Category Archives: Cancer

A salve for a tumour

This article plumbs new depths, even for WDDTY.

Let’s look at the infobox for a second.

The essential points

DO:

  • Work with a qualified practitioner who has his own reliable source of Black Salve
  • Use it sparingly and make sure any wound that remains is properly and hygienically treated
  • Anticipate excruciating pain and long periods of exhaustion and incapacity, when work may not be possible
  • Make sure you have the full support of family and friends. If the growth is on the back of the body, you’ll need someone prepared to apply the salve who isn’t squeamish.

DON’T:

  • Buy the salve off the internet or attempt to self-medicate without the guidance of a regulated and qualified health practitioner

  • Start salve therapy without having your eyes fully open: read and research, and become a Black Salve expert before you start

  • Use Black SaIve if you have diabetes or poor circulation

  • Start unless you have a powerful and effective pain reliever  available.

Got the message? It’s excruciatingly painful (because it is BURNING YOUR SKIN, Jesus, how dumb are you people?). You must not be squeamish, because it’s BURNING YOUR SKIN and that is messy as well as incredibly painful. Even the Daily Mail recommends against it.

Go to a qualified, registered and regulated health professional? That is spectacularly delusional. Any regulated health professional in the UK found using black salve would be unregulated pretty damned quickly.

Still, as Michael Baum said, you wouldn’t want to consult a fake charlatan would you?

There’s a genuine question here: if anybody follows the WDDTY advice and ends up scarred, as so many users do, would they sue?

As the article meanders on it throws up some gems:

It was while reading WDDTY that Dave came across an article about Phil and Rosa Hughes and their ‘alternative’ cancer-screening clinic, which was close to his home. They offer a technology called ‘thermography’, a less invasive and more sensitive alternative to mammography…

Thermography is not approved for cancer screening, for the rather obvious reason that it doesn’t work. Tests how it misses 75% of cancers. It’s Russian roulette with five barrels loaded. The Hughes’ website claim that thermography is “medically approved”, conveniently forgetting to mention that it is not medically approved, or effective, for breast screening.

What is quite interesting is that the patient, Dave, had received chemotherapy as a child for brain cancer. His visceral rejection of chemo when a tumour was diagnosed near the base of his spine – his fourth cancer diagnosis, incredibly – was based on this experience. Presumably he did not listen when the doctors told him of the advances in chemo in recent years, and the fact that not all chemotherapies are equal. So he “read books” (safe to assume they were not reality-based), studied WDDTY (BAD idea!) and went to the Gerson clinic (substantially worse idea). You have to wonder why these so-called “doctors” bother with five years of university followed by up to ten years of postgraduate work to become qualified, when they could just read some shit off the internet and become experts overnight.

What a shame that in all that reading he never encountered anything on confirmation bias.

In the pages of WDDTY he found an advertisement (possibly masquerading as an article) for Phil and Rosa Hughes’ “alternative” cancer screening clinic. Why he wanted alternative screening is a mystery since he already had a diagnosis.

The article claims in a callout that Rosa had “reversed her breast cancer through diet and lifestyle changes”.  Where have we heard that before? As it turns out, Rosa refused a biopsy, so she (and WDDTY) have no idea whether she actually had cancer or not. This is not a small matter: a lot of the patients used by quacks as success stories turn out never to have had biopsy confirmed disease. WDDTY seem to think that people who reject evidence-based diagnosis and treatment are making a bold and excellent choice, yet time after time they reveal that the choice is influenced by charlatans selling snake oil, in this case someone selling breast thermography services. Breast thermography is wrong in about 3/4 of cases, according to current evidence.

Worryingly, only one of the people at the Hughes’ clinic has any medical qualifications at all: a registered nurse. Phil Hughes is a “registered homeopath”, so is not just medically unqualified, in fact pretty much everything he thinks he knows about health and disease is provably wrong.

Following surgery to excise the tumour and his rejection of adjuvant chemotherapy, Dave adopts a standard-for-quackery restrictive diet, in this case vegan and dairy-free. The tumour, unsurprisingly, returns (cancer, unlike cancer patients, is not easily fooled by the blandishments of diet shills).

Dave decides on black salve. Because, you know, reasons.

