Cancer mortality rate – good news, it’s the lowest in 25 years

cancer mortality rate

There are two tropes about cancer that seem to be accepted as facts. First, cancer is a modern disease, unknown to previous generations. And second, the cancer mortality rate is increasing because of the usual suspects, from GMOs to whatever. This is a good thing about science, there’s actually evidence that gives us a different image.

If you use Google as your source for cancer facts, you’d think that we have a raging epidemic of the disease, killing more people today than just a few years ago. But the facts say something else – the cancer mortality rate declined from 1975 to 2012 in the USA in one study, and that it was the lowest since 1991 in another study. By any reasonable examination of data, we are actually winning the war on cancer in the USA.

The myth that the cancer mortality rate is increasing, along with the trope that Big Pharma and oncologists make more money by not providing real treatments for cancer are completely debunked by this data. The cancer-woo pushers probably are saddened by what we’re learning about cancer, but it certainly provides us with excellent data that science is beating cancer. Sure, we aren’t at the point of curing all 200 or so cancers that afflict humans, but we’re doing better than we were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

Except for liver cancer bucking the trend. We’ll look into that too.

I’m certain that the reason for the lower cancer incidence and mortality rates are complicated. It’s possible that people are starting to embrace the handful of science-based preventions to cancer – like reducing smoking. It’s also better medications from Big Pharma. And better science-based treatment options for cancer. Cancer treatment has evolved massively in just 3-4 decades. I’m sure if you spoke to an oncologist today, and queried him about techniques from the 1970s, he or she would just cringe.

Let’s look at these studies that gave us this data. And maybe we can put to rest some of the memes about cancer ravishing modern humans.

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Scott Pruitt, climate change denier EPA chief – wrong about the science

Scott Pruitt

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by the United States Congress. Among its many responsibilities, it is at the forefront in attempting to reduce the effects of climate change. Of course, Donald Trump appointed a climate denier EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who has absolutely despised the EPA while attorney general for Oklahoma.

In an interview on CNBC, Pruitt said the following:

In recent years, critics would say the EPA has been too focused on CO2 and maybe things like hazardous waste sites, particulate pollution, strip mining, what’s happening to the oceans — there are so many things that the EPA could do productively that maybe have been diverted from this single-minded focus on CO2.

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it’s (CO2) a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet…we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.

But the new climate denier EPA administrator is wrong about his “opinion” about the science of climate change. Let’s look at just how wrong Scott Pruitt is about the science of climate change. Continue reading “Scott Pruitt, climate change denier EPA chief – wrong about the science”

Google blacklisted Natural News – and there’s cheering in the streets

Google blacklisted Natural News

Natural News, a website run by Mike Adams, the self styled Health Ranger, is a festering cesspool of junk medicine, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. There isn’t one positive thing I can say about the website, but there’s very good news – Google blacklisted Natural News. If you use Google (who doesn’t?), then perform a search for “Natural News” or the title of any story on that website, the actual website (naturalnews.com) does not appear at all in the search results. The only results that seem to appear are articles about Natural News. And a wonderfully snarky RationalWiki article.

Of course, Mike Adams went nuclear, something he’s done in the past with Dr. David Gorski. In response to the Google action, Adams posted an article, “GOOGLE blacklists Natural News… removes 140,000 pages from its index… “memory holes” Natural News investigative articles on vaccines, pharma corruption, fraudulent science and more.” Apparently, Adams jumped off the cliff of delusion down into the cave of hilarity. This has apparently unhinged him in ways that we skeptics have never quite been able to do, despite pointing out every dumb thing he’s ever written.

 

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Vaccines cause autism debate – it only exists in the minds of vaccine deniers

vaccines cause autism debate

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last month, New England pediatrician Daniel Summers effectively wrote that the so-called vaccines cause autism debate was over. He wrote, “not merely one study or two, but study after study after study confirms that vaccines are safe, and that there is no connection with autism.” In fact, there are 100s of studies, many of them with a huge number of data points, that have shown no correlation, let alone causation, between vaccines and autism. None.

Other than stating that I objectively support Dr. Summers’ statements and conclusions, I don’t have much else to say. But you and I know that an op-ed piece by a real doctor will be noticed by someone in the vaccine denier world, and they will pull out every single trope, myth, and conspiracy theory to claim that Dr. Summers is wrong and that there really is a “vaccines cause autism debate.”

I came across an article by Jeremy R Hammond in the right wing alternative news website, Personal Liberty, which attacked Dr. Summers with those aforementioned tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories. The same ones you’d see from any of your standard, run-of-the-mill vaccine denier.

Let’s take a look at Hammond’s article. Generally, I can only get through about half of an anti-vaccine article when I have to stop because I’m banging my head against the desk too much. I need to protect the neurons in my brain from further damage. But I will try to persevere in the name of science.

