Here is one of the most annoying questions asked on the internet – “Is Big Pharma hiding a secret cancer cure just to make bundles of money?” Seriously, I think a see a variation of that question every day on sites like Quora, where people ask occasional intuitive but mostly ridiculous questions to get answers from so-called experts.
Since I end up answering this question every day, I thought maybe I should put down my thoughts in an article here. It will allow me to cut and paste the answer right from here – a true sign of either extreme preparedness or laziness. Maybe both.
A recently published paper describes how regular consumption of hot chili peppers may decrease overall mortality risk plus decrease risks for cardiovascular events. So pour your favorite hot sauce (I have several that I love) on your pancakes and through extra habañero peppers into your favorite meals.
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.
As part of my ongoing series of articles that review interesting new studies, this week, I’m going to look at a new study that shows that fried food may be linked to increased risks of death from cardiovascular disease.
Now, some of you may be scratching your head and saying, “I’m sorry ye old feathered dinosaur, but tell me something I don’t know.” That’s the thing about science, we may think we know that eating a bucket of fried chicken or fish and chips is “bad” for you, but we can’t be sure until we have published studies that give us statistically powerful results.
Despite the beliefs by nearly everyone, including physicians, that fried food is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, studies have been inconclusive in establishing that link. A recent large prospective cohort study in Europe showed no link between fried food and coronary heart disease. The link between fried food and anything is hardly settled science, despite the conventional wisdom.
And since nearly 25-36% of Americans consume fast food, which presumably includes a lot of fried food, researchers wanted to reduce as many confounders as possible by narrowing the study group to women of a certain age.
I am an admitted coffee aficionado. I love the taste. I love the warmth. No, I don’t drink those maddening caramel strawberry double shot nonfat iced frappucinos – I like my coffee hot with a splash of cream and some very safe aspartame. Nevertheless, I’ve never thought much about coffee health advantages – it never seemed relevant to me.
I remember directing a clinical trial at a large teaching hospital in Seattle, WA back in the late 1980s, and there was a Starbucks kiosk in the lobby. I know most of you would think “what’s so great about that?” But, it was nearly 30 years ago, and Starbucks wasn’t a thing that it is today – I know some coffee snobs hate them, but 30 years ago, good coffee was unknown to most of the USA. Well, unless you lived in Seattle, apparently.
That kiosk started my love of coffee. I tried different coffee makers and methods of brewing coffee. Over the years, I’ve settled on a French press (as it is known in Canada and the USA, a coffee plunger in Australia and New Zealand, or a cafetière in France and the UK) for my coffee, which probably makes me a coffee snob.
In general, I’m unconvinced about fad diets, unless there is some really powerful published evidence in support. And those are rare. However, I think that there is some good evidence that the Mediterranean diet may be valuable to improving outcomes for several outcomes like cardiovascular diseases. Now we see that there is moderate evidence that the Mediterranean diet could add years to the life of the elderly.
Deaths attributed to vaccines are often not causally related. It may feel like one event that follows another event is related, which is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. There may not be any correlation, let alone causality, that would make us accept that vaccines kill.
Those of us who accept the fact that vaccines are very safe, and indeed, not really a risk for causing death, have found no evidence that there has been a single death attributed to vaccines over the past couple of decades. But that’s just examining the high quality scientific and medical literature, which may or may not be 100% inclusive of all post-vaccination mortality.
Now, I’ve always contended that there is no evidence that there has ever been a death attributed to vaccines. I never agreed with the old adage that “science can’t prove a negative,” but I do think that the burden of proof is on those making that claim. Where is the evidence of a link between vaccines and mortality? Sometimes, the absence of evidence can be evidence of absence, Carl Sagan’s claims notwithstanding, especially if we look very carefully for that evidence.
Let’s move on to this pivotal study in our understanding of whether vaccines kill. They don’t.
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.
It has been demonstrated that passively reported data, that is, data that isn’t actively investigated by trained researchers, cannot be used to assess causality. In an active investigation, it was found that only 2 of the 107 deaths had an autopsy performed, and most of the others had other underlying diseases and conditions that were causally related to the mortality events. Furthermore, 15 million people were vaccinated with the H1N1 seasonal vaccine, and it would be expected that there would be >8000 deaths during the 20 days after vaccination using a crude mortality rate in Japan. Though it would still be a misuse of statistics, there really is more evidence that the H1N1 vaccination lowered the background death rate from 8000 to 107 post vaccination. Continue reading “Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS”
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2014. It has been revised and updated to improve readability and correct and update some information
This is 2014. We have sent people to the moon. I can be in contact with people from Australia, Germany, Israel, or someone a few blocks away from me (whom I’ve never actually met in person) without stepping away from my computer. I can see photos of my lovely and brilliant daughters, without having to thumb through an album with fading Kodak photographs.
And you know what else? Our modern medicine can prevent measles: in 2000, it was declared non-endemic in the United States, meaning that there were no wild measles viruses floating around the USA. It was considered one of the great public health victories, along with eliminating smallpox and polio (almost, give it a year or so).
But now measles is coming back. In 2014, the United States is seeing the highest number of cases since 1994. It’s in the few hundreds at this point, but that’s way more than before and the trend is worrying. In the past years, Europe had seen tens of thousands of cases of measles, along with numerous hospitalizations and death. This is unnecessary suffering: we have an extremely effective and safe vaccine against measles. But like brakes, seatbelts, and bulletproof vests, it tends not to work as well if you don’t use it.
Thanks to anti-vaccine misinformation, the rate of vaccination against the measles has dropped slightly. Problematically, the decline in vaccination isn’t evenly distributed across the country, pockets of unvaccinated occur in various locations, where just a child who picks up the disease in a foreign country can quickly spread it through a community. Continue reading “This Papa is scared of the shmeasles measles”