Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vitamin D and Cancer in African-Americans

H/T The Breviary (here).

Differences in vitamin D status may account for unexplained disparities in cancer survival rates between African and White Americans

Authors: William B. Grant and Alan N. Peiris View affiliations


Considerable disparities in cancer survival rates exist between African Americans (AAs) and white Americans (WAs). Various factors such as differences in socioeconomic status (SES), cancer stage at time of diagnosis, and treatment—which this analysis considers primary explanatory factors—have accounted for many of these differences. An additional factor not usually considered is vitamin D. Previous studies have inversely correlated higher solar UV-B (UVB) doses and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations with incidence and/or mortality rates for about 20 types of cancer and improved survival rates for eight types of cancer. Because of darker skin pigmentation, AAs have 40% lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations than WAs. This study reviews the literature on disparities in cancer survival between AAs and WAs. The journal literature indicates that there are disparities for 13 types of cancer after consideration of SES, stage at diagnosis and treatment: bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, testicular, and vaginal cancer; Hodgkin’s lymphoma; and melanoma. Solar UVB doses and/or serum 25(OH)D concentrations have been reported inversely correlated with incidence and/or mortality rates for all of these cancers. This finding suggests that future studies should consider serum 25(OH)D concentrations in addressing cancer survival disparities through both measurements of serum 25(OH)D concentrations and increasing serum 25(OH)D concentrations of those diagnosed with cancer, leading to improved survival rates and reduced disparities.

James C. Collier


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Best Table Tennis Shots Of 2012

James C. Collier


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Friday, December 28, 2012

The End Of The University As We Know It

by Nathan Harden

"In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

We’ve all heard plenty about the “college bubble” in recent years. Student loan debt is at an all-time high—an average of more than $23,000 per graduate by some counts—and tuition costs continue to rise at a rate far outpacing inflation, as they have for decades. Credential inflation is devaluing the college degree, making graduate degrees, and the greater debt required to pay for them, increasingly necessary for many people to maintain the standard of living they experienced growing up in their parents’ homes. Students are defaulting on their loans at an unprecedented rate, too, partly a function of an economy short on entry-level professional positions. Yet, as with all bubbles, there’s a persistent public belief in the value of something, and that faith in the college degree has kept demand high.

The figures are alarming, the anecdotes downright depressing. But the real story of the American higher-education bubble has little to do with individual students and their debts or employment problems. The most important part of the college bubble story—the one we will soon be hearing much more about—concerns the impending financial collapse of numerous private colleges and universities and the likely shrinkage of many public ones. And when that bubble bursts, it will end a system of higher education that, for all of its history, has been steeped in a culture of exclusivity. Then we’ll see the birth of something entirely new as we accept one central and unavoidable fact: The college classroom is about to go virtual."...

Read the full article at the American Interest (here).

James C. Collier


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Permanent Blue Eyes In 20 Seconds

If you were not fortunate at birth, like actress Reese Witherspoon (pictured), science just might give you another shot at blue eyes, but caution is advised.

Gregg Homer PhD., a Los Angeles area research scientist, is working on a procedure, dubbed Lumineye, that will turn brown eyes blue in a mere twenty seconds - and $5,000 (US). Homer's procedure entails beaming a laser onto the top layer of the iris (pigmented) portion of the eye. The laser 'agitates' the iris - some might say it 'burns' it - and the healing process carries away the tissue remnants, leaving an non-pigmented iris ready to reflect blue to its beholders - Hollywood here I come!

It seems that some eye professionals (and me) 'see' a problem brewing with Homer's invention, as pigment in the eye is protective, so permanently burning it away is not insignificant to long-term eye health. In fact, this blogger has previously written about blue eye problems (here).

Others have taken issue with Homer's ethics in pursuing an expensive, dangerous, cosmetic procedure that re-enforces blue eyes as a pillar of human beauty. Homer arguably believes his Jewish roots preclude his pursuits for reasons other than the best intentions. Huh?

Nevertheless, Homer's research continues with the objective of having the procedure available outside of the US in eighteen months, and on US soil within three years. The close-up photograph shows an eye that has undergone the procedure on the bottom half of the iris.

James C. Collier


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Sandy Hook School And Top Ten Myths About Mass Shootings

Reposted From Chronicle of Higher Education (here)...

