News Roundup: Breast Cancer and Stress, Weight Does Not Affect Sex Life, and More


Can stress increase your risk of breast cancer?
Women under age 45 who have breast cancer were more likely than peers without cancer to report experiencing several stressful life events, such as a parental divorce or loss of a spouse, according to a
study. What's more, they were also more likely to report anxiety and depression in their past. The authors say "general feelings of happiness and optimism can play a protective role against the disease.” Sounds simple: Don't worry, be happy, avoid breast cancer. But the link between stress and cancer—if there is one—is still not clear. The women were interviewed after their breast cancer diagnoses, a study design that's only as good as the subjects' sometimes faulty memories—a problem known as recall bias. More research is needed to pin down any links between attitude, mood, stress, and breast cancer. (Read more about breast cancer and breast cancer myths.)

Skinny or fat, weight doesn't affect female sexual activity
When it comes to sexual activity, a woman's weight doesn't seem to matter. Bliss Kaneshiro, MD, and colleagues analyzed 2002 survey data from 7,643 women aged 15–44, and found that body mass index (BMI) had no impact on age at first intercourse, sexual orientation, the number of lifetime or current male partners, or the frequency of sex. In contrast, other surveys suggest that normal-weight men have 10 more lifetime partners than obese men—though men who want more partners may be more motivated to "maintain a lean physique," according to the report in Obstetrics & Gynecology. For women, there was only one weight-related difference in sexual activity—obese and overweight women were slightly less likely than other women to say they were virgins (about 7% to 8% vs. 12.6% of normal-weight women). (Read more about health and sexuality.)

Mean girls? Study suggests boys are just as bad
Although movies like
Mean Girls might lead you to believe that teen girls are the originators of the nasty rumors, backstabbing, and all-around bad behavior circulating at your local high school, a new study suggests that boys can be just as bad. When researchers analyzed 148 studies, including nearly 74,000 children and teens, boys and girls were almost the same in terms of these behaviors, known as indirect aggression. And direct aggression—hitting, pushing, and name-calling—was more common in boys than girls, according to the study in the journal Child Development. The authors concluded "that indirect aggression is not a 'female form' of aggression."

Your municipal tap water…now with more drug residues
Back in March, the Associated Press reported that a "vast array of pharmaceuticals" (including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and sex hormones) had been discovered in the drinking water of 41 million Americans across 24 metropolitan areas. Those findings prompted 27 more cities to analyze their water. Now a follow-up report suggests that at least 46 million Americans could be drinking water with unmetabolized drug residues that have made their way from humans to wastewater into reservoirs and watersheds. And even that may be a low estimate. Many metro areas, including New York City, have not been tested. The drug amounts are so tiny as to be harmless in any one dose, but some experts are concerned about the cumulative exposure. It's not clear if bottled water is any safer—many bottlers don't test for drug residues.

City extracts methane from waste, makes itself truly people-powered
Enterprising officials of San Antonio's water system are making some good out of human waste. The city recently unveiled a plan that will make it the first in the United States to extract methane gas from human waste on a commercial scale and convert it into clean-burning fuel, according to a Reuters report. Massachusetts-based Ameresco will be contracted to turn the city's "biosolids" into natural gas. Steve Clouse, chief operating officer of San Antonio's water system, explained the process: "The private vendor will come onto the facility, construct some gas-cleaning systems, remove the moisture, remove the carbon dioxide content, and then sell that gas on the open market." No word yet on whether the city plans to extract any excess pharmaceuticals from the wastewater to sell on the side.