Saturday, November 29, 2008

A real (not symbolic) way to fight breast cancer

Pink ribbons? Please. Now you can do something concrete to help researchers defeat breast cancer. Army Of Women is a collaboration between the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation. The idea is to link women with researchers so that both causes and cures of breast cancer can be studied. All American women are welcome to participate. (Women from outside the US are welcome to make donations but currently cannot participate in research studies.) As a member of the Army, you will receive periodic email notices about research studies. If you are eligible to participate (for example, if they are looking for women within a certain age group, and you are within that age group), then you can volunteer for the study. And if you don't want to participate in that study, then you don't. Participating might involve filling out a questionnaire or giving a sample, such as blood. Participating does not cost anything, and you will not have to pay any fees should you be asked to give a sample. 

There are several things about this new initiative that are innovative and promising. For one thing, it takes research out of the lab, where cancer research is typically done, and moves it into the field of actual human subjects. Large-scale studies involving people are usually not feasible for researchers. By providing a large group of willing participants, the Army will enable research to move forward in a way it has not been logistically able to do before. Moreover, the focus will be on actual women, and on prevention, and the causes of breast cancer, rather than on killing existing tumor cells in lab animals and trying to eradicate cancer that has already arisen. 

If you are interested in learning more or signing up, just go to Their goal is half a million women by the end of 2008. Currently they're up to about a quarter million, as you can see by the nifty counter on their home page. Under "getting involved" you'll see easy options for spreading the word. Take a minute out of this crazy holiday season to do something truly good. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Radio Lab takes on Sperm

You may or may not be familiar with Radio Lab. It's a science-oriented show that airs on WNYC, New York Public Radio, and is wildly popular in the podcasting world. This Friday, 11/21, they will be taking on the subject of sperm. Why sperm and not eggs, you may ask? I've no idea. Ask them. But based on their 8 minute preview podcast, it promises to be be both entertaining and educational.

There will be many ways to hear this show. If you're in the New York area, you can catch it on 93.9 FM from 3-4PM and on 820 AM from 8-9PM on Friday, 11/21. If you're near a computer at those times, you can stream it at After the show airs, it will be available for both streaming and download on their website on this page. (This page is also where you will be able to post comments about the various segments, and there are links to things mentioned on the show such as the Donor Sibling Registry.) And of course you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes. 

If you haven't heard Radio Lab before, you may be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised by the sound of it. It is highly produced. Unlike sperm, which, as my students have heard me say, is a classic example of quantity over quality.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NY: Protest Genital Cosmetic Surgery on 11/17

The New View Campaign will be staging a demonstration in NY on 11/17/08 to protest the rise of genital cosmetic surgery. Surgeons who promote these procedures  claim that they restore and enhance the appearance of the vaginal area to reclaim the "youthful appearance and function of the vulvar and vaginal area." These claims are unsubstantiated by research, and there is some evidence that these surgeries may actually create health problems, such as scarring, pain, obstetric risk, loss of sensation, and reduced pleasure. Of course they also prop us the idea that there is one specific, idealized vision of what a woman's genitals should look like. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has come out against the procedures.

The New View Campaign demands new regulations requiring that women considering these procedures receive information regarding possible risks, and also calls for independent post-operative research to assess adverse reactions. 

The protest will take place in NYC from 12-2PM outside a cosmetic genital surgeon's office. The specific location will be posted on the New View website on 11/16. The New View Campaign is working in conjunction with the National Women's Health Network, which provides information about women's health issues unbiased by the pharmaceutical industry, medical device manufacturers, etc. I find them to be a very valuable source of information. You can sign up for email alerts on their website, and consider supporting them. Barbara Seaman (see earlier post) was one of their founders, and they have been fighting for truth in women's healthcare ever since. 

If you work in Manhattan, do something good on your lunchbreak on 11/17.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"The Business of Being Born" at Bluestockings

Bluestockings is a radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They host interesting events nearly every night, and admission is free or by donation. Does it get any better than that?

On Monday, November 10th, they will be screening THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN, "a documentary which examines the culture and medical approaches for making American babies. The film interlaces personal birth stories with historical, political and scientific insights and statistics about the current maternity care system. A discussion with a doula and midwife will follow the screening." Start time is 7PM but I suggest getting there well before that if you want to get a seat. Lots of stuff to look at & snack on while you wait. Make efficient use of your time and start buying your community-supporting holiday gifts while you're there!

Bluestockings is located at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington (1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue).

By train: F train to Second Avenue (one block south; exit at 1st Avenue) or JMZ-line's Essex / Delancey Street stop (5 blocks).