Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims

sugar and cancer

As you probably would guess, when I read articles in science, I tend to emphasize research on vaccines, cancer, and a few other related issues. There’s so much information out there, one has to focus or there will  not be enough time to watch college football games on Saturday. For years, one of the more popular questions I have seen is about sugar and cancer – does eating sugar cause or promote cancer?

A recent paper in Nature Communications seemed to encourage the people who are pushing an association between sugar and cancer. Of course, our usual suspects of pseudoscience and false healthcare jumped on board with their clickbait headlines trying to scare everyone about sugar and cancer.

But what are the facts about sugar and cancer. Should you avoid eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates? Well, probably, but not because of cancer.

That’s why we are here. To separate the science from the pseudoscience, we need to look at this more carefully. What we’re going to see is that you’re not going to get cancer from putting a couple of teaspoons of it in your coffee. And you’re not going to cure cancer by avoid sugar. Sugar and cancer is much more complicated than that. Continue reading “Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims”

2017 flu vaccine effectiveness – getting the facts straight

2017 flu vaccine effectiveness

The upcoming flu season may be a rough one. A strain of the influenza A, H3N2, is showing up in small clusters of outbreaks throughout the USA. Unfortunately, the 2017 flu vaccine effectiveness against the H3N2 may be lower than expected.

We will get into the details further in this post, but I do not want to bury the headline. This does not mean the 2017-18 flu vaccine is ineffective – the quadrivalent 2017 flu vaccine effectiveness against three of four flu strains is still fairly high. The flu vaccine is extremely important in stop lots of flu strains, and just because it may have an issue with one of the four strains, does not imply that it is useless.

Let me repeat that, just in case someone misses the point – only one of the four strains of flu in the 2017-18 vaccine may have lower effectiveness. The vaccine remains highly effective against the other four strains. Continue reading “2017 flu vaccine effectiveness – getting the facts straight”

Correlation implies causation – when it does or does not with vaccines

correlation implies causation

One of the central tenets of science is whether correlation implies causation. The anti-vaccine religion often conflates or misunderstand the two, rejecting or accepting causation as it fits its narrative.  The “correlation implies causation” story is often abused, misused and confused by many writers.

We, the pro-science/pro-vaccine world, dismiss correlation implies causation, unless a checklist of of supporting information can be checked off.

Conflating causation and correlation is somewhat different than the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, where one thinks one event follows the first event because of the existence of the first event. I’m sure all good luck charms and superstitions, like walking under a ladder, are related to the post hoc fallacy. So if I walk under a ladder, then trip on a black cat, then crash into a mirror, I don’t immediately blame the initial act of walking under the ladder. I just assume I’m clumsy.

In science, we may be able to show correlation statistically. For example, there may be an increase in broken bones in children after vaccination. But does that mean the vaccine caused the broken bone? If we show that the rate of broken bones is the same with or without vaccines, there’s no causation. If we cannot show a plausible physiological reason why vaccines would have some influence over bone strength, we reject causation. In other words, showing correlation gives us only half the story. Real science is necessary to show us causality.

Correlation and causation are a very critical part of scientific research. Basically, correlation is the statistical relationship between two random sets of data. The closer the relationship, the higher the correlation. However, without further data, correlation may not imply causation, that the one set of data has some influence over the other. Continue reading “Correlation implies causation – when it does or does not with vaccines”

Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food

bananas prevent cancer

I wrote an article about how to critically analyze pseudoscience and misinformation so that you might skeptically analyze evidence supporting a claim, even if it appeared to be accurate. On Facebook, Twitter and many internet sites (including Wikipedia), there is an amazing tendency of individuals to accept what is written as “the truth” without spending the effort to determine if what is written is based on accurate science.

But if you’re going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, you’re going to have to provide extraordinary evidence. And if you’re going to push a pseudoscientific claim, please read what you claim as evidence. Because we have a case here, where the evidence isn’t even in the same universe as the claims.

Continue reading “Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food”

Bernard Dalbergue and Gardasil – another anti-vaccine shill says nothing

Bernard Dalbergue

About 4 years ago, I wrote about a new anti-Gardasil name being foisted upon the internet. His name is Bernard Dalbergue, a French physician who may or may not have had some role with Gardasil development. Or manufacturing. Or sales.

