Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few

Marijuana medical benefits

Most states in the USA, and many countries across the world have passed legislation that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Some of this legislation is dependent on various claims, many of which appear to be based on weak or nonexistent scientific evidence. Of all of the purported marijuana medical benefits, only a handful are supported by real evidence.

This review, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (pdf, which can be downloaded for free by registering or can be found online here), published by the influential and prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than ten thousand scientific studies that involved cannabis and various medical conditions. The value of such a review is that it examines not only the quantity of evidence supporting a claim but also the quality of such evidence. In the end, it gives much more weight to high-quality evidence.

I know many comments will drop on this article that “you haven’t read that incredible study published in Journal of Weed and Cancer Cures” – that misses the point. The National Academies is a highly respected institution, made up of the most respected scientists in the USA. And the committee that created this review is made up of leading public health, cancer, epidemiology, pharmacology, and psychiatry, all fields germane to understanding clinical and basic scientific research into cannabis.

Moreover, a review like this does two things – it gives more weight to well done clinical trials and pre-clinical studies, and it eliminates poorly done and biased studies. This is how science works – examine ALL of the evidence before coming to a conclusion. Pseudoscience, on the other hand, is to have a conclusion, like “weed cures cancer,” and only seeking evidence that supports that preordained conclusion.

Furthermore, and this cannot be stressed enough, this review is not opinion. It is not belief. It is not cherry picking. It is a critical analysis based on thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed journals. This is not published in a pro-cannabis website that cherry picks, misinterprets, and overrates a one-off study in an obscure journal. The report is over 400 pages long – most of you will not read even a few pages, because it is a dense scientific review written by some of the top scientists in the USA. Before you denigrate the study, I would suggest you read it carefully.

To save you time from reading the 400+ page opus, which I did, I divided up the medical evidence from strong to none of the evidence in support of benefits and of risks from smoking cannabis. Not to bury the lede, but there are only three conditions for which there is strong, overwhelming evidence benefits of marijuana. Just three. Continue reading “Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few”

HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer – a systematic review

HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer

One of the many tropes about HPV vaccine from the anti-vaccine religion is that the vaccine has no effect on any cancer. Recently, I wrote an article that outlined the evidence that supports a link between HPV vaccines and cancer – that is, the vaccine does lower the risk of cancer. After I wrote that article, a new systematic review was published that, indeed, the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer.

Many people think that cancer is some sort of on/off switch – in fact, HPV-related cancers may take years or decades to be diagnosed. However, it’s been 8-12 years since the vaccine has been available (depending on the country), so a population of young women (the vaccine was only indicated for women in most countries until a few years ago) is now getting to the age where they may be diagnosed with either cancer or pre-cancerous lesions.

As the population of women (and eventually men) reaches the age where risks of certain cancers are increased, we can use epidemiological studies to determine whether or not there is a difference in cancer risk between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. Let’s review the systematic review that examined a surprisingly large number of studies that support the fact that the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer. Continue reading “HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer – a systematic review”

HPV vaccine prevents cancer despite anti-vaccine fear, uncertainty, doubt

HPV vaccine prevents cancer

The fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) campaign, a disinformation tool used by the anti-vaccine religion for propaganda purposes, against the HPV vaccine would laughable if the lies didn’t put our young people at risk for cancer in the future. We already have circumstantial evidence that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer – but now we’re accumulating robust direct evidence that it can stop HPV-related cancers.

Despite the claims of anti-vaccine pseudoscientists, who spend their time trying to invent false claims about vaccine safety, HPV vaccine safety is nearly settled science, based on dozens of high quality clinical and epidemiological studies. Although the anti-vaccine religion would love you to believe that the vaccine kills their children, the scientific evidence decidedly refutes these assertions.

Anti-vaccine zealots illogically reject any circumstantial evidence that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer.  That circumstantial evidence is based on powerful data that the vaccine prevents many strains of HPV infections, and we have similarly powerful data that many cancers are directly related to those same HPV infections – thus, if you stop the infection, it’s logical to accept that the vaccine will stop cancer. At least the logic makes sense to scientists, but apparently logic isn’t a top priority of pseudoscientific vaccine deniers.

Because HPV-related cancers can take years to show up – it’s a myth that cancers have some on-off switch that the causal factor instantly makes cancer appear – direct evidence has been difficult to research on whether HPV vaccines prevent cancer. But the HPV vaccine has been on the market for 10-15 years in most areas of the world, so if our hypothesis is correct, that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer, then maybe we can see a direct reduction in these cancers by now.

Guess what? We do have some of that direct evidence. Continue reading “HPV vaccine prevents cancer despite anti-vaccine fear, uncertainty, doubt”

Penis transplant – the HPV vaccine is a way to avoid it

penis transplant in South Africa.

Sometimes, the people who hate the HPV vaccine dismiss the awful consequences of an HPV infection as if they are unimportant. HPV is linked to several deadly and disfiguring cancers. Maybe you heard the story of a man who received a penis transplant. And it has a lot to do with the HPV vaccine.

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, this story is about a 64-year-old Boston man, Thomas Manning, who had to have his penis surgically removed in 2012 because of HPV-related penile cancer, a rare and devastating disease. In 2016, he had an innovative penis transplant to replace his cancer. Continue reading “Penis transplant – the HPV vaccine is a way to avoid it”

How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps – vaccines are critically important

how to prevent cancer

I have railed against pseudoscientific charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to prevent or cure cancer. Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks or keep them from even growing in your body. Of course, none of their claims are actually supported by robust science. On the other hand, real science has 12 evidence-based methods to actually prevent cancer.