A callout says:

Don’t buy just any salve off the internet, and don’t try to self medicate without seeing a qualified therapist

Qualified? How can you be qualified in batshit insane treatments? And if it’s not safe to buy any old black salve off the internet, how come it was safe to take any old shit off the internet as advice? Nobody, literally nobody, with any actual knowledge of cancer, will prescribe this stuff. WDDTY present Mohs surgery as if it validates the claims, but fails to note that Mohs excised the tissue surgically after 24 hours, rather than continuing to use the caustic paste as the sole or primary treatment. If anything the history of Mohs surgery refutes the claims of black salve advocates, since the salve is no longer used in clinical practice.

Eventually, he found a herbalist, whose clinic was fairly close to his home, who was prepared to see him and treat him with Black Salve. (The herbalist doesn’t wish to be named.)

If I was a medically unqualified “alternative” practitioner treating cancer patients with a dangerous and implausible treatment I probably wouldn’t want to be named either.

The herbalist admits he has never treated a sarcoma before, states that this is the biggest cancer he’s ever treated, but nonetheless gives a confident estimate that it will take 14 days for black salve to “expel” the tumour from the body. You have to love the confidence of ignorance.

The treatment was so painful that Dave passed out several times, he lost four stone in weight, and felt cold most of the time (presumably due to anaemia). That sounds a lot worse than chemo to me, but of course cognitive dissonance would never permit Dave to think this.

Black salve is dangerous. Really dangerous. It’s a caustic. Yes, it might be able to remove cancerous tissue, but it is indiscriminate and will take out everything else as well. Most importantly Dave’s tumour has already regrown once, and there’s no reason to think that it will not regrow again. By speaking to him so soon after treatment WDDTY risks presenting someone with a hidden malignancy as “cured” in order to promote a particularly barbaric form of cancer quackery.

What McTaggart really “thinks” about cancer

Incredibly, what goes into WDDTY appears actually to be a watered down version of the confused mess that lives inside Lynne McTaggart’s head.

This blog post on lynnemctaggart.com shines a light on the tortuous and bizarre reasoning she uses in daily life.  Read on, and be very afraid: people like this are actually believed and trusted by a not insignificant proportion of the population.

Susan Sontag memorably coined the term ‘Illness is metaphor,’ which always had a ring of truth to me. We get the diseases that are a metaphoric representation of some struggle in our lives. But it’s also true that there is such a thing as ‘treatment is metaphor,’ and nowhere more so than with the treatment of cancer.

None of that makes any sense at all. Cancer is not a metaphoric representation of anything, it’s a bastard killer disease. It’s not karmic destiny, it’s a combination of bad luck and bad behaviour, the proportion being highly dependent on the individual. Smokers very often get lung cancer and non-smokers don’t, but something like a brain tumour is largely down to the great cosmic crapshoot.

And treatment is not a metaphor in any meaningful sense. Well, real treatment isn’t, anyway, it’s hard to speak for the fake treatments McTaggart advocates, because so many of them are simply insane.

The reason we’re losing the War on Cancer (and we are indeed losing it, despite the bluster of governments, the media and the American Cancer Society) has to do with the metaphors we use to describe both the disease and the cure.

There is no “war on cancerW” any more than there is a “war on terrorW”. You can’t send in the Marines and expect to eliminate the inevitable consequence of random mutation, the evolutionary mechanism that gives rise to life in the first place.

The “war on cancer” is a political term coined in the white heat of the technological revolution by that most trusted of historical figures, Richard Millhouse Nixon. It was an admittedly striking phrase used to justify the earmarking of Federal funds towards cancer research.

In the real world (admittedly terra incognitaW to WDDTY) cancer is not a single disease. Some cancers are in rapid retreat – childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma is now curable in the great majority of cases – others (indolent prostate cancer being the best known example) are contained to the point where most patients will die of something else. And some are still almost as deadly today as they were a thousand years ago.

Recently a batch of researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that different metaphors change the way in which people view the disease and choose to treat it.

This we know. Quacks persuade people to view cancer as something other than what it is. Robert O. YoungW, for example, portrayed cancer as a response to an acidified body, and persuaded Oprah that he could cure it. The index patient, Kim Tinkham, died, of course.

There has been extensive research on the effect of mindfulness and positive thinking on cancer outcomes. The short summary is that it makes no difference.