Top 10 Myths About Mass Shootings December 18, 2012, 2:42 pm

By James Alan Fox

Even before the death toll in last Friday’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., was determined, politicians, pundits, and professors of varied disciplines were all over the news, pushing their proposals for change. Some talked about the role of guns, others about mental-health services, and still more about the need for better security in schools and other public places. Whatever their agenda and the passion behind it, those advocates made certain explicit or implied assumptions about patterns in mass murder and the profile of the assailants. Unfortunately, those assumptions do not always align with the facts.

Myth: Mass shootings are on the rise. Reality: Over the past three decades, there has been an average of 20 mass shootings a year in the United States, each with at least four victims killed by gunfire. Occasionally, and mostly by sheer coincidence, several episodes have been clustered closely in time. Over all, however, there has not been an upward trajectory. To the contrary, the real growth has been in the style and pervasiveness of news-media coverage, thanks in large part to technological advances in reporting.

Myth: Mass murderers snap and kill indiscriminately. Reality: Mass murderers typically plan their assaults for days, weeks, or months. They are deliberate in preparing their missions and determined to follow through, no matter what impediments are placed in their path.

Myth: Enhanced background checks will keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of these madmen. Reality: Most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hospitalization. They would not be disqualified from purchasing their weapons legally. Certainly, people cannot be denied their Second Amendment rights just because they look strange or act in an odd manner. Besides, mass killers could always find an alternative way of securing the needed weaponry, even if they had to steal from family members or friends.

Myth: Restoring the federal ban on assault weapons will prevent these horrible crimes. Reality: The overwhelming majority of mass murderers use firearms that would not be restricted by an assault-weapons ban. In fact, semiautomatic handguns are far more prevalent in mass shootings. Of course, limiting the size of ammunition clips would at least force a gunman to pause to reload or switch weapons.

Myth: Greater attention and response to the telltale warning signs will allow us to identify would-be mass killers before they act. Reality: While there are some common features in the profile of a mass murderer (depression, resentment, social isolation, tendency to blame others for their misfortunes, fascination with violence, and interest in weaponry), those characteristics are all fairly prevalent in the general population. Any attempt to predict would produce many false positives. Actually, the telltale warning signs come into clear focus only after the deadly deed.

Myth: Widening the availability of mental-health services and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness will allow unstable individuals to get the treatment they need. Reality: With their tendency to externalize blame and see themselves as victims of mistreatment, mass murderers perceive the problem to be in others, not themselves. They would generally resist attempts to encourage them to seek help. And, besides, our constant references to mass murderers as “wackos” or “sickos” don’t do much to destigmatize the mentally ill.

Myth: Increasing security in schools and other places will deter mass murder. Reality: Most security measures will serve only as a minor inconvenience for those who are dead set on mass murder. If anything, excessive security and a fortress-like environment serve as a constant reminder of danger and vulnerability.

Myth: Students need to be prepared for the worst by participating in lockdown drills. Reality: Lockdown drills can be very traumatizing, especially for young children. Also, it is questionable whether they would recall those lessons amid the hysteria associated with an actual shooting. The faculty and staff need to be adequately trained, and the kids just advised to listen to instructions. Schools should take the same low-key approach to the unlikely event of a shooting as the airlines do to the unlikely event of a crash. Passengers aren’t drilled in evacuation procedures but can assume the crew is sufficiently trained.

Myth: Expanding “right to carry” provisions will deter mass killers or at least stop them in their tracks and reduce the body counts. Reality: Mass killers are often described by surviving witnesses as being relaxed and calm during their rampages, owing to their level of planning. In contrast, the rest of us are taken by surprise and respond frantically. A sudden and wild shootout involving the assailant and citizens armed with concealed weapons would potentially catch countless innocent victims in the crossfire.

Myth: We just need to enforce existing gun laws as well as increase the threat of the death penalty. Reality: Mass killers typically expect to die, usually by their own hand or else by first responders. Nothing in the way of prosecution or punishment would divert them from their missions. They are ready to leave their miserable existence, but want some payback first.

In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown school shootings, there seems to be great momentum to establish policies and procedures designed to make us all safer. Sensible gun laws, affordable mental-health care, and reasonable security measures are all worthwhile, and would enhance the well being of millions of Americans. We shouldn’t, however, expect such efforts to take a big bite out of mass murder. Of course, a nibble or two would be reason enough.

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University and the author of Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool Through College (Praeger, 2010).

