reach adulthood, dietary interventions may be too late. Elsewhere, Joseph on Corpus Callosum examines a new study which suggests that drinking coffee lowers the risk of hepatitis C progression in afflicted individuals. Bucking the study’s correlative conclusion, he says it’s “not possible to generalize” about such a select population. On Guilty Planet, Jennifer Jacquet cautions against nutritional narcissism, saying that healthy eating is about more than “me and my body,” it’s about “my community, my country, my planet.” In a separate post, she shows us the first photo taken of a coral eating a jellyfish, making that old adage sound more dubious than ever.

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Now and Later

i-8cbf5e1a26d518767613df7de58c8f1e-metastasis.jpgSometimes, present circumstances can belie the uncertainty of the future. On Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong discusses experiments on “restraint bias” which show that many people overestimate their powers of self-control. He notes that “we’re generally bad at predicting the future,” arguing that those who feel the strongest are the most likely to risk temptation and defeat. On Respectful Insolence, Orac critiques the latest “kerfuffle over screening for cancer,” which questions the value of routine screening. While early detection may seem like a no-brainer for an improved prognosis, the equation is more complicated and the margins slimmer than one might think. Greg Laden also warns in his blog against mistaking the present trend for the bigger picture. While swine flu may be peaking, he says, it’s no time to let down our guard. In other words, once the cop car passes, “don’t just wander blissfully out into the middle of the street like it is all over, because you will be flattened by the firetruck that you illogically assume is not coming next.”

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House Passes Health Care Bill

i-a74d1fb7c0344a4332446d69d44d2924-health.jpgAfter hours of deliberation late into Saturday night, the US House of Representatives passed the long-awaited health care reform bill. While many Americans are elated at the new bill’s passing, others are questioning the controversial amendment added that prohibits insurance coverage for abortions. Ed Brayton from Dispatches from the Culture Wars examines the compromise many Democratic Representatives made with Catholic bishops local to their constituencies in adding this amendment. Later on, Ed also criticizes what he calls “unruly behavior” exhibited by some House Republicans to delay the passing of the bill. On Effect Measure, Revere expressed disappointment and outrage at what he calls a “neutered industry-friendly cup of weak tea with a Draconian anti-choice amendment,” emphatically stating, “a woman’s right to choose is not negotiable.”

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