Preventing cancer deaths – American lifestyle choices

Cancer is a big topic around the science and pseudoscience communities. Cancer, which is really like 250 different diseases, is oversimplified. And treatments and preventions range from science based to simply useless (and thereby, dangerous). Preventing cancer deaths – the outcome we all desire – has been studied in detail, and I want to examine what we can do for this disease.

I’ve written a lot about cancer. Yes, there are a few ways to reduce your cancer risk, but it’s rather limited. A lot of highly promoted ideas, like avoiding processed meat, only slightly reduce your absolute risk for getting certain cancers.

And no, smoking marijuana does not reduce your risk for any cancer nor treat any cancer, but it may actually slightly increase your risk. And, just because it’s become a “thing” again on the internet, acidic blood does not cause cancer.

Despite the tropes and memes on Facebook, probably the most pseudoscientific pushing website on the planet outside of Natural News, physicians and real scientists are basically winning the war on cancer. Incidence and mortality are down for most cancers, which I’m sure would surprise many readers.

A recently published study examines lifestyle choices that can really have an impact on cancer incidence and mortality, confirming what we knew and suspected. But it’s good to have a large study authenticating it. Let’s review it.
Continue reading Preventing cancer deaths – American lifestyle choices

Robert De Niro talks vaccines – misinformation and ignorance

I guess this story won’t die. After the huge kerfuffle with respect to the fraudumentary, Vaxxed, you’d think that I wouldn’t have to read anything where Robert De Niro talks vaccines – but alas, he is still pontificating on vaccine issues where he clearly is clueless.

In case you were on a trip to Ceti Alpha V, missing the whole Vaxxed/Tribeca Film Festival/Robert De Niro story, here’s a quick review:

So that should be the end of the story, right? Those of you who follow the anti-vaccination world understand that a story never really dies. It just becomes a zombie meme.

Continue reading Robert De Niro talks vaccines – misinformation and ignorance

Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins

I am not a fan of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Very few of its medical claims ever amount to anything. Most of it isn’t very traditional and doesn’t work, like acupuncture. Worse yet, TCM is involved in the destruction of rare animals like the African rhino and other endangered animals. Now, we find that Traditional Chinese Medicine kills dolphins – just to push a “medicine” that has no evidence supporting its use.

Let’s look at this recent story where purveyors of TCM have indirectly lead to the collapse and near extinction of a beautiful ocean going mammal. Per usual with TCM, it’s a tale of greed and junk medicine.  Continue reading Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins

Penis transplant – one way to avoid it

Unless you were on a sabbatical to Mars, you probably heard the story of a man who received a penis transplant recently. Setting aside all of the jokes and uncomfortable thoughts, this procedure could be an important medical procedure for men who have lost their penis through injury or disease.

For example, veterans of wars are at grave risk to injuries that cause the loss of their penis. Mines and IEDs in war are particularly damaging in ways that can cause permanent trauma to a soldier’s penis. Having a method to replace it, like a transplant, can be a great way to improve the soldier’s mental health and personal self-image.

However, the transplant that the 64 year old man in Boston had recently had nothing to do with being a soldier or being in some traumatic accident. The man, Thomas Manning, had to have his penis surgically removed in 2012 because of penile cancer, a rare, but obviously, devastating disease. Continue reading Penis transplant – one way to avoid it

Your one stop shop for GMO science facts

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs) are one of the most well studied areas of biological and agricultural research. However, one of the tactics of the GMO refusers is that “there’s no proof that GMOs are safe.” It’s time to look at the GMO science facts – examining myth from science.

Typically, in a debate, the side making the assertion (those that say GMOs are unsafe) are responsible for the evidence that supports their contention. But, the anti-GMO gang relies upon the argument from ignorance, trying to force the argument to “if you can’t prove that they’re safe, they must be unsafe.”

The anti-GMO forces also like to invoke the precautionary principle, which attempts to shift the burden of proof to those who are advocating GMOs (or any new technology) until the advocates “prove” that there are absolutely no negative consequences of using GMOs.

The principle is often cited by anti-science and/or environmental activists when there is a perceived lack of evidence showing that a technology is absolutely safe.

I’ve written numerous articles about GMOs, focusing on scientific evidence supported by high quality research. And more than a few articles debunked myths and bad research from the anti-GMO crowd. To assist those who are doing research on the topic, this article was created to be a one-stop shop for GMO science facts – and fiction.

Continue reading Your one stop shop for GMO science facts

Index of articles by guest author–Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Below is a list of articles that she has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. Of course, she has written articles about vaccines and legal issues in other locations, which I intend to link here at a later date. This article will be updated as new articles from Dorit are added here.

