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Number of moles could mean increased risk for breast cancer, not just skin cancer

Guest post courtesy of IU colleague Michael Schug

Beauty marks. They make you unique.

Woman drying off after showre

Research points to connection between number of moles and breast cancer.

And no doubt, you know where most are on your body. Women especially are familiar with their bodies and are aware of their moles. Now there’s new research that suggests that the more moles on a woman’s body, the greater chance of her developing breast cancer.

If a woman has 15 or more moles on her body, she is 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women with no moles, according to new research findings by Jiali Han, the Rachel Cecile Efroymson Professor in Cancer Research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and professor and inaugural chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and colleagues.

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5 questions with Russ Siadatian about IU fraternities taking a stand against sexual violence

Sexual violence has become a national conversation in part because of attention the White House has focused on the subject. This week, it became clear that a number of fraternities at Indiana University have joined the conversation.

“Overall, this has been an initiative that started as a conversation between a few students a few years ago, and has grown into something exponentially greater, said Russ Siadatian, president of the Interfraternity Council at IU Bloomington.

It has grown to forceful statements from 21 fraternities denouncing sexual violence and pledging to work to eradicate it on the Bloomington campus. The statements have received media coverage from The Huffington Post, WTHR and Fox 59.

Siadatian is quick to say that many students were involved and they worked closely with the university’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service, which is part of the IU Health Center. SACS works with a wide range of student groups to educate men and women about sexual assault. Ann Skirvin, a licensed mental health counselor with SACS, said they also are “proud to promote positive character development on the Bloomington campus.”

“The pledges and other initiatives undertaken by the Interfraternity Council and MARS (Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault) are examples of our work engaging men in forming positive ideals of masculinity and creating safer environments in our Greek system,” she said. “Twenty-one fraternities have created clear and powerful mission statements regarding sexual assault and we anticipate more fraternities will create statements as well.

“The men created these statements to connect their fraternal ideals to this issue and demonstrate their commitment to improving the climate on our campus. We anticipate these men will live up to their words and ideals, and the campus community looks forward to providing them guidance and support as they address this important issue on our campus.”

Siadatian took time to answer some questions about the initiative and what he and the others involved think it can accomplish.

This Btown Banter post discusses other efforts to reduce sexual assaults.

Health & Vitality: How did this come about?

Russ Siadatian: Sexual assault programming has been something Sean Ndebele, our VP for membership development, has worked on through the MARS program all year. MARS was started by a previous IFC group, and started the sexual assault conversation within our community. Since its start, it has grown to a 300-person program. In a Presidents Council meeting discussion earlier this semester, we concluded that we needed to do more to fight sexual abuse. This was reinforced by a Sexual Assault Summit we all attended earlier this semester. Read more…

The healing power of art?

Cloud Busting tile piece by ceramics Associate Professor Malcolm Mobutu Smith

‘Cloud Busting tile piece by IU ceramics Associate Professor Malcolm Mobutu Smith

The therapeutic benefits of making artwork doesn’t surprise me. Art and medical experts quoted in this NBC News article say that just looking at art can have a physiological effect on the body, justifying investments by hospitals in art installations throughout their facilities.

From the NBC article:

For every day a patient lies in a hospital bed, it takes roughly three days to achieve his or her previous level of functioning, according to Dr. Lisa Harris, an internist and chief executive of Eskenazi Health, affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“If an art installation gets a patient out of his room or paintings take a person’s mind off their pain and lower their stress levels, the art isn’t just decorative anymore. It’s part of the entire model of care,” said Harris, who oversees a $1.5 million art program, funded entirely by philanthropic donors, that launched last December.

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If sitting is the new smoking, this may be an easier fix

The IU Newsroom office space

The IU Newsroom

I walked through shady Dunn Woods on my way to a meeting yesterday and reveled in each peaceful step. IUPUI researcher Steve McKenzie makes a case in this Indianapolis Star article for how bouts of exercise can improve work performance. A new IU study finds, however, that slow, hourly 5-minute walks can do a world of good.

Growing concerns about sitting have launched the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Prolonged sitting is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, led the new study as a doctoral candidate at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington. From our news release:

The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this.

“American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” he said. “The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment.”

Saurabh Thosar

Saurabh Thosar

I’m not the only one who likes Thosar’s findings — reports about his findings have appeared this week in the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, Shape Magazine and in other major outlets.

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Wake up — time for school!

A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that encourages middle and high schools to push back start times for the benefit of the students has been receiving a lot of attention this week in social and traditional media.


The author uses a bullhorn sometimes to wake up one of her sleepy teens for school.

In Indiana Public Media:

Dr. Vaughn Rickert, professor of adolescent medicine with the IU School of Medicine says teenagers especially thrive from getting extra sleep because they’re at a point in their lives when the brain develops at an incredible rate.

“Clearly kids who are deprived of sleep are not going to be coping with stress, and certainly they’re going to be at risk for other [things],” such as depression, anxiety, and psychiatric disorders, Rickert says.

“There’s really no reason not to have later school start dates except many people who are working on the other side of the classroom are not particularly thrilled about starting later,” Rickert adds. “It disrupts their day.”