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Gates Foundation birth control initiative – support women who lose it because of Trump

Gates Foundation birth control

Donald Trump has stated that he is very strongly (or bigly?) against the right to abortion, and the empowered right wing Republicans in many states are pushing some awful new legislation. And Trump has issued an executive order that blocks Federal funding of any non-profit organization that pays for or even mentions abortion, effectively “gagging” these organizations from providing health services to women across the world. Lucky for these women, the Gates Foundation birth control funding may replace a lot of Federal funding, and for that we should be thankful.

Bill Gates, and his family foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has stated four simple goals for transforming our world:

  1. Ensure more young people survive and thrive.
  2. Empower the poorest, especially women and girls, to transform their lives.
  3. Combat infectious diseases, especially those that affect the poorest.
  4. Inspire people to take action to change the world.

As opposed to Trump, a pseudo-billionaire who thinks he’s entitled and has no particular interest in those who have to fight for their lives every day, Bill Gates is a real billionaire, whose products revolutionized our world, and who has made it his life’s mission to help those who need his support – the poor, especially women and children. Setting aside jokes about Windows or Microsoft, if we are to judge a person by what they do for those who suffer every day just trying to live another day, then they pass with flying colors. Continue reading “Gates Foundation birth control initiative – support women who lose it because of Trump”

Anti-vaccine bullshit – Robert De Niro and RFK Jr are full of it

Anti-vaccine nonsense

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro just had a press conference to push their anti-vaccine bullshit on the public. This time, they’re offering US$100,000 to anyone who can show that mercury in vaccines are safe. Well, they can write me the check today, since there is NO mercury (really, there never was) in vaccines, so based on their lame accusations, it’s safe.

I’m starting to think that the anti-vaccine forces think that the wind is blowing in their direction. This so-called press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, an important venue for announcements. The National Press Club ought to be embarrassed – how could a prestigious institution allow such junk “news” at their site. But that’s a story for another day. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine bullshit – Robert De Niro and RFK Jr are full of it”

Adult vaccine schedule – what do you think about the CDC recommendations?

adult vaccine schedule

I just published an article about the CDC’s adult vaccine schedule by age and by medical condition. I knew this existed. Of course I did, since I’ve been focusing on vaccines for like nearly my whole adult life. I wanted to poll my readers as to your own reaction to the CDC’s vaccine schedule (which is probably the same in many other countries, not just the USA). Did you know you might have to get the Hib vaccine? Or MMR?

Or do you stand with Donald Trump, who thinks the CDC vaccine schedules are dangerous? Very dangerous. Bad for America.

So, I’d like to know about what you think of the adult vaccine schedule. Vote early and vote often.

Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too

adult vaccines

Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.

Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.

One adult vaccine I push regularly is the flu vaccine. It protects adults, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and healthy young adults from a severe infection that hospitalizes and kills more people every year than you’d think. Because flu is not really a serious disease, in some people’s minds, a lot of people decide that they don’t need the vaccine. They’d be wrong.

Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.

Continue reading “Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too”

Future of vaccines – what Donald Trump is doing and saying

future of vaccines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know two things – my support for vaccines is unwavering, and my loathing of Donald Trump is unmatched by just about anyone in politics. Seriously, Trump makes me yearn for the days when George W Bush was running things. So when it comes to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump, I’ve reached a whole new level of abhorrence.

In case you’ve not kept up, let’s have a quick review of Donald Trump’s views on vaccines. They’re not good.

First, Trump has been tweeting about vaccines since 2012. He thinks that vaccines cause autism, and he’s been wrong on almost everything about them. He thinks that that children get too many vaccines, he’s wrong on that too, although if he has some medical background which he hid from the world, we’d be glad to hear what his research tells us about “too many vaccines.” He claims that doctors are wrong about vaccines. Oh really? Where’s the evidence.

I don’t know why I would ask for evidence from a man who spends almost all of his day denying evidence for most science.

Of course, the fraudster Andrew Wakefield has had an ongoing bromance with Trump, and explicitly endorsed Trump for President. Talk about putting the fear into the future of vaccines.

The bromance continued after the election, which has had more than a few pro-science types nervously joking that Wakefield might be appointed CDC Director. Of course, Trump wouldn’t choose Wakefield for such an illustrious position. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Betsy DeVos, who has approximately zero knowledge of the American educational system, is confirmed to be Secretary of Education under Trump. I’m laughing nervously.

Next up, Trump had a meeting with vaccine denier, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, despite his family’s illustrious liberal name and support of science, wanted to work for Trump to investigate the safety of vaccines. Depending on the source, Trump either asked or didn’t ask Kennedy to chair a vaccine safety commission. We’re hoping Trump didn’t, but you never know.

Then, Trump named Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has the ultimate responsibility for America’s vaccine program. Price is a physician, which should be a good thing at HHS. Unfortunately, Dr. Price belongs to a radical, right wing physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). If you’ve never heard of AAPS, they are a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” Along with being opposed to many public health and right to healthcare issues, they’re not big fans of vaccines and mandatory vaccinations.

