On Tuesday, doctors announced that a condition cited in medical journals for 34 years was actually just a hoax.

The bogus condition, called “cello scrotum,” was described as raw and swollen loins of men who play their cellos a tad too long, or too vigorously. The malady has been cited in several papers discussing other musical ailments, such as “fiddler’s neck,” finger dermatitis and permanent muscle twitches.

The cellist/husband of a knitting buddy was interviewed for this article:

Of course, someone might have asked a cellist in all these years. Roger Shell of New York City has been playing the cello for 40 years and said he never even heard of “cello scrotum.”

“I can’t see how that’s possible, actually,” said Shell.

At most, Shell said it’s possible for cellists to chafe the inside of their thighs, “if you’re wearing shorts,” he said. “There are really no other contact points other than the chest.”

I’m sure I had more to say about this, but I got distracted by a headline about toxic fish testicles.

In Lab Notes, Newsweek’s Sharon Begley has posted Hourglass Figures: We Take it All Back, a look at some of the flawed assumptions about body-shape, fertility and health that have been bandied about for years as scientific truth.

Can we please stop telling young women that if they don’t meet the hourglass ideal there is something wrong with them, that they are doomed to infertility and will never form a relationship? NEWSWEEK was complicit in that message a dozen years ago; it’s long past time to realize that it is wrong both empirically and in terms of evolutionary theory.

Interesting that the comments about posts like this always leap immediately to the conclusion that if women are not very thin they are automatically obese.

Allergists aren’t pleased with President-elect Obama’s search for a “hypo-allergenic” dog. The up-side is that it’s giving a boost to an issue that’s long vexed some animal-protection/animal shelter advocates – unethical breeders selling so-called hypoallergenic dogs to desperate families, many of those dogs then ending up abandoned or neglected.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has issued a statement that includes this advice:

According to the AAAAI, it is a common misconception that people are allergic to a dog’s hair, and it is falsely believed that a dog that sheds less will not cause a reaction. However, allergies to pets are caused by protein found in the animal’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva or urine.

These proteins are carried on microscopic particles through the air. When inhaled, they trigger reactions in allergic people. As all dogs posses these proteins, there is no allergy-free dog.

Though some dog breeds are considered more allergy friendly, it is likely because they are groomed more frequently – a process that removes much of the dander.

[read the entire statement, which includes some advice for allergy sufferers]

The AAAI website also links to WebMD’s Hypoallergenic Dogs and Dog Allergies FAQ

Hypoallergenic dogs have gotten a lot of buzz lately as the Obama family searches for a dog to bring with them to the White House — without triggering dog allergies in older Obama daughter, Malia.

A quick glance at the Internet shows lots of web sites devoted to “hypoallergenic dogs” and “hypoallergenic dog breeds.” But no dog may be free of potential allergens, cautions allergy and asthma expert Corinna Bowser, MD, of Havertown, Pa.

WebMD talked with Bowser about hypoallergenic dogs and dog allergies — and what the Obamas might consider to help avoid triggering Malia’s dog allergy.

[read the whole FAQ]

The number of news articles that have sought advice from the ASPCA and allergists instead of some of the shady dog-breeders who make ridiculous claims is a positive sign. The ASPCA has made good use of this national platform to try to quell the spread of misinformation.

“No breeds are completely hypoallergenic. However, some breeds have a tendency to cause fewer problems — mostly those that don’t shed and need to have their coats trimmed regularly, or those that tend to shed less, said Stephen Zawistowski, an executive vice president for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Relatively common no-shed breeds include poodles, bichon frise, Portuguese water dogs and Maltese, but these breeds need professional grooming, which can be expensive. Other breeds that have a tendency to shed less are Schnauzers, Westies (West Highland white terriers) and Scottish terriers, Zawistowski says.”

I cringed when I heard President-elect Obama refer to hypo-allergenic dogs, but perhaps the public education campaign that has resulted has been worth it after all.

Katherine Hobson has a post up related the latest news that running or related exercise can, in fact, be good for you. The post itself is quite short, but it’s full of interesting sources and references:

Every person who takes up running has, at one time or another, been confronted by a helpful critic who is more than happy to reel off the reasons running will ruin your life. It will cripple you in your later years; you might drop dead in the middle of a marathon; and on and on. As an avid runner, I have a lot riding on whether or not these ideas about the sport are true. Here is a look at four questionable claims about running and health, including results from a new study looking at running, longevity, and disability.

My favorite is when someone tells me running is stupid and runner are stupid just because they don’t like running. What are you, five years old? When you control the universe you can make other people stop doing things they enjoy just because you don’t also enjoy them. But before you make too many plans, keep in mind that there’s always the chance you won’t get put in charge and I will.