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Sunday, Apr 14 2013 11:00 PM

HITS & MISSES: Our freeways might be killing us with cancer

By The Bakersfield Californian

MISS: A substantial portion of the air pollution in western Kern County -- consistently among the most polluted regions in America -- comes from pass-through freeway traffic. If this study has any truth, Kern County children are in harm's way more than we expected. Children whose mothers have increased exposure to air pollution from motor vehicles while pregnant may have a higher chance of developing certain cancers, according to the study released at a meeting last week of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Exposure to pollution from gasoline vehicles and diesel trucks was associated with a higher risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, according to the study.

The findings, reported by Bloomberg News, are the first to link air pollution with rarer pediatric cancers, but researchers say they do not know why exposure to pollution by pregnant women can raise childhood cancer risks.

HIT: Soubrette. S-O-U-B-R-E-T-T-E.

Very good, kid. Now, what does it mean?

It's no longer good enough to spell complicated words -- kids competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee also must know what the words they are spelling mean.

The new requirement of the nation's top spelling bee is that competitors must take multiple-choice definition quizzes that will help determine who goes to the competition's final rounds. Spelling bee executive director Paige Kimble doesn't think the new system is a game-changer; she figures that most good spellers are up on definitions, too.

By the way, "soubrette" was the winning word 60 years ago, spelled correctly by Elizabeth Hess, representing The Arizona Republic newspaper. And what does it mean? "A coquettish maid or frivolous young woman in comedies," according to Merriam-Webster.

Coquettish. C-O-Q-U-E-T-T-I-S-H.

MISS: Seriously? In the 21st century?

The chairman of the board at Community Medical Centers, also a prominent valley grower and Republican, was forced to resign last week after making a racially insensitive statement about President Barack Obama, according to The Fresno Bee.

Mark Borba of Riverdale referred to the president as "Blackie" in an email about federal water policy, which he shared with other farmers. The email also used expletives to discuss others in Washington. Borba has apologized for the comments, but only after his email circulated through the state's agricultural community and even to some federal lawmakers.

MISS: A vital lesson not learned

Doctors are concerned by new research that finds a surprising number of people who survive melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, continue risky behavior, such as using tanning salons and not wearing sunscreen.

While the study found that more melanoma survivors take necessary precautions to prevent harmful exposure than the general population, their numbers are still startling considering their previous bouts with the disease.

But there is good news locally. Kern County melanoma rates for both men and women are quite a bit lower than the state average. San Luis Obispo County has the highest rates. Just something to keep in mind as summer approaches.

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