James C. Collier


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Monday, December 17, 2012

Responding to Newtown, Aurora, Blacksburg, et al

I watched President Obama's speech at the Newtown Memorial last night. My college and high school-aged kids and some of their friends and cousins were there too. It gave me a chance to not only consider how to pick myself up after such a senseless tragedy, but to also grasp what I could do as a father. But I was speechless, my internal BS detector was not having any of it.

During the President's words, all the kids, and adults, oscillated between silent tears, squirms, and nervous comments, reflecting the raw emotion and tension of the moment. It was clear that they were translating the events of Newtown to their own school and work lives. I was silent, because nothing I could say could assure them, or make them feel the safety that is supposed to be my parental job.

This morning I woke still without answers, but with a resolve that I did not have last night. Whatever I do going forward, it must be with a simple notion in mind. Mental health services must be more accessible to everyone, and guns must be more difficult to acquire. With my vote and my wallet I will support leaders who support this, and jettison support for those who dance around the issues.

Down? Yes. Out? No.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#18 Why Do Black People Get Creative In Naming Their Children?


I ask this question, my mother ask me this question, and I figure non-blacks must silently (if they are wise) ask it too.

No right appears more sovereign to socio-economically disadvantage blacks than naming their offspring some phonetic combination of sounds, apostrophes, prefixes and suffixes that mimic what is believed to represent an African name.

If such naming correlates to reduced life outcomes, including income, as studied by Freakonomic-economist Steven Levitt and Harvard economist Roland Fryer (here), we are left to wonder why parents, especially mothers, choose this route.

I will postulate that naming one's offspring is a non-trivial extension of the ultimate expression of independence, that of bringing a child into this world, such as it is.

For the downtrodden, however they come by their downtrodden-ness, control over their lives is practically non-existent. From birth to the grave, others tell them the measure and direction of their every move, less they end up in some worse place or shape. The decision to have a child and what to name them is, sadly, part of the one time in their lives that they get to do exactly what they please. Never mind that the child might forever pay a price. To the parent, the name is a lasting show of independence to a society that will forever force them, and their child, to conform to what others think is best.

Some might say that such naming is selfish, and it might be, but Levitt and Fryer offer that correlation is not cause. Being born poor is the greatest influence to adult disadvantage, not your name. A 'black' name, like Roshanda, does not cause the holder to live a life of social and economic disadvantage, but rather it is still the choices that Roshanda and her caregivers make in her life. The choice of studying well and working hard, even as the playing field is un-level, is still hers. I have met many impressive, accomplished, funny-sounding named people, of all colors and backgrounds.

However, let's be clear, the naming objective of all parents, throughout the ages, has been the reasonable accommodation of self-expression and placement of their child on a proper road to success, including one of minimal ridicule. Those parents who choose self-expression alone are telling the world where their priorities come to rest.

James C. Collier


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Friday, December 07, 2012

Blue Eyes, Blacks And Occular Albinism

Photographs of this lad have been making the rounds, with what I believe to be a poor explanation of his blue eyes, on top of all the people who claim that it is a case of blatant photoshopping (forgery). He is from Zimbabwe and the photographer was Vanessa Bristow.

It seems that Ms. Bristow happened upon him on a visit to Maramani, and gained his mother's permission to take his photo. That same photographer enlisted the opinion of an ophthalmologist friend to explain his blue eyes - and this is the part that gets me. Rather than describe the ease at which benign mutations of the eye color gene(s) occur in all people, the expert proposes a more far-fetched diagnosis - occular albinism - in light of all we know about eyes and can deduce about this boy.

While it is certainly possible, occular albinism does not normally present blue eyes, but rather green to brown, with three other visible symptoms, poor vision, lazy eye, and involuntary eye movement - none of which the photographer noted or captured. Furthermore, the female carrier of this condition will normally show hyper/hypo-iris pigmentation and iris trans-illumination as evidence. Again, the photographer noted none of these issues in her description of her interactions with the boy's mother. These absences are cause for pause.

Whether it's people claiming a photoshop fake, or doctors reaching past the obvious, it appears that both the ignorant and the educated continue to cling to the notion that blacks cannot simply have blue or green eyes in the same way that those eye colors came about in whites - first by mutation and supported by positive sexual selection. But for the fact that blue eyes and intense African (equatorial) sun are a bad combination for health and longevity, there would be a world full of blue-eyed black people (I suspect) - and others as well.

James C. Collier


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