Photo by Shardayyy via
Photo by Shardayyy via

October is breast cancer awareness month in the U.S. Pink ribbons, 5k races, and educational events mark the campaign to educate the public about the disease and push for more research to find a cure. We hold fundraisers and portray survivors as heroes and positive role models. A number of sociologists and other academics have analyzed and critiqued the U.S. breast cancer industry, including Gayle Sulik, Sabrina McCormick, and Stefano Puntoni.

In other parts of the world however, breast cancer is silently killing women. For one, the disease still carries a stigma that keeps women from accessing treatment. New York Times blogger Denise Grady discusses this stigma towards the disease in developing nations, particularly African countries, as well as the many additional barriers to treatment. These barriers include scarce resources, shame surrounding the disease, corruption, and the real constraints of economic and family responsibilities, all of which make for a deadly combination. Grady states,

Survival rates vary considerably from country to country and even within countries. In the United States, about 20 percent of women who have breast cancer die from it, compared with 40 to 60 percent in poorer countries. The differences depend heavily on the status of women, their awareness of symptoms, and the availability of timely care.

Although it is not new knowledge that diseases disproportionately affect poorer countries and individuals, cancer treatment and education has been neglected in developing nations. It has been overshadowed by other diseases like malaria and AIDS, and due to a lack of public awareness on both the national and international scales, it has been underfunded by governments and foundations. Research from PRI indicates that “cancer kills more people in low- and middle-income countries than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined.”

drugs $5
Dr. Hart was surprised that the subjects in his experiment often chose a $5 reward over a free high. Photo by David Hilowitz via

Drugs are a necessary but not sufficient condition for addiction. Social scientists have long been interested in examining the social and environmental aspects of drug addiction.

A recent New York Times article discusses Columbia University Professor Carl Hart’s research on crack cocaine and methamphetamine addiction from his book “High Price.” When he started his research in the 1990s, Dr. Hart believed in the irresistibility of drugs, but findings from his experimental research to find a cure for drug dependency made him reevaluate his stance on addiction as purely a neurological phenomenon.

“Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted,” said Dr. Hart, an associate professor of psychology. “And the small number who do become addicted are nothing like the popular caricatures.”

Both popular research and societal conceptions about drug addiction are missing a significant explanation for the cause of drug addiction. Dr. Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, supports Dr. Hart’s results:

Addiction always has a social element, and this is magnified in societies with little in the way of work or other ways to find fulfillment.

This “social element” could help explain why some people fall prey to drug addiction while others inexplicably escape its grasp. The idea of a social or structural element to addiction would cause a significant shift in the rhetoric of many substance abuse programs and wider societal discussions about drug use. The next step is to evaluate how large an effect environmental factors can have on addiction.

The reaction from other scientists has been mixed. No word yet on Dr. Hart’s next experiment, but I’m hoping it involves chocolate.

Image excerpt from the Washington Post, created by Christina Rivero. Click for full image.
Image excerpt from the Washington Post, created by Christina Rivero. Click for full image.

When thinking about the typical U.S. family, you might imagine a classic sitcom like The Brady Bunch: stay-at-home mom Carol, architect husband Mike, and six lovely children. At the time the show aired, a “blended” family of remarried adults was a bit of a novelty, sure, but it still stuck to the married mother and father, father is the breadwinner trope. And that’s still how many often picture U.S. families.

The Washington Post reports the findings of Ohio State University’s Department of Sociology on the living arrangements of U.S. children from birth to 17 years old. The researchers found that the children’s living arrangements varied distinctly by race. Asian children were most likely to live with a married mother and father, with only the father working, but that set-up only counted for 24% of living arrangements among Asian children. It turns out that dual-income households are the strong majority among both white and Asian children, and that both are more likely to live in dual-income households than either black or Hispanic children. Higher percentages of black and Hispanic children are living with their grandparents. Another notable statistic among black children is their greater likelihood of living with a single, never-married mother (this is true for nearly a quarter of all black kids).

No word yet on all white, three-boy, three-girl families with maids.