Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 2 August 2010

Could working the night shift alter a woman's body clock enough to cause breast cancer?

Could working the night shift alter a woman's body clock enough to cause breast cancer?

Breast Cancer and Body Rhythms
Could working the night shift alter a woman's body clock enough to cause breast cancer?
"One minute you're a healthy person, the next minute you have breast cancer."
Ettamay (last name withheld) is up early these days. She lives a much different life than she did when she was a nurse working the night shifts. She would be just getting to sleep at this early morning hour.
"I was always exhausted," she says. "I don't know any of the nurses, especially the night shift gals, that weren't exhausted all the time."
She wonders if her crazy work schedule might have contributed to her breast cancer.
Virginia Tech molecular biologist Carla Finkielstein says studies back up Ettamay's suspicions. "There are a number of epidemiological studies that show women working night shifts have a higher incidence of breast cancer," she says.
Finkielstein is studying this question microscopically, one cell at a time. She wants to know the impact of night-shift work on a woman's physiology. Can working odd hours actually alter a woman’s body chemistry--turning healthy cells into cancer cells?
"What we're trying to understand is how changes in environmental conditions influence the expression of genes that regulate cell division," explains Finkielstein.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Finkielstein uses frog embryos to help figure out on a molecular basis the physiological changes in women who work the night shift. She says studies show that working "night owls" have abnormal levels of specific proteins in their cells, which act by turning on and off genes that regulate how cells grow and divide. Finkielstein injects some of the molecules into frog cells to study their effects.
".... And that could end up in cancer," she explains. "It could end up in very many other diseases. But in our studies we believe that it ends up in an abnormal proliferation of cells."
The Virginia Tech researcher also studies the role a woman's body clock plays in treating the disease. Using human cancer cells, many donated by women with breast cancer, Finkielstein tests whether radiation therapy is more effective when given at certain times of the day.
"So people who actually have the disease might one day receive treatments at times that make the medicine more effective and, therefore, reduce the impact of the disease and, most likely, the secondary effects on the person," she adds.
Recently, Finkielstein received additional NSF funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). She says the new funding has been critical to her continuing the research.
While she is hard at work, breast cancer survivors keep in touch and support her efforts. They, too, want to understand the connection between breast cancer and a woman's body clock to not only help prevent the onslaught of breast cancer but to better treat the disease.
"We are the face of breast cancer," says Vernal Branch, advocacy constituency coordinator for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and a breast cancer survivor. She says cancer survivors are up against another clock.
"I don't know if there's any way that I can protect my grandchildren or my nieces from getting this disease, but that's what I'd like to do," she says. "I would like to see no woman die from breast cancer."
"I have two daughters, three granddaughters, I don't want them to get it," says Ettamay.
Finkielstein agrees. "So I hope that, in 10 years from now, you're not interviewing me about breast cancer, but we can talk about something else."

Read more - http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/bodyrhythms.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_51

Google Earth Used To Find Unlicensed Pools that don't have the proper permits

Google Earth Used To Find Unlicensed Pools that don't have the proper permits - 

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A town on New York's Long Island is using Google Earth to find backyard pools that don't have the proper permits.
The town of Riverhead has used the satellite image service to find about 250 pools whose owners never filled out the required paperwork.
Violators were told to get the permits or face hefty fines. So far about $75,000 in fees has been collected.
Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said the unpermitted pools were a safety concern. He said that without the required inspections there was no way to know whether the pools' plumbing, electrical work and fencing met state and local regulations.
"Pool safety has always been my concern," Barnes said.
But some privacy advocates say the use of Google Earth to find scofflaw swimming pools reeks of Big Brother.
Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., said Google Earth was promoted as an aid to curious travelers but has become a tool for cash-hungry local governments.
"The technology is going so far ahead of what people think is possible, and there is too little discussion about community norms," she said.
A representative for Google said she did not know of any other community using Google Earth as it has been used in Riverhead. She did not respond to a question about whether Google has any concerns about how the town is using the service.