Given all of this bad news, where do we stand right now with regards to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump? Well, let’s get to the good news first. Because those of us who are appalled by Donald Trump need all the good news we can get.

Before we discuss the Trump administration’s actions on vaccines, let’s make sure everyone understands that the American public is not in sync with Trump’s views on vaccines. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans support requiring students in public schools to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine. Moreover, Pew found that about 88% of Americans say that the benefits of vaccines outweigh any risks – an overwhelmingly positive finding about the public perception of vaccines.

On the topic of the future vaccines and Trump, not only is he wrong about the science, but he’s way outside of the mainstream of American’s feelings about vaccinations. Since Trump seems addicted to polls, maybe he’ll see this Pew poll and let the CDC do its job with being encumbered by an anti-science directive. One can only hope. But we’ll circle back to the CDC in a couple of paragraphs.

Also on the “good news” side of things, during the confirmation hearing for Dr. Price, he was asked whether vaccines caused autism – his answer, “I think the science in that instance is that it does not,” was reassuring. Price also said that he would “make certain that factual informing (of public health issues) is conveyed to Congress and the president and the American people.”

Sadly, his comments about vaccines were sometimes less than “full-throated” support. When asked if he believed that the CDC (which is part of HHS) schedule (pdf) for vaccinations should be followed by parents, he answered, “I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations.” It’s a good answer to some question somewhere, but it did not answer the question about the CDC schedule, which Trump thinks is wrong. I hope I’m not reading between the lines, but it is troubling to read these statements.

A few other pieces of good news should brighten our day with regards to vaccines. Andrew Wakefield has not been nominated to head the CDC. Of course, Trump hasn’t chosen anyone for Director as of yet.

And on the bad side of the news, the CDC seems to be under pressure to bend to Trump’s will. The CDC cancelled a conference on climate change and public health – climate change has a huge impact on public health, and the CDC should be at the forefront of the scientific information about it. Unfortunately, with a climate change denier in the White House, the CDC probably was under pressure to cancel.

I guess the news around the CDC is mostly bad these days.

As for the vaccine investigative commission (or whatever it will be called) that is supposedly going to be headed by Robert F Kennedy, Jr? Well, other than the flurry of reports when they met in early January, there hasn’t been a stitch of news since then – thus on our scale of no news is probably better than whatever horrible news we’ll get from Trump about the future of vaccines, this averages out to pretty good news. Right now, we don’t know anything, other than Kennedy and Trump met to discuss vaccines. There’s no word from the White House whether Kennedy will be heading up this investigation, even if there’s going to be an investigation into vaccines.

Right now, we’re not sure which way the wind is blowing on Donald Trump’s influence on the future of vaccines. Will the CDC quit promoting its vaccine schedule? Will Tom Price push his views about vaccines in a positive or negative way? Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr have a major role in what we perceive about vaccines? Will Trump change his mind and do nothing?

As with almost everything this administration has done, we expect the worst and hope for the best. Unfortunately, “the worst” keeps happening. But, so far, there’s nothing but rumors and suppositions about what will happen with vaccines. And for today, we’ll take that as hopeful. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week with regards to Donald Trump and vaccines. I’m hoping that the future of vaccines looks good, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

Alternative facts – skeptics have been dealing with this for years

Alternative facts

Alternative facts, what most of us would call outright lies or misinformation, are the new standard of truthfulness coming out of the Donald Trump administration. It started when Kellyanne Conway, one of the numerous Trump talking heads who think Americans are stupid, said, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving … alternative facts.”

Alternative facts seem to be pretty close to the Nazi propaganda technique, called the Big Lie. It is about the use of a lie so colossal that the public would not believe that someone would have the audacity to distort the truth so impressively. Except, I’m going to reiterate most Americans (an non-Americans) aren’t that stupid. And sorry for going Godwin so early in the article, but sometimes, it is necessary to point out the obvious.

I’ve been fighting alternative facts as skeptic for nearly three decades. It started when I got into an argument with a school board candidate in California who said that “evolution is just a theory.” Now, those of you with scientific understanding accept that a theory, at least in science, is approximately equal to a fact. What he should have said is, “evolution is just a fact,” but instead he was making “theory” a pejorative which implied evolution wasn’t a fact.

He and I must have argued for 20 minutes, when he finally claimed that science was a religion that required faith, which, of course, is the exact opposite of what science represents. I told him that he apparently lacked any education in science, so why should he be on the school board. He lost, though I take no credit for it.

Over the years, I have evolved (pun intended) into other areas of scientific skepticism, like GMOs, vaccines, and alternative medicine. See, even the junk medicine quacks grasped that “alternative” label long before Donald Trump walked into the national spotlight.

Let’s look at my favorite alternative facts of science.

Continue reading “Alternative facts – skeptics have been dealing with this for years”