I originally wrote this article in 2014 to discuss whether correlation implies causation. Not that I expect everyone to read and remember this one article, but it’s frustrating when I see a conversation where people who deny science and accept science both misuse correlation and how it relates to causation. So, I decided to update this article and republish it as a reminder that the relationship of correlation to causation isn’t as easy as a simple trope or meme.
One of the foundations of biomedical science is whether correlation implies causation. Anti-vaccine activists often conflate or misunderstand the two, rejecting or accepting correlation as it fits its narrative. The “correlation implies causation” story is often abused, misused and confused by many writers.
One thing we do know about correlation is that if you can’t establish correlation, despite numerous attempts, it is nearly impossible to claim causation. Also, if you do observe correlation, it also doesn’t imply causation.
But there are methods, grounded in powerful science, to establish causation from observations of correlation. So sometimes correlation does not imply causation. But sometimes correlation implies causation.
This article will help show how we may be able to establish causation from observations of correlation. And, like all science, this is hard stuff. Continue reading “Correlation implies causation – when it does or does not with vaccines”
If you hang around discussions about vaccines, you will see the oft-repeated claim that doctors once claimed that “smoking is safe.” The anti-vaccine religion (or terrorists) use this trope as a strawman argument in an attempt to discredit physicians, scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who claim that vaccines are safe and effective.
Anti-vaxxers really lack much evidence to support their science-denying arguments against the settled science regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Thus, they have to rely upon misinformation, tropes, and lies to make arguments that vaccines are something.
I would laugh at this “smoking is safe” claim, except it’s used to dissuade parents from trusting wonderful organizations like the CDC, which only has one goal, to protect lives from diseases. So, let’s debunk this anti-vaccine myth because that’s what we do around here. Continue reading “Doctors once said that “smoking is safe” – another anti-vaccine myth”
A new study has been published that claims that the herbicide glyphosate is linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue. Of course, once a study like this hits the interwebs, everyone becomes panicked that glyphosate causes cancer.
I want to take a look at this paper because I am generally distrustful of any claims that “XYZ causes cancer!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Cancer myths are pervasive, and a lot of fear of cancer is based on those myths. So let’s take a critical eye and examine the peer-reviewed paper that claims that there is a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There is a lot there, but there is also a lot of overreaction. Continue reading “Glyphosate linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Analysis of new study”
The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil safety and efficacy.
As many regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.
The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.
It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.
And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
Continue reading “Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy”
Darla Shine, a former Fox News producer, and wife of the White House deputy chief of staff of communications, of course, posted a dangerous and ignorant tweet that implied that measles prevents cancer.
Shinee is repeating a thoroughly debunked anti-vaccine religious trope, but what do you expect from a Trump sycophant? The truth? Especially since Trump has a history of anti-vaccine rhetoric.
Of course, there is a reason why this myth has legs, but it’s not based on what we call robust evidence – it’s based on pseudoscience, misinformation, and nonsense. Continue reading “Measles prevents cancer? Another anti-vaccine myth with no evidence”
Diet fads seem to test the limits of science since forever. I’m an ancient feathered dinosaur, and I’ve seen it all from the popcorn diet to the South Beach diet to the paleo diet to the ketogenic diet.
I’m sure that the ancient Romans had some diet fad diet that the aristocracy followed to keep themselves healthy – oh wait, the Roman upper class followed the Mediterranean diet, which may be one diet fad that stood the test of time and science.
Outside of the aforementioned Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, olive oil, seafood, legumes, and nuts, most of these diets lack robust scientific evidence supporting their usefulness in weight loss or maintaining some unbiased standard of health. But they certainly make a lot of money for those promoting them. It was a US$66 billion market in the USA alone in 2017. Wait, maybe I should invent the Raptor Diet?
One of the current fads is the ketogenic diet, which is all the rage among those looking to lose weight, improve their health, and, I’m sure, prevent cancer. Before someone thinks it really prevents cancer, it does not. In fact, it may increase the risk of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.
Let’s get into this ketogenic diet fad. Is it supported by any robust, repeated, published evidence? Or, like most diet fads, is it mostly supported by testimony and anecdotes? Continue reading “Ketogenic diet – what does the scientific evidence say about it?”
If you’ve been cruising Facebook, Twitter, or
Google+ lately, you’d have seen some breathless headlines claiming that Israeli scientists have discovered a miracle cure for cancer. And it will be ready in one year.
What a load of rubbish, balderdash, codswallop, claptrap, and nonsense.
I’d end the article right there because nothing more really needs to be written. But you come here for the snark, but stay for the science. Or come here for the science, and stay for the snark. Either way, I need to spend a few minutes of your time, and a couple of thousand words, to put this pile of equine excrement into a waste pit.
So let’s take a look at how some Israeli scientists will cure cancer. Spoiler alert – they can’t. Continue reading “Cure cancer in one year according to Israeli scientists – just bovine feces”
Anyone who follows the cantankerous feathered dinosaur knows that we tend to focus on vaccines, where the anti-vaccine religion focuses on tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and outright lies. Cancer myths seem to steal from the anti-vaccine playbook by pushing similar tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies.
I keep responding to these cancer myths all across the internet, so I thought that it might be useful to list out my favorite ones. No, it would take 50,000 words to debunk all of these cancer myths. For example, the Burzynski Clinic quackery is best handled by a real cancer specialist, David Gorski, MD, who has written well over 100 articles critiquing the Burzynski pseudoscience. So I’m going to stick with my personal favorites.
So, let’s take a look at these cancer myths, and I’ll do my best to debunk them. Continue reading “Annoying cancer myths – more zombie memes that can’t be stopped”
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Emma Mhic Mhathúna was a 37-year-old Irish mother of five who died in October 2018 from cervical cancer – an easily diagnosed and treated cancer if discovered early. She died because of a pap smear scandal in Ireland that led her to receive a false negative on her two pap smear tests in 2016. As a result of this scandal, HPV vaccine uptake has increased for preventing cervical cancer. Continue reading “Preventing cervical cancer – HPV vaccine uptake increases in Ireland”
Emma Mhic Mhathúna was a 37-year-old Irish mother of five who died on 7 October 2018 from cervical cancer – an easily diagnosed and treated cancer if discovered early. She died because of a cervical smear scandal in Ireland that led her to receive a false negative on her two pap smear tests in 2016 as a part of the CervicalCheck program run by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), which manages Ireland’s healthcare.
As a result of this cervical smear scandal, Ms. Mhathúna sued the HSE and the US clinical laboratory, Quest Diagnostics, which performed the tests. She settled in court for €7.5 million from HSE and Quest. Another US-based clinical laboratory, Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) of Austin, TX, was involved in a similar lawsuit from another Irish woman, Vicky Phelan, who also received a false negative – they settled for €2.5 million.
Ms. Mhathúna’s death was both tragic and a cautionary tale about relying upon the results of this test. Continue reading “Cervical smear scandal – why the HPV vaccine is the best choice”