Since 1971, when Richard Nixon famously declared ‘War on Cancer’ in 1971 our current metaphor for cancer – a war to be fought, an impossible enemy to vanquish – has skewed the way we see the disease and how we choose to treat it.

That may be true in the bubble world of “alternative” believers, but it is absolutely not a reflection of current medical thinking. Surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski discusses this quite often.

The ‘war’ and battle imagery sets in the public and medical mind the notion that this is an impossibly wily enemy. Full-on attacks by alien invaders require desperate measures – the most lethal chemical combo that medicine has to offer – which is largely why doctors have a difficult time believing that something gentle and simple like changing your diet or taking a a herb or two could overcome an enemy this ferocious.

Really? The tabloids routinely portray cancer as a “battle”, but that’s not how oncologists view it. You might want to read the views of doctor (and terminal cancer patient) Kate Granger on the subject.

Quacks certainly tend to a simplistic view of cancer, hence their fixation on chemotherapy, but that is not how it’s viewed by real doctors and medical scientists.

This week, I edited two stories we’ll be running in the next issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, which address the fallacy of this metaphor and why it has fuelled a (in the US) $100 billion failure known as Cancer Inc.

When you say “known as”, you actually mean “described by profiteering quacks as”. Nobody actually calls it “cancer, inc.” unless they are flogging worthless alternatives. That is straight-up conspiracist claptrap.

Now, the American medical system is pretty badly broken. It’s fine if you’re in work, rich and not terminally or chronically ill, but if you fall outside that box you can be in deep trouble. Medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US. But that’s the fault of politics, not medicine: American medical research is some of the best in the world, and American medical treatment is also superb – if you can afford it.

Here in the UK, we have care that’s nearly as good and it costs about a third as much, as a share of national income. And it’s free at the point of delivery.

As to being a “failure”, you might want to take that up with the people who are on the winning side of the equation. 5 year survival for cancer has doubled since the 1970s, and now stands at greater than 50%. You might choose to call that a failure, but many people don’t.

Several years ago, the great and the good among oncologists and cancer researcher met behind closed doors in Switzerland to answer the hard problem of how we were doing in this particular battle.

Their concensus (sic) was published in a 5000 words report in the Lancet last year (Lancet, 2014; 383: 558–63). Are we winning, they asked. Answer, unqualified no.

Sure. Cancer is a bastard. Nobody denies it (except quacks selling simplistic magic bullet fake cures).

‘Despite the introduction of hundreds of new anti-cancer drugs, including advanced therapies (so-called magic bullets) aimed at particular weapons in the enemy’s armamentarium, the consensus was that, for most forms of cancer, enduring disease-free responses are rare, and cures even rarer,’ they wrote.

Indeed. Now ask people if they would rather survive 5 years, 10 years or whatever, or simply die of the disease there and then.

Cancer is a bastard. Keeping the tiger in the cage for a few years is a worthwhile outcome.

You’d never know any of this if you talked to the average oncologist. Most would talk of the great strides made in chemotherapy, the new drugs, the new combinations of treatments. But the measure of how much this constitutes the treatment of desperation is in the language used – “rescue” therapies, “salvage” operations – and also the types of treatments being resorted to, such as last-ditch attempts to restore blood formation in patients who have undergone murderously high chemotherapy.

I don’t think Lynne McTaggart has ever talked to an oncologist. The fixation on chemotherapy aside, most of the great strides in chemo have been in reducing the side effects and in qualifying where it might not be needed at all.

Do you really think that language like “murderous” is helpful?

Here’s what happens to cancer patients who don’t undergo medical treatment: they die. Some die sooner and some die later, but they die. Cancer is a bastard.

We also know, because it’s been studied, that people who believe in the sort of alternative claptrap promoted by WDDTY die sooner. They believe they will live longer, they believe they are better off, but they present later, with more advanced disease, because quacks don’t diagnose properly and even if they do they try quackery first – and even after that is taken into account, they still die sooner.

The evidence is clear: a reality-based oncologist is a better bet than a quack.

Cancer specialists who continue to believe that they are only just a protocol away from finding the cure often forget the patient in their zeal to blast out every last cancer cell. Not long ago one doctor returned from an autopsy with the proud announcement that his patient, who’d had widespread, disseminated cancer, had died “cancer free.” What he neglected to admit was that the patient didn’t die of cancer. It was the lung disease induced by chemotherapy that killed him.