Well, he had something to do with something with regards the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine. He’s another false authority pushed by the anti-Gardasil religion, a particularly nasty sect of the anti-vaccine religion. They bring out these individuals because the anti-vaccine troupe lacks the evidence to support their specious and deceptive claims about Gardasil.

So let’s dig in to this Bernard Dalbergue. Let’s see if there’s anything there.  Continue reading “Bernard Dalbergue and Gardasil – another anti-vaccine shill says nothing”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience activists – they are nothing if not dedicated to their religious beliefs. And like the so-called “creation science” religion, which tries to “prove” their evolution denialist beliefs with pseudoscience published in creationist journals, the anti-vaccine religion tries to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous with bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpreted science.

As of today, I’ve written a dozen or so articles about Christopher Shaw and   Lucija Tomljenovic, contemptible University of British Columbia anti-vaccine pseudoscience extremists. Shaw and Tomljenovic are well known for pushing garbage science to further their anti-vaccine religion. Of course, their “scientific articles” keep getting retracted, despite being published in low ranked journals whose standards rarely exceed “please use a good spell checker.”

Now, we have a new article trying to push the myth that somehow the tiny amounts of aluminum in vaccines are related to autism. Of course, we have hundreds of real scientific articles published in real scientific journals which have demolished the myth that vaccines cause autism. But these persistent anti-vaccine pseudoscience pushers keep trying. Because one of the central tenets of pseudoscience is to have a pre-ordained conclusion, and find any evidence, irrespective of quality, to support it.

So we’re going to take a look at this new “article.” I always examine anti-vaccine “research” from two perspectives – first, I take a look at the author(s), the journal, and other factors that might have an impact on our critique of the study. Second, I then critique the scientific data, methods, and conclusions.  So, here we go, into the fray. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum”

Coffee health effects – what does the best science say

coffee health effects

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, with tea being number one. And as I have mentioned previously, I am an unrepentant coffee lover. Over the years, there have been a number of claims about coffee health effects, both positive and negative, many without any solid scientific evidence in support.

Claims about coffee health effects goes back centuries. These claims were often confusing and contradictory. How many “studies” have we read about that said drinking it was good for your heart. Or bad for your heart. Or it prevented cancer. Or it increased your risk of cancer.

Part of the confusion is that the popular press, with its strange dependence on false equivalence, often presents two contradictory scientific studies as equivalent, even if they aren’t. Well, we’re going to look at a powerful new study that examined health outcomes that can be related to coffee. Let’s see what they say. Continue reading “Coffee health effects – what does the best science say”

Gardasil prevents cancer – evidence for oral cancer protection

Gardasil prevents cancer

According to recent studies from the CDC, only about 63% of teen girls and 50% of teen boys have started the HPV vaccination series. The relatively low vaccine uptake, despite the evidence that Gardasil prevents cancer, one of the few ways to actually prevent cancer, is especially frustrating to those of us who are supporters of the vaccine. However, new data that Gardasil prevents cancer may drive acceptance for the vaccine – new research appears to show that the HPV vaccine may protect against head and neck cancers.

Gardasil 9, the most current version of the vaccine, was approved to protect against cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers in females along with anal cancers in males – if it is also shown to prevent oropharyngeal cancers (and eventually gets new indications after FDA review), maybe that can increase the lagging HPV vaccination rates.

Continue reading “Gardasil prevents cancer – evidence for oral cancer protection”

Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths

Gardasil safety and efficacy

There was an 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. Some of the reasons why the HPV vaccine uptake is so low is a result of several myths about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

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 “Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths”

HPV infection of male virgins – reason for cancer preventing vaccine

hpv infection

The many myths about the HPV cancer preventing vaccine, known as Gardasil, have been critical in keeping uptake of the vaccine low. For example, many parents believe that their children will never engage in risky sexual behavior, so why do they need to give them the HPV vaccine? Of course, this ignores the facts that sexual assault and the sexual history of future partners can lead to HPV infection.

A newly published article also may show that male virgins (and presumably female virgins) can contract an HPV infection. HPV is so infectious that it can be transmitted even without sexual intercourse.

Let’s examine this new study which is more conclusive evidence that parents should seriously consider getting the vaccine for their children. Continue reading “HPV infection of male virgins – reason for cancer preventing vaccine”