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Americans have a unique aversion to risk -- particularly when it comes to pharmaceuticals and medical treatment. We want all the benefits of modern medical technology, but many of us won't tolerate any of the risks associated with them. We've come to expect absolute safety as well as assurances of efficacy: that is, we want an ironclad guarantee that the drug or procedure works as expected, with no serious downsides.

The weighing of benefits versus risks has long been part of the decision-making process by physicians and their patients when it comes to the use of radiation, or radiotherapy, following breast-conserving surgery, more commonly known as lumpectomy.

Breast irradiation can cause scarring, fatigue, limitation of limb movement, even a slight increased risk of...

We recently reported on a study published in BMJ finding that procedures involving radiation to the chest, including chest X-rays or mammograms, may significantly increase the already high risk of breast cancer that women with certain genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2) face.

Not long after our coverage of the topic, we received an updated commentary from the NYU School of Medicine. We d like to share this commentary with our readers, especially since it includes ways that women can reduce this risk:

In North America, breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosis and the second leading cause of cancer death...

Executive Summary
  • Beef is a highly nutritious food. It is particularly valuable as a source of zinc, iron, and other minerals; B vitamins and choline; and protein. Beef also contains components that may have health benefits, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
  • Lean beef, in moderate servings, fits well in a heart-healthy diet and can be used interchangeably with other lean red meats and lean poultry and seafood. It is not necessary for people to...
Executive Summary
  • Beef is a highly nutritious food. It is particularly valuable as a source of zinc, iron, and other minerals; B vitamins and choline; and protein. Beef also contains components that may have health benefits, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
  • Lean beef, in moderate servings, fits well in a heart-healthy diet and can be used interchangeably with other lean red meats and lean poultry and seafood. It is not necessary for people to substitute poultry and fish for red meat in their diets in order to meet the U.S. government's and American Heart Association's dietary recommendations for saturated fat and cholesterol intake.
  • Only about one-third of the...

Agricultural literacy is at a low level in the land of plenty. There may be a law that dictates an inverse relationship between abundance and knowledge about the source of the abundance. We do not burden ourselves with factual information about that which we take for granted, namely, food, health, and a comfortable life in a non-threatening world. As long as the fridge is full, the car always starts, and the TV keeps entertaining, why bother to know what makes all that happen?

Thomas DeGregori's new book combats this problem. I could have used an excellent book such as this during my thirty years of communicating to students, the public, and the media about food, nutrition, health, and agriculture. I try to instill the facts as the consensus of science knows them and instill an...

•In March 2010, venues noting ACSH included Christian Science Monitor ( http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0301/Obama-still-lighting-up-but-anti-... ), New York Times (a Dr. Ross comment on one of their blogs, about smokeless tobacco), Forbes.com (a Dr. Ross comment on BPA), Wall Street Journal online (a Dr. Ross comment on angio), PharmaConduct ( http://blog.pharmaconduct.org/2010/03/acsh-lousy-pr-but-even-lousier-sci... ), RoduTobaccoTruth ( http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com/...

November 23, 2007: Giving Thanks, Donations, and Dispatches

-- ACSH staffers (from their respective hometowns) hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving yesterday. (We also hope you shared your ACSH Holiday Dinner Menu with your family! If you did not request a copy, you can download one here.)

-- ACSH Trustee -- and past president of the New York Academy of Sciences -- Rodney Nichols suggested we invite ACSH donors to have an "honorary seat" at our morning table, weighing in on the day's news topics, and asking questions. We loved the idea!

So, we are inviting you to sponsor a morning meeting. With a donation of $250 or more, you receive a seat at our table, as you join us...

These are good times for those who grow and sell organic foods. But there may be trouble in paradise.

Prompted by a quest for safer, healthier diets and a cleaner environment, more American consumers are buying the bountiful harvests of organic farmers. Last year, U.S. spending on organic foods reached close to $10.4 billion, making this the fastest-growing segment of the American food industry. Amid scares over mad cow disease, mercury in fish and produce tainted with harmful bacteria, new customers are joining existing ones in embracing organic foods as a sanctuary from harm and a surer route to long life and good health.

But as organic products and their claims to superiority have grown more common, scientists, policy analysts and some consumers have begun to ask...

Background

While food safety in the United States has been and continues to be very good, outbreaks of foodborne illness and deaths attributable to such illnesses have caught the attention of the public, the media,1,2 and governmental agencies. The perception that such outbreaks are increasingly frequent and serious are prompting queries into the best means of reducing their frequency and extent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention3 estimated the direct and indirect costs of foodborne illness due to six bacterial pathogens as between $2.9 and $6.7 billion during the period 1991 1993. This estimate does not include illnesses due to other food and water borne pathogens such as...

When is the truth misleading? When it's on a food label.

When we see a list of ingredients or a claim on a food label, many of us take it at face value and don't see all the implications of the information. That's risky because, more and more, food labels are being used by sellers to imply that their products are superior to others, often by boasting about what they don't contain even though the absent substance would never be found in such a food anyway. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for the content of food labels, doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot about it lately, though they used to.

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