That’s a straw man. I know of nobody who believes that we are “one protocol away” from a cure. There may well be people who behave as McTaggart asserts, but it’s certainly not representative.

Cancer patients are usually desperate to live. That’s why they need especial protection from quacks. Oncologists will very often tell them that there is only a small chance that heroic treatment will save them, but they will try it anyway. A few will indeed die from the side effects of chemotherapy, and cranks and charlatans will portray this as their having been killed by the doctors, forgetting that the alternative was certain death.

That’s why we have laws mandating informed consent, and why the toxic mix of quackery and disinformation from the likes of WDDTY is so very dangerous, because it leads to people making wrong choices.

And that’s the problem. New evidence has emerged (and we’ll be reporting on all the chapter and verse) that the weapons we’re using, like chemo and radiotherapy, are weapons of mass destruction, breeding cancer stem cells, and causing it to spread.

cellsI’ll hazard a guess here that this is cells in a petri dish.

Remember: 5-year survival has doubled since the 1970s. McTaggart promotes the Nirvana fallacyW, the idea that anything less than 100% cure is the same as 100% failure, but the evidence unambiguously shows that medicine is doing something right.

In some cancers. For some patients. The difficult bit is always knowing which, especially in advance.

It’s not necessary to view cancer as a battle to be won. Consider the case of Morty Lefkoe. Morty is 77 years old, and last year was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was going to have it surgically removed, but a last scan the morning of his surgery revealed that the cancer had spread to his liver. It was too late to operate. The only recourse to him, said his doctor, was 18 courses of strong chemo, but his survival chances were just 6 per cent.

Whoop! Whoop! Anecdote Alert! Whoop! Whoop!

Morty rejected the entire war metaphor. For him, it was not a life and death battle. And by rejecting the metaphor, he got on with the business of changing his diet and lifestyle. He became cancer-free in 99 days.

{{citation needed}}

If it really was that simple, do you think people would have been dying of cancer for millennia? Seriously?

I think Lynne may be guilty of believing the hype.

There are rare cases of spontaneous remission. There are much less rare cases of people who claim to be cancer-free, but are simply deluding themselves (or, much worse, being deluded by quacks).

The medical spin doctors have been particularly slick, instilling in the collective public mind a sense that we are winning the war.

Except that it is not a war and they are brutally honest about survival rates, the success rates of different treatments and the balance of risk and benefit – something that cannot be said of the quacks who prey on the narrative spun by the likes of WDDTY.

It’s time to admit their deception: in the main, the battle mentality, no matter how many drugs or how high the dosage, doesn’t really work. And once we all admit that, we can go forward.

What McTaggart actually means here is that we should abandon the treatments towards which she bears an almost visceral ideological hatred and march steadfastly back into the 19th Century when a cancer diagnosis meant certain painful death.

The battle mentality is primarily the rhetoric of non-doctors. If you have questions about cancer, ask a reputable physician, not a quack or a charlatan. If you want people to stop portraying cancer as a battle, start by writing to the Daily Mail.

Most cancers are just down to ‘bad luck’, say scientists

How could WDDTY resist this one? For once, they are not the most misleading story about this study, Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions, Tomasetti & Vogelstein, Science 2 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6217 pp. 78-81.

The abstract states:

Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells. This is important not only for understanding the disease but also for designing strategies to limit the mortality it causes.

The body of the paper contains considerable additional information. Luckily, Adam Jacobs has written a great blog post describing exactly what it does mean.

So, what does WDDTY say?

Around 60 per cent of cancers are just down to ‘bad luck’—and have little to do with genetics or lifestyle, researchers have claimed.  Instead, they happen because of random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide.

That’s not what the researchers say. All cancers are down to mutations in DNA, in the end; the point of the study is that these are most likely in those areas where cells are dividing most quickly. Which is hardly surprising. Or, as Adam Jacobs describes it:

They found a very strong correlation between those two quantities: tissues in which stem cells divided frequently (eg the colon) were more likely to develop cancer than tissues in which stem cell division was less frequent (eg the brain).