I was encouraged to see that 15 percent of high schools already begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. My middle child’s private middle school begins at 9 a.m. My oldest child’s public high school begins at 7:40 a.m., with many athletes, like Peter, practicing or participating in weight training before school. Part of me wonders if later start times would result in more before-school activities.

Last year Peter’s first period teacher let her bleary-eyed students make hot chocolate, which I thought was brilliant.

In lieu of a later starting time, maybe administrators could schedule in nap times for students … nahhh.

Study IDs influence of gender in gene-environment interactions and health

I’ve often marveled at the complexity of the human body, mine specifically, and how it can be so challenging to ID the root of aches, pains and ailments. A new study by Indiana University medical sociologist Brea Perry reinforces the idea of complexity by showing that gender can interact with individuals’ genes and environments to produce very different health outcomes.

Brea Perry

Brea Perry

Her study, discussed on Monday during the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, discussed how men and women struggling with substance abuse reacted differently when enveloped in close, supportive social environments if they had a genetic sensitivity to stressful situations. For men, the environment helped keep them sober. Not so, for the women.

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Fighting Ebola: Passion for her country and love for public health helps IU alum conquer fears

Tiawanlyn Gongloe, a graduate of Indiana University and its School of Public Health-Bloomington, lives in Monrovia, Liberia, where she works for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare as a member of the National Task Force, which was created to eliminate the Ebola virus from the country. Overwhelmed by the work involved in fighting the outbreak, which has led to more than 200 deaths in her country, she found time to answer some questions about her life in the midst of such tragedy and her experiences in Bloomington.

Tiawanlyn Gongloe at her graduation ceremony in May

Tiawanlyn Gongloe at her graduation ceremony in May

Born in Grand Bassa, Liberia, in West Africa at the beginning of a civil war that lasted “for 14 years of my life,” she fled to the United States with her family in 2002, when she was only 12 years old. She grew up in Bloomington, Ind., and received multiple degrees from Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington: a bachelor’s degree in community health and a Master of Public Health and Master of Science in School and College Health Education.

I asked her if she is afraid for her own health and safety. The short answer is “Yes, but … ”

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Run for your life! But first …

Buried at the very bottom of this interesting Reuters article about how light jogging can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease was what I consider really good advice from a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Andrea Chomistek

Andrea Chomistek

From the Reuters article:

“As far as recommending that people go for short jogs everyday, I do think this is something we could recommend, although with a couple caveats,” said Andrea Chomistek, an epidemiology and biostats assistant professor in the School of Public Health (who was not involved with the study).

“For individuals who are currently inactive, they should probably start with walking and ease into running,” she told Reuters Health in an email. “For inactive individuals who are older or have medical issues, they may want to check in with their physician before starting a running program, although walking is just fine.”

Finding a running buddy can be good motivation, Chomistek said.

“If you know that someone is counting on you to show up, you’ll be more likely to go,” she said. “And longer runs are definitely more fun if you have company.”

The study, which tracked more than 55,000 adults for 15 years, found that compared to non-runners, people who ran even a little were “30 percent less likely to die during the study period and 45 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.”

Who wouldn’t want these benefits? But you don’t want to start out on the wrong foot, so to speak, with injuries or excessive aches because you did not ease into a running routine. The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Gaming and kids: Fun and games and learning?

The Indianapolis Star ran an interesting article about video games recently. As a parent of kids who enjoy video games, I found some of the insights about the potential for “playful learning” reassuring. But as school approaches, I’m reminded of how video games can interfere with academic performance, including homework and wakefulness at school.

Minecraft creation, example of gaming

A Minecraft creation

Sean Duncan, an assistant professor and collaborator in the IU School of Education’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology, had some interesting things to say about “playful learning,” which can come from the myriad of decisions kids make during the gaming. I’ve noticed that the gaming also requires conflict resolution skills as players work out conflicts caused when someone intentionally blows up their structures or hurts them virtually.

“These open-world environments allow the learner to choose what they want to do,” Duncan told the Indianapolis Star. “These are things that we don’t do at all in schools. We very rarely allow a learner to say, ‘OK, you want to go off and do this? You figure out what you need to do and we’ll give you the resources to do it.’

“No, it’s ‘Stay in the chair. Stay still. And we’ll tell you what to learn.'”

My family continues to work on the downside of gaming, such as too much gaming causing kids to lose much-needed sleep. If anyone has any good tips, please email them to me at, and I’ll share them on my blog.

Everyone wants to matter: Insights into school shootings

Bernice Pescosolido, a highly regarded medical sociologist at Indiana University Bloomington, talks in this TEDxBloomington presentation about some surprising discoveries regarding the lives of some teens who committed murder during school rampages.

Far from being loners — at least by choice — they might have wanted to belong too much, but lived in communities that lacked multiple paths (schools, clubs) through which residents could feel like they belonged.

“The boys [according to a National Academy of Sciences report] were boys who had perceptions of themselves as extremely marginal,” Pescosolido said during her presentation. “That’s important. There are two words there that are important: ‘perception’ and ‘marginal.’ Because these weren’t boys who were loners. These were boys who tried over and over and over again to belong — to belong to groups in their high school, to below to groups in college, to belong to their family in a closer way — but they experienced they were constantly rebuffed.”

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