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Posts Tagged ‘Pink’

I last wrote about breast cancer in my informal “medical series” here on the blog so, to be fair, I’ll now address prostate cancer. Unlike the enthusiastic pink-banner-waving breast warriors-of-awareness, prostate cancer’s agents of information fly below the radar with little hoopla, few public endorsements, and no ribbon brigades. But statistically, prostate cancer is just as prevalent as breast cancer and results in about 30,000 deaths annually.

But how about a bit of good news to start? Most guys are familiar with the “probing finger” method of prostate examination, but how many have heard of the PSA blood test that can also be used? Ideally, the American Cancer Society suggests they be used in conjunction to help identify prostate issues, and generally only after age 50. But, fellas, there’s our loophole; you have the right to request the blood test and forego the finger.

Now, back the issue at hand (no pun intended). Prostate cancer, like many other cancers, increases in probability with age. Roughly two-thirds of cases are diagnosed in men 65 and older. And whereas a 40 year old man has only a 0.01% chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, a man aged 75 has a 12.5% chance. Which, incidentally, is twice the odds of a woman the same age being diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, from age 55 on, men are at a higher probability of prostate cancer than women of the same age are of breast cancer. And over the course of a lifetime, men are over 30% more likely to develop prostate cancer than women are breast cancer. I don’t recall seeing any blue ribbons for that in the New Yorker.

And although men make up less than half of the country’s population, they are more likely to develop cancer of any major class but one. Digestive cancer? More prevalent in men. Respiratory cancer? Men. Bone, skin, brain? Men. Lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia? Still men. The only major class not led by men is cancers of the endocrine system, involving hormones. (And I dare say most men could offer an explanation for why women are number one in that.)

So I think we should begin a blue-ribbon brigade, to save the men. They are a minority in the populace, suffer a shorter average life span than women, and are at higher risk for debilitating disease. If that doesn’t deserve a ribbon, I don’t know what does. But I don’t think we can rely on super-aid-celebrities like Bono to go waving any flags for the cause (mostly because I think he needs to grow a pair first), so men, take a stand for yourselves. Wave your own banners and be your own warriors-of-awareness. And women, if you support the pink ribbon then you need to support the blue one, too. We have to fight for equal rights, equal awareness, and equal funding together, breasts and prostates alike.

Go blue!!

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The American Cancer Society estimates there were a total of 254,650 new diagnoses of breast cancer in 2009 (actual records are only available until 2005; newer information has not been compiled). As a member of the female population, I am very aware of these numbers. Television commercials, full-page magazine ads, and a virtual who’s who of celebrity sponsors make it hard not to be. Everywhere I look is the ACS “pink warning,” in ribbons, scarves, posters, bumper stickers, etc., trying to “raise awareness” about breast cancer. (Personally, I’m wondering what rock a person could be living under to not be aware.) And, as usual, I felt the need to question the authorities that be and look into these numbers more closely.

First off, let’s take that number of expected new diagnoses – 254,650 – for the 2009 calendar year and compare it to the female population of 2009: 154,000,000 (roughly, estimated from Census Bureau population charts). So with no more than a pocket calculator, I can conclude that, in 2009, any given female’s chance of being found to have breast cancer was essentially 0.00165%. There are other factors, of course, especially age and family history, but this wasn’t exactly the death sentence I was expecting. From all the media hype and social awareness I had expected much higher numbers. But 0.00165%? That means you’d have to get 1,000,000 women together to find 17 with new breast cancers (and that’s rounding up). That means if the entire metropolitan area of Memphis, Tennessee, were female, less than twenty would have been diagnosed with breast cancer during the year. I’m as likely to be killed in a freak accident involving jalapeno poppers and a road grader. Okay, maybe not, but it’s still pretty remote.

Now before anyone gets their bra in a bunch, I understand that it should not be dismissed. Like any disease, I think it should be kept in the back of your mind and those more likely to be affected (women over 45, smokers, of African heritage, or with family history of breast cancer) should take whatever steps they feel are necessary to protect or treat themselves. Breast cancer contributes to some 40,000 deaths each year; that cannot be ignored. Period. But I don’t believe it’s the plague it is played up to be. For instance, according to the National Safety Council, women under age 45 are more likely to die of accidental poisoning than to develop breast cancer.

So – to continue poking around these ACS estimates – women under 45 were expected to comprise only 25,100 of the new diagnoses. Which drops the chances to a whopping 0.00027%. Did you catch that extra zero in there? Now scrounging up 27 new diagnoses would require 10,000,000 women. That’s only slighty less than the entire Paris metropolitan complex … or the populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix combined. And this is supposed to be a major concern? I’m more likely to be shot; to drown in a swimming pool; to die in a plane crash or from heatstroke; or even to suffocate in bed (according to the National Safety Council). I don’t see a lot of warnings about the dangers of bed-clothes. But maybe Martha Stewart has more up her sleeve than white sales and stock tips, eh?

