Double Dose: Breast Cancer and Environmental Exposures; Another Report Debunks Abstinence Only Programs; Mental Health and Insurance Coverage; and What if Roe Fell?

By Christine Cupaiuolo — November 10, 2007

Linking Breast Cancer and Environmental Exposures: The Breast Cancer and Environment Research Centers (BCERC), a project jointly funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute to study the impact of prenatal-to-adult environmental exposures that may predispose a woman to breast cancer, held its fourth annual symposium on Cincinnati this week. Here’s a peek at the program.

Frank Biro, director of the adolescent medicine division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who is heading up a federally funded study looking at the link between chemicals called endocrine disruptors and breast cancer, told the Cincinnati Enquirer: “Most breast cancer is sporadic; it’s not inherited. Looking at the hereditary issues only accounts for 25 to 30 percent of breast cancers … Something else is going on, and that something else is probably going to be environmental in some way, or maybe an interaction between environmental factors and genetics.”

Plus: Lucinda Marshall looks at media coverage of breast cancer in the wake of the Global Summit on Breast Cancer.

Yet Another Study Proves Congress Wrong: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released a report (PDF) this week that found abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rates of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. As Amie Newman writes, “How many studies, reports and polls do we need until we can finally shove abstinence-only programs in a box and hide them away in that scary hall closet that houses everything under the sun?”

Here’s a summary of key findings (PDF) compiled by the Guttmacher Institute. The ACLU, in a statement, said, the study “provides strong evidence that it is time for the federal government to support comprehensive sex education programs.”

Clinic Buffer Zone Increased: “The Massachusetts legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill that requires protesters to stand at least 35 feet from clinics that offer abortions,” reports The New York Times. “The bill, which Gov. Deval L. Patrick is expected to sign next week, will be the nation’s strictest state law establishing fixed zones that protesters cannot enter around those reproductive health clinics that offer abortions.”

Authorities said the current law, which was enacted in 2000, was difficult to enforce — it prohibits protesters from going within 6 feet of a person in an 18-foot zone outside a clinic’s doors. The Times also notes that the country’s largest fixed buffer zone, 36 feet, is in effect in — wait for it — Melbourne, Fla.

Plus: The Center for Reproductive Rights answers the question “What if Roe fell?” with a look at the laws in each state that would go into effect.

Mental Health Q&A: Ever wonder why mental health benefits are less generous than insurance benefits for other conditions? The Washington Post has a Q&A column on equal coverage and other issues related to mental health coverage.

The Weight Debate: According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as reported in the Washington Post, “Being overweight boosts the risk of dying from diabetes and kidney disease but not cancer or heart disease, and carrying some extra pounds actually appears to protect against a host of other causes of death.”

Plus: Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found that inflammation, not obesity, causes insulin resistance.

Did You Hear the One About …: Jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games, according to a research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor. The article, “More Than Just a Joke: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor,” is scheduled for publication in the February issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men — especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women — to express those attitudes in their behavior,” said Thomas E. Ford, a faculty member in the psychology department at WCU. “The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.”

Revisiting the Prairie: The Washington Post runs an occasional series in which book critic Jonathan Yardley reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past. This time around: the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “What surprises me a bit in thinking back to my own reaction to these books as a boy is that it seems to have made no difference at all that girls, not boys, were at the center of these stories,” writes Yardley.

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