The correlation was so strong, in fact, that it explained two thirds of the variation among different tissue types in their cancer incidence. The authors argue that because mutations that can lead to cancer can occur during stem cell division purely by chance, that means that two thirds of the variation in cancer risk is due to bad luck.

Which is the source of the “two thirds” claim.

Only six major cancers were more likely to be caused by environmental and dietary factors, and these include skin, throat, thyroid, lung, liver and colon cancers, say researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre. But even some of these could be more down to ‘bad luck’, such as lung cancer in the non-smoker.

And as you wrote that, you should have realised that something was wrong in your understanding of the paper, because the correlation between smoking and lung cancer is vastly stronger than one in three. In fact, 80-90% of lung cancers occur in people who have smoked long-term, and of the remainder, most are in people exposed to radon, asbestos or other pollution.

This is quite easy to check. As is the fact that around 70% of cervical cancers are caused by just two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV).

In fact, the study is only explaining the variation in risk from one tissue to another. It doesn’t address the extent to which modifiable risk factors affect that risk. Essentially, it explains why some smokers get cancer and others don’t, but it absolutely does not prove that it’s just bad luck when smokers get cancer: it’s caused by smoking.

However, their discoveries don’t give people a licence to embrace unhealthy lifestyles, they say. A bad lifestyle can add to the ‘bad luck’ factor.

Correct – as the tobacco example shows, their study does not really address that question.

Nonetheless, a healthy diet will have less influence on two-thirds of cancers that are more likely to occur in tissues where there is more frequent division of stem cells in tissues.  Cancer arises when tissue-specific stem cells make random mistakes, the researchers say.

I am not sure you can draw that conclusion, but it’s reassuring to see that WDDTY now intends to drop its incessant stream of fatuous stories claiming that this or that food gives you cancer, and the other prevents it.

We’ll keep an eye on how well they do with that.

The power of recycling

Shortlink: http://is.gd/drinkpiss

A forthcoming article for the January 2015 issue is billed thus in Dec 2014:

lt sounds impossible, but besides a long history of use in  India, urine therapy has growing evidence of success in all manner
of conditions, from skin cancer to peptic ulcers. Cate Montana
separates fact from fiction.

Spoiler alert: no evidence, growing or otherwise, is provided, and if Cate Montana does indeed separate fact from fiction then the fact was sent to the shredder and only the fiction published.

It’s a twofer, released in advance on the electric internets: one article followed on the website by another. The implication is that this is one of their one story in a box in the other efforts.

In addition to credulously parrotting the claims of people profiting from a quack treatment, the first article cites only one source, which not only doesn’t support the content of the article, it actually contradicts the only claim to which it is relevant!

Any clinical evidence for this is currently non-existent

That’s unusually poor even for WDDTY.

If you can get past the ‘yuck’ factor, urine therapy has growing evidence as an effective treatment for everything from colds to cancer.

For some values of growing. And indeed evidence. Sometimes our job would be made much easier if only there was an online reference that analysed quack health claims. What’s that you say? There isContinue reading The power of recycling

Vasectomy raises prostate cancer risk by 10 per cent

Some issues in medicine are complex – sufficiently complex that they actively invite Mencken’s famous expression: for every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong.

Other things are relatively straightforward. This October 2014 story on prostate cancer risk is straightforward, but that doesn’t stop WDDTY turning it into an alarmist anti-medicine dog’s breakfast.

Men who have had a vasectomy are more likely to develop prostate cancer and particularly the more aggressive form that’s likely to kill.

Or, to summarise as the authors did:

Our data support the hypothesis that vasectomy is associated with a modest increased incidence of lethal prostate cancer. The results do not appear to be due to detection bias, and confounding by infections or cancer treatment is unlikely.

Support the hypothesis. This is not proof of a causal link, but it is plausible. One paragraph in, then, and WDDTY have talked up “a modest increase” in a context of “conflicting reports”.

The procedure increases overall risk by 10 per cent, and the chances of developing an advanced or lethal form are even higher-compared with the general population-with an up to 20 per cent increased risk.

This is where WDDTY engages in one of its signature tactics. The paper discusses the relative risk. The difference between relative and absolute risk is very straightforward. Let’s say that you’re going to walk to the shops. You have, say, a one in a billion chance of being run over. However, on icy days, your chances of being run over are doubled, to one in half a billion. A large increase in a tiny risk is still a tiny risk. Or, to use the language of the authors, modest.

