The claims about the usefulness of vitamin D supplements are all over the internet. And they seem trendy, as most pseudoscientific claims are these days.
The purpose of this article is to review some of the old and new information about vitamin D supplements. It’s about scientific articles that either support or refute a claim, that’s it. It’s not about what we believe or we do not believe, it’s about evidence.
I don’t think vitamin D is worthless. It is an important micronutrient for human health, and if there’s a chronic deficiency, supplementation may be medically necessary.
I’m not sure why a lot of people think that cancer is more prevalent today. Maybe it is because of social media, we hear about it more. Maybe it is because of better diagnostic techniques, we think that the cancer situation is worse. Maybe it is that there is an over reliance on anecdotes about cancer. Finally, maybe it is people who think our bodies are being assaulted by cancer causing GMOs (not cancer causing), vaccines (which prevent cancer), or gluten (not cancer causing).
Of course, the pseudoscientific pushing alternative medicine world wants to convince you that science based medicine is incapable of treating cancers and only push highly profitable poisons from Big Pharma pushed into cancer patients. Unfortunately for that narrative, the statistically significant drop in the breast cancer mortality rate says that oncologists are doing a good job with a deadly cancer. Continue reading “Breast cancer mortality rate – it dropped 40 percent in 30 years”
The myths about cancer risk are both sad and dangerous. Too many times, I read about supplements or diets that stop “cancer” as if it’s one disease (it is not) that a handful of blueberries will destroy. Like almost every cancer, reducing breast cancer risk really boils down to a handful of lifestyle choices.
Other than eliminating direct risks, are there things that can be done to actually prevent “cancer”? Once again, with over 200 types of cancer, this may be an impossibility, but the three most popular cancer prevention ideas are diet, vitamins and other types of nutritional supplements. Vitamins and other supplements are a $61 billion industry in the US. They generate these sales with minimal regulation, minimal quality control over the quality and dosage, and no requirement to actually provide evidence that the supplements do what is claimed by the supplement industry, aka Big Herbal. The FDA only gets involved with the industry if there’s some dangerous side effect, or when the claims of the industry are so outrageous that the FDA has no choice but to get involved.
You’ve probably seen their commercials spread over all of the major TV networks. Beautiful scenes. Well-kept hospitals which often to appear to be near empty. And an anecdote or two or three from presumably real patients who describe their experience at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a private, for-profit operator of cancer treatment hospitals and outpatient clinics which provide both conventional and alternative medical treatments. Included in their treatment plans are chiropractic and naturopathy, neither of which have any evidence whatsoever in providing any healthcare benefit to patients, let alone those suffering from cancer.
Reuters recently published an in-depth report on the validity of the claims that are made by CTCA in its advertising. Here are some of the ones specifically mentioned:
For breast cancer, CTCA claims that its survival rate after 3.5 years post-diagnosis is about 42%, compared to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) Program result (more or less a nationwide average) of about 29%. That’s a 13% improvement.
Potential causes for cancer are numerous. Infections. Radon gas. Cigarette smoking. Sun exposure.Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes for “cancer.” Although many causes of cancer can be easily avoided, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer.
Her thesis is that these anti-evolution bills in various state legislatures are a danger to her health, and by inference, the health of all Americans.
Essentially, she states that in the 1960’s, breast cancer was basically a death sentence, whereas today, the 5 year survivability for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is over 80%. Partially, the rate has risen because of better and earlier diagnosis, but mainly it is a result of highly effective treatments.
What does evolution have to do with this? Plenty. At even the most basic level, the discovery of DNA, which is essential to understanding any of the 200 different cancers, was driven by the need to uncover the basis of genetics and heritability of genes. Would we have discovered the DNA molecule if we weren’t driven by the desire to understand the foundation of evolution? Probably not.
Furthermore, Ms. Brunetta posits that everything from understanding the differences between cancer and normal genes to family history all depends upon a scientific foundation of evolution. She states that now we have genetic tests (arising from our knowledge of evolution) that can help determine which treatments are best for certain types of breast cancer, allowing some patients to forego chemotherapy.
What if we didn’t understand evolution? We wouldn’t understand that viruses evolve quickly in a population, so we have to adjust vaccination antigens. We wouldn’t understand how bacteria evolve in response to antibiotics. We wouldn’t understand the range of genetic diseases that afflict individuals. I could write for hours on everything in medicine (and just medicine) that depends on an appreciation, and acceptance, of the theory of evolution. I wonder what the creationists would say if we were to refuse them all procedures and techniques that use evolution (well, I know what the answer would be, that a supernatural being guided the research or something similar). Of course, the Hippocratic Oath would prevent physicians from implementing this policy.
I’ve contended that the anti-science (anti-evolution) push on the right wing is bad for the security and economy of the country. Let me add in healthcare to the consequences of this desire to push religious teaching in public schools.
Addendum: Ms Brunetta points out something about Charles Darwin that is always forgotten but is critical. He theorized evolution and natural selection with no knowledge of genetics and DNA (the cause of genetic drift). Amazing leap of intuition on his part.