But what about those memes that say that supplements prevent cancer? Nope, they don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for awhile).

What about avoiding GMO foods because they cause cancer? Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers. Oh, one more thing – bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are only a few things that can be done to manage your overall risk of cancer.

How to prevent cancer has been codified by the World Health Organization’s  (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) into 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) that are called the European Code Against Cancer.

Let’s look at cancer and how to prevent cancer.

Continue reading “How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps – vaccines are critically important”

Polio vaccine causes cancer – a myth pushed by anti-vaccine religion

polio vaccine causes cancer

Apparently, the “polio vaccine causes cancer” zombie meme has been reanimated by the antivaccination cult. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure. And once again, I’m seeing it.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, Reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 200 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see a claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that an accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute anti-vaccine claims take a lot more than 200 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to send that claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth™. Killing zombie anti-vaccine tropes and memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these anti-vaccine fake facts is a full-time job. Sadly, even after a thorough debunking, someone will call us a paid shill, ignore the evidence, and repeat the trope.

I need to create a bot that automatically refutes every repeated trope. In lieu of that, let’s just discuss the myth. And refute it once again.

Continue reading “Polio vaccine causes cancer – a myth pushed by anti-vaccine religion”

Another study supports the Gardasil long-term safety

Gardasil long-term safety

I’ve written more than almost 200 articles about the safety and effectiveness of various versions of the HPV vaccine. As a result, I have focused a lot of those 200 articles on Gardasil long-term safety.

There have been huge studies, one that includes over 200,000 patients and another that includes over 1 million patients, that have provided solid and nearly incontrovertible evidence that support the Gardasil long-term safety – nevertheless, the anti-vaccine tropes and memes about the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine persist.

Though it is frustrating that some researchers publish “evidence” from small studies that are poorly designed in an attempt to invent issues with HPV vaccines if you look at the best designed unbiased studies, the facts are clear–Gardasil is safe and effective. It could be one of the safest and most effective vaccines since it was developed and studied in the era of harsh, and mostly unfounded, criticisms of vaccines by certain antivaccine activists.

Continue reading “Another study supports the Gardasil long-term safety”

Reducing HPV-related cancers with HPV vaccine – a study in Norway

hpv-related cancers

Cancer prevention is a big business on the internet. A quick search will find someone hawking supplements or the new quinoa blueberry smoothie to prevent cancer. But from a scientific perspective, there’s really only a handful of ways to substantially reduce your risk of cancers. One of that handful of methods is to get the HPV vaccine that will reduce your risk of contracting HPV-related cancers.

Recently, a study examined the long-term trends of HPV-related cancers in Norway and estimated the number of cancer cases that could be prevented by HPV vaccines. This adds to the mountain of evidence that the HPV vaccine ought to be known as the “cancer-preventing HPV vaccine.” OK, I’m not good at naming vaccines.

Let’s talk a little about HPV, then tackle this new research. Continue reading “Reducing HPV-related cancers with HPV vaccine – a study in Norway”

Boosting the immune system – that’s what vaccines do

immune system

Immune system myths are one of the common claims of the junk medicine crowd, especially the anti-vaccine activists. The pseudoscience of the immune system is pernicious and possibly dangerous.

It’s frustrating that the pseudoscience from the junk medicine crowd claims that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – hang out for a day on Facebook, and you’ll probably see way too many memes saying that all you have to do to boost your immune system is eat a blueberry kale smoothie. I still see that dumb banana claim that it cures cancer.

The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day.

And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. One can claim all day long that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it scientifically accurate. Nor does it create an accurate description of the immune system.

Continue reading “Boosting the immune system – that’s what vaccines do”

Hepatitis B vaccine – the other cancer prevention vaccine

hepatitis b vaccine

Anyone who follows or trolls my blog knows one thing – I am a passionate supporter of the HPV anti-cancer vaccine, known as Gardasil. But I didn’t want to ignore the hepatitis B vaccine, which is the “other” anti-cancer vaccine.

Recently, the CDC recommended a new hepatitis B vaccine for adults, and that prompted me to do something I haven’t really done – talk about hepatitis B, liver cancer, and the hepatitis B vaccine. In some respects, hepatitis B is just as an important issue as HPV with respect to preventing cancer.

Remember, despite what you read on pseudoscience website or from anecdotes on the internet, there are really only a few ways to prevent cancer. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcohol. Stay out of the sun. Keep a very healthy (read low) weight. And get your HPV and hepatitis B vaccines.

Yes, getting these vaccines will be more useful to avoiding cancer than drinking delicious bananaalmond milk-blueberry smoothies. I know, that smoothie probably is more appetizing than getting poked by a sharp needle. It is possible that the smoothie could be part of a healthy diet which could contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. But it won’t directly prevent cancer like the two vaccines.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I think that Gardasil is one of the most hated vaccines that the CDC recommends. But to be honest, if you watch the anti-vaccine religion, you would know that the hepatitis B vaccine is way up there on the list of hatred.

So, let’s take a look at hepatitis B, liver cancer, and the vaccine. Continue reading “Hepatitis B vaccine – the other cancer prevention vaccine”