In this study, WDDTY tell us that you are 10% more likely to die of prostate cancer after a vasectomy. But the risk of lethal prostate cancer in this cohort is 1.6% : your chances of getting lethal prostate cancer (where the risk ratio is actually 1.19, not 1.1 as WDDTY simplistically state) is actually less than half a percentage point greater.

Not quite so scary now, is it?

The greatest risk was among men who had a vasectomy at a younger age of 38 or so, say researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, who analyzed the health of 49,405 men over a 24-year period. In that time, 6,023 men developed prostate cancer and a quarter of those had had a vasectomy.

Again, the number developing prostate cancer sounds scary, but you have to put this in the context that current medical thinking is that any man who lives long enough, will probably have prostate cancer. Most men with prostate cancer die with it, not of it: they actually die of something unrelated.

Vasectomy is one of the most popular forms of male contraception in the US and UK, with around 15 per cent of men undergoing the procedure.

It is indeed. It is popular because it works, and because it is unobtrusive and allows women to stop taking the Pill, which has a higher failure rate and some side effects.

WDDTY, in its reliably inconsistent  hatred of all things medical, also fulminates against the Pill. Indeed, the same issue includes a story claiming that the Pill increases risk of breast cancer threefold.

Perhaps the editors subscribe to the idea of abstinence as contraception? The evidence is that this does not work. Or maybe they are Catholics. The evidence shows that the rhythm method is one of the least effective.

In fact, vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of contraception available. Any judgement based on the balance of risk v. benefit is likely to be favourable to vasectomy.

J Cl in Oncol, 2014; doi: 10.1200/JCO 2013.54.8446

Contraceptive pills increase breast cancer risk threefold

Bad news, girls. WDDTY wants you pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen (albeit preparing raw food and none of those evil tomatoes). McTaggart is probably religious and has appeared on media promoting “sacred stewardship“, so this is not much of a surprise.

October 2014’s issue contains two pieces fulminating against two of the most effective forms of contraception. vasectomy and the Pill.

This article is based on a paper in Cancer Research, thus qualifying as something doctors do tell you.

Birth control pills high in oestrogen increase the risk of breast cancer by nearly three times. The risk seems to be highest in women who have only recently started taking the Pill and during the first 12 months of taking it, say researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

This is another case of abuse of risk ratios. The risk of breast cancer among all women in the cohort is not easy to compute form the abstract data, as the study looks only at those women diagnosed with cancer. Cohort risk then is not known, but the average lifetime risk of breast cancer in the US is currently stated to be 12.4% – this is high enough that a small percentage change in risk may be significant in absolute, not just relative terms.

The study finds that the relative risk varies from zero for some formulations, to 2.7 for the high dose oestrogen pill.

If only there were a thoroughly researched analysis available online to help unpick this complex issue. What’s that, you say? There is? I wonder why WDDTY did not bother reading this.

A large analysis of most of the studies carried out worldwide into oral contraceptives (the pill) and the risk of breast cancer, showed that women using the pill have a slight but significant increase in breast cancer risk. But the evidence suggests that the risk starts to drop once you stop taking the pill and 10 years after you stop your risk of breast cancer is back to normal.

There’s also a small increase in cervical cancer risk but this is vulnerable to confounding by levels of sexual activity. However:

The combined contraceptive pill protects you against ovarian cancer. This is particularly important if you have ovarian cancer in your family. The protection comes from the pill suppressing hormones that naturally stimulate the ovaries. It seems that the longer you take the pill, the lower your risk of ovarian cancer.

And the same goes for cancer of the uterus and the bowel.

So the reality-based take on it is:

The pill does increase the risk of some cancers, but lowers the risk of others. Any increase in cancer risk from taking the pill seems to go back to normal once you stop taking it.

Odd that WDDTY did not say this, since it’s undoubtedly what their readers need to know.

The risk is highest for high-dose oestrogen pills, which increase the risk of breast cancer by 2.7 times, while moderate-dose oestrogen ones raise the risk 1.6 times. Pills containing ethynodiol diacetate are also dangerous, raising the risk 2.6 times.

Not three times, as WDDTY says (amazing, talking up the risks, that has literally never happened in every single WDDTY story about non-quack treatments ) but not far short for one type of Pill.

High dose oestrogen is not the most common form of the Pill – in fact the most common is one of the low risk types discussed in the article (Boots has a really good comparison of Pill formulations).

All Pills are not equal. And WDDTY makes this clear in the article headline doesn’t it? Oh, wait, no, it implies the exact opposite.

In an analysis of 1,102 women who had developed breast cancer, the researchers found that most had only recently started taking the Pill, and had been using it for less than a year. Recent use increased the cancer risk by 50 per cent, irrespective of the type of contraceptive pill used.

Do you see the bit where they mention the fact that risk declines once you stop taking it? No, neither do I.

So as usual, WDDTY has engaged in scaremongering and missed an opportunity to leave its readers actually better informed about a relatively complex issue.

One can only speculate on which alternative the editors think women should use. Homeopathy, perhaps?

GcMAF: The superhero for your health problem?

WDDTY present GcMAF as a medical miracle, curing cancer, AIDS and autism, and claim that it is being aggressively suppressed and its proponents attacked by “pharma-funded” groups. They rely entirely on information provided by a company illegally selling treatment based on GcMAF, and in particular Marco Ruggiero, an officer of that company who is also an AIDS denialist.

To boost the claimed credibility of Ruggiero they invoke the support of AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg and homeopathy believer Luc Montagnier – in reality, associations which substantially weaken any claim to legitimacy.

WDDTY loves to tell readers to “follow the money”. This article shows that they do not even pay lip service to this when the content fits with their anti-science agenda.

Betteridge’s Law of HeadlinesW states: Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word No. This is probably the fundamental law of misleading health journalism, most especially the perennially unreliable Daily Mail and of course most of all WDDTY.

November 2014 coverNovember 2014’s front page splash was a perfect example: GcMAF: The superhero for your health problem?

The story itself is a classic piece of WDDTY, combining conspiracist claptrap, the self-serving claims of charlatans, anecdotes masquerading as data and presenting GcMAF as the One True Cure™. As Marvin might say: “Oh no, not another one”. Continue reading GcMAF: The superhero for your health problem?

Quack reports Cancer Research UK over “false” information. Hilarity ensues.

Please see the update at the foot of the page.

We’re grateful to WDDTY for bringing us this gem:

The UK’s major cancer charity, Cancer Research UK, has been reported to the Metropolitan Police for being in breach of a recent law for “knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information”.

Note to quacks: information does not become false just because you don’t like it, any more than it becomes true because you do like it.

Patrick Rattigan, a naturopath and herbalist, has reported the charity to the Metropolitan Police’s charities investigation unit under the 2011 Charities Act.

We will bank that contact information, see below.

He argues that the charity has persistently misled the public over claims that cancer is being beaten and that orthodox treatments are effective. He questions statements such as: “Thousands of people are now beating cancer every year. This is mainly because of better treatments, screening and early diagnosis.”

Why would CRUK claim such a thing?

It’s not as if cancer survival rates have doubled since the 1970s or anything. Oh, wait

Mr Rattigan says statements such as this are “false and misleading”, and from an organisation that “can announce whatever it chooses without having to provide any evidence”.

He says the charity is out of the reach of the Charities Commission, medicine’s regulatory bodies, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), but it has fallen foul of the Charities Act, and specifically section 60 (I) (b), which barsUpdate charities from making “knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information”.

Well well. Apparently a charity is in breach of the Act if it “knowingly or recklessly” provides false or misleading information. That might be bad news for Yes To Life, CancerACTIVE, the Maun Homeopathy Project and a number of other old friends. Watch this space…

Update

Astoundingly,* it turns out that the quack is not just barking, he is barking up entirely the wrong tree. The provision in the Act is:

60 Supply of false or misleading information to Commission etc.
(1) It is an offence for a person knowingly or recklessly to provide the Commission [emphasis added] with information which is false or misleading in a material particular if the information is provided—
(a) in purported compliance with a requirement imposed by or under this Act, or
(b) otherwise than as mentioned in paragraph (a) but in circumstances in which the person providing the information—
(i) intends, or
(ii) could reasonably be expected to know, that it would be used by the Commission for the purpose of discharging its functions under this Act.