Continue reading Index of articles by guest author–Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Genetically engineered crops – safe for humans and animals

For the past few years, I’ve posted nearly 50 articles here discussing the relative safety of genetically engineered crops. I’ve debunked myths. I’ve written about massive studies that show that they are safe for humans and animals, and, frankly, also for the environment.

I’ve also discussed the broad scientific consensus that supports the safety and usefulness of genetically engineered crops. This consensus derives from the best scientific minds in genetics, agriculture, botany, biomedical sciences, and many other areas of science germane to this topic.

And no different than the climate change deniers, who reject the broad scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, the anti-GMO activists reject science for any number of logical fallacies, and cherry picking of the science that supports their preordained beliefs. Many of us believe that the anti-GMO crowd are the left’s version of climate change deniers.

A new report has reviewed 900 studies and data since genetically modified crops were first introduced. And what did they find? Genetically engineered crops are safe.

Continue reading Genetically engineered crops – safe for humans and animals

Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification

The movie Vaxxed is an anti-vaccine polemic that claims, despite all of the high quality contradictory evidence, that there is a link between the MMR vaccine, for mumps, measles and rubella, and autism. Furthermore, it claims that the US government is engaging in a conspiracy to hide said link. Reviews of the film have appropriately emphasized the checkered past of its director, Andrew Wakefield, a discredited ex-scientist with a history of misrepresentations. Many of the reviews point out that Wakefield is not a credible source for information on vaccines.

In a recent video posted on the Vaxxed website, Andrew Wakefield took those claims head on, mounting a passionate defense of his reputation. If anything, however, this video further shows that Wakefield is not a good source of information.

The video’s claims range from unsupported (and implausible) to blatantly false. Unfortunately for Wakefield, Brian Deer meticulously documented each step in the events, making it relatively easy to identify the problems in these claims. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Wakefield’s adherents are unlikely to check his claims, and others may also accept his word without fact-checking. It’s therefore worth going through the claims.

To hear Wakefield, he was the victim of a conspiracy mounted because he dared raise safety concerns about vaccines. But as with his book, Callous Disregard (pdf), Wakefield’s claims are ill founded. In short, there are good reasons he lost his license and his reputation as a serious scientist.

A brief review of the history of this story – in 1998, Wakefield and co-authors published a paper suggesting that the measles component of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused changes in some children’s guts, and that those changes were associated with autism.

In 2007, after extensive investigation by Brian Deer published at The Sunday Times, Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) opened an investigation of their own to answer the question: Did Wakefield engage in serious professional misconduct?  In May 2010, the GMC found that yes, he did, and removed Wakefield from the British medical register (pdf).

Wakefield’s claims in the Allegations video can be put into three categories:

  1. there were no serious ethical violations or fraud in relation to the article he published in the Lancet;
  2. he’d done nothing wrong otherwise, measles outbreaks are not his fault, the GMC decision was generally wrong, and Walker-Smith’s acquittal shows that; and
  3. Brian Deer’s articles are a fraud motivated by a conspiracy.

None of these claims hold water.

Continue reading Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification

Modern cancer is a man-made disease? Myth debunking

I get so tired of this. I write a lot about cancer because of myths and tropes pushed by the pseudo-medicine world, like modern cancer is entirely a man-made disease. Proved by scientific researchers. And blessed by magical wizards everywhere.

This claim made by the pseudoscience, woo-pushing, junk-medicine believing writers of the article is based on a press-release from the University of Manchester where this research was done. Of course, in the hierarchy of quality biomedical evidence, press releases rank right near the bottom, just above the pseudoscience pushed by the Natural News.

If you’re going to make an extraordinary claim like “modern cancer is a man-made disease,” well you better bring extraordinary evidence. And a press release absolute does not qualify as extraordinary. The whole point of a press release is to “promote” the university. It is not peer-reviewed. And there are stories where the press release isn’t even reviewed by the authors of the study.

But the press release is based on an article published by AR David and MR Zimmerman in Nature Review of Cancer, a highly respected cancer journal. So you all are saying, “wow, that’s evidence.”

Well only if evidence is based on opinion. You see, the article by David and Zimmerman was published in the section of the journal called “Perspectives.” A perspective, especially in this context is a “point of view,” a “viewpoint”, a “stance”, or a “position.” But David and Zimmerman are highly respected anthropologists who have published extensively in real journals. But what do they know about cancer. Let’s look.

Continue reading Modern cancer is a man-made disease? Myth debunking

Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Recently, I read a new article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle