Breast Cancer Awareness for You and Me!

October 25th, 2018

This past month I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Kristi Funk, founder of the Pink Lotus Foundation, breast surgeon, and author of the book, “Breasts: An Owner’s Manual”.

It was inspiring to hear her personal story of how she came to be a breast surgeon, and how she wants to help women maintain their best breast health.

I was fascinated to hear how the majority of breast cancer is NOT the result of genetics (at least, not specific mutations, that we know of), and that lifestyle choices play a major role in this disease. Isn’t it true for so much illness these days? It seems the “Mad Men” lifestyle is not sustainable or even suggested. Too bad, although I don’t really feel so great after a three martini lunch anyway…

Dr. Funk recommends the usual suspects to stay healthy and avoid breast cancer: exercise, sleep, reduce stress, and diet. All of these are great ideas generally. And, from all that I have read, making these adjustments reduces inflammation in the body, which has been implicated in the development of many health disorders.

Now, while taking steps to lifestyle change can reduce inflammation and improve health, it is not a silver bullet. Some people have propensity to cancers, and that’s just the way it is. We still don’t know enough to say who will get it and who won’t. It’s a game of risk reduction and probabilities.

So, even though I appreciate the advice from Dr. Funk that the best way to reduce breast cancer risk is to become vegan, that is not a dietary choice that works for me, personally. I don’t eat a lot of meat (only chicken and fish, and not regularly), and because of lactose intolerance don’t eat much cheese. I love grains and fruits and vegetables… meals made from foods that people call “whole”. But, I’m going to continue to eat eggs, and the occasional slice of pizza (who am I kidding? The occasional half a pizza) because that works for me.

I want to be healthy, but I’m not going to make myself crazy trying to manage every aspect of my and my family’s diets. Life, for me, is a balance. And, I don’t think the stress of vegan meal-planning is worth the slim percentage of cancer risk reduction that diet might provide.

My favorite advice from Dr. Funk, that I will definitely make a concerted effort to follow, is to spend time with people you love. And even though they may be a source of stress for some, friends and family are a support network. They are a release valve for built-up tensions. They are people who love you in return. And, that in itself, is something to invest in.

Sex, Science, and Politics

October 23rd, 2018

Thanks to a conversation with an individual on Twitter, I now understand that there is a segment of the US population that is in denial about the reality of developmental biology, specifically that people can be born as something other than strictly male or female. I doubt that those in denial about gender identity in the modern age will come to read this post. But, for others who might not understand what the hubbub is about, please, read on.

Gender is not sexual preference. Gender is not the same thing as sex.

Gender is usually something personal. You put on your make-up, or shave your face in the privacy of your home without anyone else’s input. Sex is also personal. It’s not often that the clitoris and penis are discussed openly.

Yet, sex and gender are also a huge aspect of social life, and thus politics. Once upon a time in America, the owning of land was allowed (or dis-allowed) on the basis of one’s sex. If you were born with genitalia that looked male, lucky you. You could be a landowner. This, too, led to determinations of who was allowed to vote. Men could. Women could not. Nevermind that sex and gender don’t always align perfectly.

Our Western society has operated in this sort of binary gender construct for much of its history. But, thanks to science and social media, the last several decades have been filled with voices asking us all to consider the reality that gender is not just binary.

On the basis of chromosomes (XX for women and XY for men), it seems cut and dried. But, sometimes there are chromosomal duplications or abnormalities leading to XXY, X, or mosaic karyotypes. Additionally, hormones play a huge role in development of the genitalia, and excess androgen or estrogen can lead to changes in the appearance of the genitals compared to what is considered normal. Sometimes genetic or epigenetic factors can lead to hormone insensitivity, which means that even though the karyotype and hormone levels are normal, the body doesn’t develop in parallel. It’s even been suggested that environmental toxins are having an increased effect on the abnormal development of sexual characteristics in some parts of the world.

Taken together, this means that the genitals that a doctor looks at to determine a baby’s gender at birth aren’t always representative of the individual’s internal state. And, sometimes because of hormonal factors that difference doesn’t really appear until puberty. For the majority of people, it is fairly straightforward. But, for the millions of people born transgender or intersex, growing up can be extremely confusing and difficult.

Recently, and probably in a bid to drum up their conservative-base, the Trump administration reported that it is considering a change to Title IX that would legally pin-down the definition of sex. According to the NY Times:

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

Clearly, considering hormonal influences on gender identity that go beyond what can be determined based on genetic screening, this definition is inadequate to say the least.

My conversation on Twitter let me know that there are many people who don’t care to understand that gender is more than what many of us learned about in sixth-grade sex education classes; who don’t care to understand what it feels like to be a minority; who don’t care to understand how our social policies leave some people out; who live in a state of denial.