The American Cancer Society’s own documents state, “95% of new cases and 97% of breast cancer deaths occurred in women aged 40 and older.” In fact, most breast cancers occur in women 70 and older, when chances of being diagnosed “skyrocket” to 0.016%. And one last percentage to throw at you … taken as a whole, over an entire lifetime, the average woman has a 0.125% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

So why the media frenzy? Why the pink and celebrity sponsors and full-page ads? Why are they worrying college students and the MTV generation about something that really begins to pose a threat only at retirement age?

I don’t know, but it has provoked me to look into other concerns and do some digging. Consider this post the first of a series exploring medical concerns. And remember to take media “warnings” with a grain of salt.

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I don’t keep up with many recording artists. The pool of popular people changes too rapidly for me to notice even half of them, and most of the half I do notice have little to offer. But there are, of course, exceptions.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ve heard of Pink and listened to her songs on the radio. From her 2000 debut song “There You Go” to her latest and biggest hit yet, “So What,” Pink has belted out noteworthy songs across five albums. In 2001, with Missundaztood, arguably her most well-known album, and a slice of the global hit “Lady Marmalade” in her pocket, she seemed to find her voice and hit her stride. Between 2002 and 2007 two more albums came out and she was married in 2006 to motocross racer Carey Hart. (They separated in 2008 and are “trying to work it out”). And then last fall came her latest album, Funhouse, producing her biggest hit to date (also the first of her albums I actually bought).

[Please note: the unedited album contains some explicit lyrics; the edited version does not but is still not suitable for children or “tweens.”]

Pink has gathered quite a following with her pull-no-punches attitude and songs to match. Perhaps more interesting are the chinks in her armor where she displays surprising vulnerability without drifting into the maudlin. Funhouse is a great mix of the two, a step up I believe, while retaining all the bite that appealed in her previous albums.

“So… So what! I’m still a rock star. I got my rock moves, And I don’t need you. And guess what? I’m having more fun… And you’re a tool…”

her wonderfully rough voice announces in track #1, “So What.” If you haven’t seen the music video, you’re missing a good thing.

As for the album tracks that follow “So What,” well they certainly don’t disappoint.

“I don’t wanna be the girl that has to fill the silence. The quiet scares me ’cause it screams the truth.” [Sober]

“I’m drinking wine and thinking bliss Is on the other side of this… I’ve had my chances and I’ve taken them all, Just to end up right back here on the floor…” [Crystal Ball]

“If the darkest hour comes before the light, Where is the light? Where is the light?” [Ave Mary A]

“Have you ever wished for an endless night? …Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?” [Glitter In the Air]

It’s a good mix of fun and serious and is, I think, by far her best album. There you go.

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I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I watch VH1 JumpStart almost every morning as I get ready for work.   I find it much more invigorating to roll out of bed to than, say, the weather or local news (both of which I often find depressing and more likely to make me want to stay in bed).   And since I don’t own a radio anymore (my last was donated to my employer so we could have tunes to work by) VH1 is the next best thing.   Some of my favorite vids on repeat include the following:

“Chasing Pavements”  —  Adele  —  a beautiful song about the choices we make in life and where they ultimately lead us, and one of the more remarkable videos I’ve seen in a while.  I was really blown away the first time I saw it, not only by Adele’s pipes but by the innovative ideas behind the video and how beautifully executed they were.  Interpretive dance lying down, mixing shadow partners with real ones, all backed with beautiful lyrics.  The premise is quite simple –- a very honest question of ‘where do I go from here?’ –- but the results are so much more intricate and interesting.  This was my introduction to Adele, a British songstress, but I hope we hear a lot more from her; she has a great voice and obvious songwriting talent.

“I Kissed a Girl”  —  Katy Perry  —  let your liberal streak run wild and forget the hullabaloo about girl-on-girl action, this is pop song perfection: it’s catchy, it’s memorable, and it’s both totally irrelevant and irreverent.  Perfect.  The imagery in the video is beautiful (think burlesque, not Debbie Does Dallas) and compliments the frank but playful nature of the song.  It’s not to be taken very seriously -– this is hardly an overt declaration of lesbian love –- but is meant to push some buttons because that’s half the fun.  Dig it, baby.  I know you secretly know the words; crank Miss Kate and belt it out with her just for the hell of it.

“Viva la Vida”  —  Coldplay  —  okay, despite the cheesy video bordering on painfully awkward at points, I really like this song.  I’ve liked Coldplay since I first heard them and think they just get more interesting with time.  In the lyrics I love the imagery of a fallen king (“I used to rule the world…”); I mean, who hasn’t felt that jolt of euphoric power at least once in their life.  But I think my favorite part is the betrayal (“It was never an honest world…”), the loss of innocence, the painful awakening.  As alluded to in the song, I think it’s amazing how we define our lives by those we allow into it and how it shapes us when things turn unexpectedly.  It’s a very good song; just close your eyes when the music video comes on.  🙂

My “honorable mentions” for this list include the newest metal-rific release from Metallica, “The Day That Never Comes,” as well as the loose, beachy tune “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.  M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” Pink’s “So What,” and Rihanna’s graphically gorgeous “Disturbia” also come extremely high on my list.  It may not be the best line-up I’ve ever heard but it sure beats New Kids on the Block.  (Sorry if you’re a fan.  I hated them in the 80’s and I don’t like them any better now.)

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