Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BAH! HUMBUG!

Linda, appropriately clad for the season

It is time to face facts: this computer is toast.  I have spent most of the day wrestling with it, with very little useful result.  I cannot post to Facebook, I cannot use Word, and I have to wrestle with cryptic pop-up messages of doom every few minutes.  So, Saturday I will drive to the big city and buy something newer and presumably better.  Then I may see how many times I can skip this one on the Salton Sea.  Here is all I want to say right now:

As usual, I ask that you do not give me presents for Christmas.  Cards are welcome, of course.  If you feel so inclined, give a gift to Fred Hutch, using this web  address:



As of this moment it will be matched by some anonymous benefactor, who has pledged $100K for the purpose;.  If you do donate, please remember to direct your donation to ovarian cancer research. Hell, let me get in the spirit of the thing, too:  I will match any donations from now until 12/31 - up to a total of $1K.  So, Merry Christmas, and stay sober.  This advice does not necessarily apply to me.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS?


Linda and Ella
                                                                      In her home

It’s wonderful.  The older I grow the more I know, but the less I am certain of.  Take my political philosophy, for instance.  I have always been a small-government, free trade, laissez faire conservative.  I reasoned that this is the best, quickest way to raise the living standards of a society.  It probably is.  But now and then I run headlong onto the story of someone badly marginalized by this political philosophy – which is still in the main the modus operandi of the United States and other rich nations, despite decades of efforts by so-called “progressives” to modify it.  These stories increasingly involve health care.  Here is an example:



What to do?  Don’t ask me.  At 30 I knew.  Now I’m not so certain.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A PITIFUL PLEA

Enjoying the Olympics
And each other

Many of you have helped keep this blog spluttering along by bringing cancer-related news to my attention.  I am hereby asking you to re-double your efforts.  For reasons that I don’t fully understand my two attempts to volunteer in cancer research seem to be dying a lingering death – at least, I rarely can find reason to journey to Seattle and get involved in something.  (Well into my ninth  decade, perhaps my skill set is beginning to become obsolete.  You think?)  But, anyway, I can still read news articles, use Google Scholar to dig deeper – and summarize the stuff I learn, to accompany yet another nice picture of my beautiful wife.  I want to keep at it, so – please – if you run on something you think I might like, hesitate not, but drop me an immediate email.  All these addresses will work:
Thanks.


Friday, November 21, 2014

SOME REALLY NICE PICTURES

The World's Cutest picture
 The World's most beautiful picture
 
 Almost the World's cutest picture
 
A picture that makes me kind of sad
 
Trapped inside by foul weather and gloom, I have been passing time by actually reading all of the ridiculously expensive Wall Street Journal that appears in my driveway each morning.   Normally I just read the front section, then search for a sports story – and then quickly cast the whole thing in my recycle box while feeling vaguely guilty for wasting so much money and so many trees.  However, today I discovered something that may be of interest to many of you, especially those among you who are certain that Big Pharma is ripping us off.  It is a Journal  blog, named “Pharmalot”, which deals with all manner of stuff regarding big drug companies.  Today’s column is a discussion of why some people say it cost an average of $2.7 billion to bring new drugs o market, and why lots of people feel that’s baloney.  It’s worth reading, if you have time to burn.  To read Pharmalot, just request it under that name on Google.
The main reason for this blog is to post some nice pictures to tide you over while I’m in transit.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

SOME ENJOYABLE BIOLOGY

Reading to Simon Hunsinger
 
Last week’s paper edition of The Economist contained three bio-related articles that you might enjoy.  The first is a painless discussion of how simple prokaryote cells (e.g., bacteria) may have evolved into the more complex eukaryotic cells that make up us and nearly everything else.  The second asks you to review your heartfelt but perhaps unreasoning distrust of GMO foods, and the third answers that age-old human question: “Which is more complicated the brain or the testicle?”  You may have to “join” the Economist to see these articles but don’t despair – it is easy, and free.
Here are the web addresses:
It is very cold in Bellingham these days, and my shingles give me an excuse to stay inside and watch football.
 


Friday, November 14, 2014

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE AARP (of all places)

Where the heck is this?
Looks like the Appalachians, but was she ever there?
 
From time to time over the last several years I have mulled over the collateral problems that arise from attempts to detect various cancers in their early – usually most curable – stage.  At first glance, early detection would seem to be an unmitigated blessing - it saves lives.  And it would be an unmitigated blessing if these “early warning” tests were 100% reliable, but of course they’re not.  False positives are inevitable (these are human procedures, after all), and false positives almost inevitably give rise to needless worry and expense.  Sometimes these collateral difficulties can be so severe that august bodies like the USPSTF recommend against the procedure except under special circumstances (see my first prostate cancer blog:
 and a good many – probably too many – follow-ups).  Because of these cautions, any advice that can lower costs and reduce anxiety is welcome.  So – AARP brings you this piece of wisdom, courtesy of Linda’s sister Carolyn.   All women should read it; you never know when it will come in handy.
8. Follow-up ultrasounds for small ovarian cysts
Many women receive repeated ultrasounds to verify that ovarian cysts have not become cancerous, but current research says that these tests aren't necessary. For one thing, premenopausal women have harmless ovarian cysts regularly. For another, about 20 percent of postmenopausal women also develop harmless cysts.
"The likelihood of these small simple cysts ever becoming cancer is exceedingly low," says Deborah Levine, chair of the American College of Radiology Commission on Ultrasound and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
In postmenopausal women, only cysts larger than 1 centimeter in diameter need a follow-up ultrasound. For premenopausal women, who typically have benign cysts every month when they ovulate, cysts smaller than 3 centimeters aren't even worth mentioning in the radiologist's report, says Levine.
The quotation above is #8 on this list, but the other 9 are worth reading, too.
My shingles are better, and the Seahawks pulled it out.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

DIET REARS ITS UGLY HEAD

Us, somewhere warm
A long time ago
 
As you know, I am a little skeptical about the role of diet in health, and especially in cancer prevention (& cure).  Maybe I should do some serious  reconsideration.
I say this because three articles published recently make a good case for the role of a “good” diet in the prevention of epithelial ovarian cancer.  They were “retrospective” statistical studies, based on very large data sets.  By “retrospective” is meant that a group of people are followed over many years, via questionnaires, lab tests, etc., and when they finally die (or funding for the study runs out!), the investigator traces back to see how each life was led, and what resulted.  Thus, say 100,000 women were followed for fifteen years.  Of these, 300 died of ovarian cancer.  These 300 are: “matched” with 300 women who didn’t contract the disease – “matched” in the sense of similar age, race, ethnic background, economic circumstances, etc..  Then the question is asked: “Is there a conspicuous lifestyle difference between the two groups?”  Or something like that.  Inevitably, fancy statistics are applied. 
So, what are the results?   Well, it appears that diet does matter.  The “flavonoids” in black tea come in for special commendation.  They also are found in citrus fruit.  Fats, refined grains, and alcohol are to be cast into outer darkness – except for red wine, which is good.   The advice, in a nutshell (and I quote):  “In any case, your best bet is probably to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
Here are the articles”
Just so you know: The Seahawks are trailing, and my shingles still hurt like hell.