And, I do hope that this media play does get people off their butts to vote. Let’s get our Democracy back.

 

Dr. Kiki is on the Loose

June 28th, 2012

I’ve been waiting to write this. I don’t know why exactly, but it felt like the right thing to do.

Last week, I posted on twis.org that our show will no longer be netcast by the TWiT.tv network. Since that announcement people have asked me about my other TWiT.tv program, Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour, but I kept quiet.

I am very sorry to say that Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour (DKSH) will no longer be a part of the TWiT.tv lineup. Although the show has many loyal fans, it just isn’t enough to contend against the belt-strap tightening currently underway at TWiT. I’ve additionally been informed that the network is trying to focus its content to give the audience more of what they want.

DKSH isn’t alone in this. There will no longer be any science shows on the TWiT network. This saddens me, but business is business. I hope that the many changes at TWiT will allow them to move forward to become even stronger, and that one day they will bring science back into their lineup.

Regardless of these actions by TWiT, I will continue to endeavor to communicate science. TWIS will continue; exactly how is uncertain, but I will not let it disappear. And, now that DKSH is done, I find myself with a bunch of extra time on my hands.

If you have ideas about how I should spend that time, please let me know. I have over a decade of experience in science communications and media, and would love to work with content creators and science educators to make science even more appealing to the world at large.

I guess it’s time to go clean up my resume…

Does Your Brain Have Self-Control?

March 2nd, 2012

Yesterday I interviewed Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Willpower Instinct”, on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour.

We discussed how willpower and self-control work, how the brain functions with regard to willpower, and tips and techniques to short circuit your habits in order to build self-control. The interview was an hour well-spent with many lessons learned. You can view it below.

Additionally, I recommend The Willpower Instinct as a great read and tool for anyone searching for insight into the way their brains work.

The Science Hour Provides Newsy Minutes

February 14th, 2012

For several months now I’ve been putting together a brief summary of the week’s science news stories at the top of Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour. I feel like it is a great way to get the science juices flowing before jumping into the main interview, and a little variety seems to spice things up for everyone.

During some of my precious free-time between tapings of the Science Hour, I had a thought that the science news portion of the show could stand on its own. So, starting this week, we will be releasing a new program called ‘Science News Weekly with Dr. Kiki’ via YouTube and the regular RSS channels for you to enjoy!

Science News Weekly will always be a brief review of the science headline news, so you will be able to enjoy it in minutes rather than having to put aside an entire hour. And, for those of you who are wondering if this means anything different for the Science Hour, rest assured that DKSH will be business as usual.

Look for Science News Weekly with Dr. Kiki!

Getting Skeptical…

December 13th, 2011

Tomorrow night, as part of the Bay Area Skeptics East Bay SkepTalk series, I will be talking about science and sensationalism from 7pm PT at Cafe Valparaiso in Berkeley, CA.

Here’s a map.

I hope to see you there and expect a few questions if not skeptical glances.

Bay Area Science Festival Coverage

November 1st, 2011

This week, the first of (hopefully) many Bay Area science festivals is taking place. There are events happening all around the Bay, and I will be covering some of them live via Justin.tv. Also, I’m lucky to be joined in the action by the wonderful Indre Viskontas.

Here is my estimated broadcast schedule (times are still subject to change):

Tuesday 7-8pm PT
Porchlight: Epic Fail
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten

Wednesday 11am-12pm PT
Retrain your brain
Hosts: Kirsten

Wednesday 6:30-7pm and 9-9:30pm PT
Will We ever understand the brain
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten

Friday 11:30am-12:30pm PT
Gut Check
Hosts: Kirsten

Friday 7-8pm PT    CANCELLED
RadioLab
Hosts: Kirsten

Saturday 1-2pm PT  CANCELLED
Artificial Intelligence
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten

Sunday
Discovery Days, ATT Park
Hosts: Kirsten


Watch live video from drkiki on www.justin.tv

DKSH: Jeri and Joanne Talk Science

April 15th, 2011

I feel so honored to have had Jeri Ellsworth host the Science Hour with her guest, the Science Goddess, Joanne Manaster, while I was on maternity leave. They put together a fabulous discussion of science and education that is entirely worth your time. Thank you, ladies, for a great episode.

Check it out:

DKSH: Phil Plait Interviews Zach Weiner

April 14th, 2011

Many thanks to the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, for filling in on the Science Hour while I was on maternity leave. He interviewed cartoonist, Zach Weiner, about cartoons, science, and life.

Check it out:

The Science Comedian and Weird Science Facts

April 13th, 2011

During my March maternity leave, the Science Comedian, Brian Malow, guest hosted Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour and interviewed Greg Gbur about strange physics.

Check it out: