84 posts · 134,761 views
The miscellaneous ramblings of a surgeon/scientist on medicine, quackery, science, pseudoscience, history, and pseudohistory (and anything else that interests him).
I don't know if I should thank Peter Lipson or condemn him.
What am I talking about? Yesterday, Peter sent me a brain-meltingly bad study in so-called "complementary and alternative medicine" that shows me just how bad a study can be and be accepted into what I used to consider a reasonably good journal. I say "used to consider," because the fact that this journal accepted a study this ludicrously bad indicates to me that peer review at the journal is so broken that I now wonder about what else........ Read more »
Jain, S., Pavlik, D., Distefan, J., Bruyere, R., Acer, J., Garcia, R., Coulter, I., Ives, J., Roesch, S., Jonas, W.... (2011) Complementary medicine for fatigue and cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors. Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26345
More than a week has passed, and I thought that this cup had passed from me, and I was glad. After all, if I analyzed every crap study done by anti-vaccine zealots to try to demonstrate that vaccines cause autism, I would have time for little else in terms of other kinds of that Insolence you all know and love. This particular study was released in late May and, at the time, I wasn't really in the mood to take it on; so I ignored it. But then wouldn't you know that the Autism Action Network woul........ Read more »
Delong G. (2011) A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the U.S. Population. Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A, 74(14), 903-16. PMID: 21623535
Let's face it, Dr. Andrew Weil is a rock star in the "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) and "integrative medicine" (IM) movement. He is one of its founders, at least a founder of the its most modern iteration, and I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who did more in the early days of the CAM/IM movement, back before it ever managed to achieve a modicum of unearned respectability, to popularize CAM. In fact, no physician that I can think of has over the course of his lifetime done mor........ Read more »
Shannon, S., Weil, A., & Kaplan, B. (2011) Medical Decision Making in Integrative Medicine: Safety, Efficacy, and Patient Preference. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 17(2), 84-91. DOI: 10.1089/act.2011.17210
One of the stranger Internet-based quackery phenomenons of the last decade is Morgellon's disease. This is a topic I haven't visited that much on this blog, its having last come up in a big way a little more than a year ago, when I discussed it in the context of Dr. Rolando Arafiles and the other quackery he was promoting. This led to extreme unhappiness on the part of self-proclaimed Morgellons disease "expert" Marc Neumann, who later bombarded me with threatening e-mail rants. In any case, wha........ Read more »
Hylwa, S., Bury, J., Davis, M., Pittelkow, M., & Bostwick, J. (2011) Delusional Infestation, Including Delusions of Parasitosis: Results of Histologic Examination of Skin Biopsy and Patient-Provided Skin Specimens. Archives of Dermatology. DOI: 10.1001/archdermatol.2011.114
The anti-vaccine movement is a frequent topic on this blog, sometimes to the point where it seems to take over the blog for days (or even weeks) at a time and I cry for respite. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which being that the anti-vaccine movement is one of the most dangerous forms of pseudoscience, a form of quackery that, unlike most forms of quackery, endangers those who do not partake of it by breaking down herd immunity and paving the way for the resurgence of ........ Read more »
Miller, N., & Goldman, G. (2011) Infant mortality rates regressed against number of vaccine doses routinely given: Is there a biochemical or synergistic toxicity?. Human . DOI: 10.1177/0960327111407644
In many ways, the anti-vaccine movement is highly mutable in many ways. However, this mutability is firmly based around keeping one thing constant. That one thing is vaccines. No matter what the evidence, no matter what the science, no matter how much observational, scientific, and epidemiological evidence is arrayed against them, to the relentlessly self-confident members of the anti-vaccine movement, it's always about the vaccines. Always. Vaccines are always the root many human health problem........ Read more »
Schmitz, R; Poethko-Müller, C; Reiter, S; Schlaud, M. (2011) Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents: Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS). Dtsch Arztebl Int, 108(7), 99-104. info:/
Why haven't we cured cancer yet?
If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we cure cancer?
If we can harness the atom, why can't we cure cancer?
How many times have you heard these questions, or variants thereof? How many times have you asked this question yourself? Sometimes, I even ask this question myself. Saturday was the two year anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law from a particularly nasty form of breast cancer, and, even though I am a breast cancer surgeon, I still wonder why........ Read more »
Berger, M., Lawrence, M., Demichelis, F., Drier, Y., Cibulskis, K., Sivachenko, A., Sboner, A., Esgueva, R., Pflueger, D., Sougnez, C.... (2011) The genomic complexity of primary human prostate cancer. Nature, 470(7333), 214-220. DOI: 10.1038/nature09744
If there's one thing that confounds advocates of so-called "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), it's the placebo effect. That's because, whenever most such remedies are studied using rigorous clinical trial design using properly constituted placebo controls, they almost always end up showing effects no greater than placebo effects. That's the main reason why they frequently suggest that, you know, all those rigorous, carefully constructed randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials ........ Read more »
Golomb BA, Erickson LC, Koperski S, Sack D, Enkin M, & Howick J. (2010) What's in placebos: who knows? Analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Annals of internal medicine, 153(8), 532-5. PMID: 20956710
Last week blew by me in a blur. Because I was in full grant writing frenzy to get an R01 in the can by Friday, pretty much anything that wasn't totally urgent got shoved aside, at least after Wednesday. Of course, it was last Wednesday that yet another mammography study was being touted as a "landmark" study. I had just enough time to look it over briefly and decide that I really should blog about it, particularly given that it came hot on the heels of a Norwegian study less than a week before t........ Read more »
Hellquist, B., Duffy, S., Abdsaleh, S., Björneld, L., Bordás, P., Tabár, L., Viták, B., Zackrisson, S., Nyström, L., & Jonsson, H. (2010) Effectiveness of population-based service screening with mammography for women ages 40 to 49 years. Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.25650
I hate to do this to Bora again. I really do. I'm also getting tired of blogging all these crappy acupuncture studies. I really am. However, sometimes a skeptic's gotta do what a skeptic's gotta do, and this is one of those times.
As you may recall, a mere week ago I was disturbed to have discovered the publication of a truly horrifically bad acupuncture study in PLoS ONE. It had all the hallmarks of quackademic medicine: an implausible hypothesis, trying to correlate mystical concepts of merid........ Read more »
Quah-Smith, I., Sachdev, P., Wen, W., Chen, X., & Williams, M. (2010) The Brain Effects of Laser Acupuncture in Healthy Individuals: An fMRI Investigation. PLoS ONE, 5(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012619
At the risk of once again irritating long time readers who've hear me say this before, I can't resist pointing out that, of all the various forms of "alternative medicine" other than herbal medicines (many of which are drugs, just adulterated, impure drugs), acupuncture was the one treatment that, or so I thought, might actually have a real therapeutic effect. Don't get me wrong; I never bought magical mystical mumbo-jumbo about "meridians" and "unblocking the flow of qi" (that magical mystical ........ Read more »
Suarez-Almazor, M., Looney, C., Liu, Y., Cox, V., Pietz, K., Marcus, D., & Street, R. (2010) A Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee: Effects of patient-provider communication. Arthritis Care . DOI: 10.1002/acr.20225
I hate science press releases.
Well, not exactly. I hate science press releases that hype a study beyond its importance. I hate it even more when the investigators who published the study make statements not justified by the study and use the study as a jumping off point to speculate wildly. True, it's not always the fault of the investigators, particularly if they don't have much experience dealing with the press, but all too often scientists fall prey to the tendency to gab glibly and give th........ Read more »
Liu, H., Huang, D., McArthur, D., Boros, L., Nissen, N., & Heaney, A. (2010) Fructose Induces Transketolase Flux to Promote Pancreatic Cancer Growth. Cancer Research, 70(15), 6368-6376. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-4615
June is almost over. If you work in an academic medical center, as I do, that can mean only one thing.
The new interns are coming, and existing residents will soon be advancing to the next level. The joy! The excitement! The trepidation! And it's not all just the senior residents and the faculty feeling these emotions. It's the patients too. At least, it's the patients feeling the trepidation. The reason is the longstanding belief in academic medical centers, a belief that has diffused out of t........ Read more »
Phillips, D., & Barker, G. (2010) A July Spike in Fatal Medication Errors: A Possible Effect of New Medical Residents. Journal of General Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-010-1356-3
I wonder what the loons at Age of Autism will say about this.
Actually, I know what they'll say. Whenever a scientific study like the one just published earlier this week the top tier journal Nature, which examines genetic variations (CNVs) associated with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), comes out, they have a standard reply. Even though, as of this writing, I haven't seen yet seen a reply on the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism to the study I'm about to describe, I'm sure it'........ Read more »
Pinto, D., Pagnamenta, A., Klei, L., Anney, R., Merico, D., Regan, R., Conroy, J., Magalhaes, T., Correia, C., Abrahams, B.... (2010) Functional impact of global rare copy number variation in autism spectrum disorders. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature09146
Let's see. Now that I'm back from Chicago, having recently attended a major cancer meeting, not to mention having already blogged about the meeting, what to do next? Sure, the whole thing about Andrew Wakefield finding himself just one step away from appearing on Jeff Rense's or Alex Jones's radio show was amusing in the extreme to me, and no doubt there will be much more blogging material to mine in that vein, but if you really want to bring home the crazy there's only one place shy of Whale.to........ Read more »
Rituparna Mukhopadhyay, Sylvain V Costes, Alexey V Bazarov, William C Hines, Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, & Paul Yaswen. (2010) Promotion of variant human mammary epithelial cell outgrowth by ionizing radiation: an agent-based model supported by in vitro studies. Breast Cancer Research, 12(1). info:/10.1186/bcr2477
Of all the "alternative" therapies out there, arguably the most studied is the modality known as acupuncture. Perhaps the reason is that, unlike homeopathy, which based on physics, chemistry, and biology alone is so implausible that, for it to "work," huge swaths of well-established physics and chemistry would have to be shown to be not just wrong but extravagantly and outrageously wrong (making homeopathy far more akin to magic than science), or reiki, which, when you come right down to it, is ........ Read more »
Goldman, N., Chen, M., Fujita, T., Xu, Q., Peng, W., Liu, W., Jensen, T., Pei, Y., Wang, F., Han, X.... (2010) Adenosine A1 receptors mediate local anti-nociceptive effects of acupuncture. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn.2562
Regular readers know that I have a tendency every so often to whine about when writing about the antics of the anti-vaccine movement seems to engulf this blog. Yes, it's true. Every so often I get really, really tired of the bad science, pseudoscience, magical thinking, misinformation, and even outright lies that emanate from various anti-vaccine websites and blogs. This week, I promised myself I would try not to do it. There are times when duty calls, and this is one of those times. For better ........ Read more »
Michael J. Smith, MD, MSCE, Charles R. Woods, MD, MS. (2010) On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes. Pediatrics. info:/
Here we go again.
I've written a few times before about the controversy over whether cell phones (a.k.a. mobile phones in most of the rest of the world) cause brain cancer, concluding on more than one occasion that the evidence does not support a link. For example, there has not been a large increase in brain cancer or other cancers claimed to be due to cell phone radiation in the 15 to 20 years since the use of cell phones took off back in the 1990s, nor has any study shown a convincing correl........ Read more »
, . (2010) Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. International Journal of Epidemiology. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyq079
Late last week, a crank I hadn't heard from in a while showed up in my comments. I'm referring to DaveScot, who normally was known for promoting anti-evolution rhetoric in the service of the pseudoscience known as "intelligent design" creationism. This is what he said:
terrasig suggested you do a followup article on dichloroacetate (DCA) given the paper just published on the phase 1 trial in Edmonton.
Three years have passed and countless cancer patients were denied this drug. Now at........ Read more »
Michelakis, E., Sutendra, G., Dromparis, P., Webster, L., Haromy, A., Niven, E., Maguire, C., Gammer, T., Mackey, J., Fulton, D.... (2010) Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate. Science Translational Medicine, 2(31), 31-31. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000677
"I don't want knowledge. I want certainty!"--David Bowie, from Law (Earthlings on Fire)
If there's one universal trait among humans, it seems to be an unquenchable thirst for certainty. This should come as no surprise to those committed to science and rational thinking because there is a profound conflict between our human desire for certainty and the uncertainty of scientific knowledge. The reason is that the conclusions of science are always provisional. They are always subject to change base........ Read more »
Munro, G. (2010) The Scientific Impotence Excuse:ï¿½Discounting Belief-Threatening Scientific Abstracts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(3), 579-600. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00588.x
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