So, the act is fine with your public purpose being advocacy for the commercial interests of the officers and trustees (Homeopathy Action Trust), the publication of grossly misleading information about cancer and the promotion of your founder’s public speaking career (CancerACTIVE) or preying on the desperately ill (Maun Homeopathy Project), as long as you don’t lie to the Commission.

* No, not really.

WDDTY, Kingsley and cancer – A vital report that’s a gift for you

This has just landed in my email inbox:

A vital report that’s a gift for you from WDDTY

The campaign to get What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) banned in stores across the UK is relentless.

A small group of pharma-supported trolls just don’t want you to read vital information about your health; bad for their paymaster’s pockets no doubt.
But sometimes the information is so important that we want you to have it.  Our July issue featured the extraordinary work of Dr Patrick Kingsley, who explains the six major causes of cancer (and most aren’t the obvious ones).  You can download the whole issue here:

I removed the link for the download, since it’s only valid for 72 hours. Yes, I downloaded the pdf. Yes, it will be passed around for gleeful evisceration. The rest of the email was yet another attempt to attract subscribers, so I left it out as well; if you subscribe to WDDTY emails, you’ll get reduced-price subscription offers impressively often, so it would be a waste of space printing it here. In any case, the points I wanted to address are in the four relatively short sentences reproduced above. Let’s be having them:

The campaign to get What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) banned in stores across the UK is relentless.

Uh-huh. It’s already been pointed out many, many times to the Great McTaggart that nobody is seeking to ban WDDTY. All that has been asked is that supermarkets and newsagents cease stocking it until such time as the editorial team clean up their act and stop presenting half-truths and whole lies as incontrovertible fact.

A small group of pharma-supported trolls just don’t want you to read vital information about your health; bad for their paymaster’s pockets no doubt.

Interesting. Now this was in an email sent out to subscribers: i.e. a public list. Wisely (for once) she doesn’t name the alleged “pharma-supported trolls”. Unfortunately, McTaggart has already named and given the home and/or work addresses of people she believes to be skeptics who have been part of the campaign. In fact, it’s mostly people who had bugger-all to do with the campaign that she seems to have exposed to potential abuse and harassment from her fanatical band of swivel-eyed loony followers. Way to go, Lynne.

Anyway, we all know who she means: Simon Singh and the Sense About Science group, Alan Henness, Guy Chapman, “Josephine Jones”, Jo Brodie etc. It’s as well for the Blessed McTaggart that none of them is at all litigious, as the unequivocal allegation that they are being paid by a pharmaceutical company to blog and tweet about WDDTY and its love of potentially lethal quackery is probably actionable. Given the precarious financial situation of the WDDTY group companies based in England and Wales, McTaggart and Hubbard couldn’t afford to defend a libel claim.

But sometimes the information is so important that we want you to have it.

Ye-e-es. This is WDDTY we’re talking about. They’re not strong on information. Misinformation, yes; disinformation, certainly. Information, not so much. See the rest of this site for details.

Now, I learnt a new term last night: native advertising. It’s a vaguely racist-sounding term for what are, basically, heavily-disguised infomercials.  Some online newspapers are increasingly using them in place of real journalism, on the basis that they have to eat.

There’s an awful lot of native advertising in WDDTY, when you look at it closely. Not only does it carry the usual amount of ordinary advertising, not infrequently from businesses already in trouble with the ASA – see the figures lovingly calculated by wandering teacake – but it also contains a lot of stuff written by the editorial team that boils down to glorified adverts for their own quackery practices. This suggests that WDDTY is being used as free publicity by the entire editorial team. No wonder they’re screechingly sore about losing access to passing gullible idiots in local supermarkets. Speaking of free publicity for the editorial team:

Our July issue featured the extraordinary work of Dr Patrick Kingsley, who explains the six major causes of cancer (and most aren’t the obvious ones).

This is probably the bit where we steeple our fingers and assume an interested expression. What are Kingsley’s 6 major causes of cancer, then? I’ll compile a list. Brace yourselves.

wddty cancer kingsley july 2014

1. A lack of digestive enzymes

Kingsley bases this on some vague extrapolation from the correlation between the tapering-off of growth of the placenta and the development of the fetal digestive system. No, I am not shitting you. He argues that a chronic lack of digestive enzymes – due to modern foodstuffs, of course – can lead to cancer because digestive enzymes control cellular division, according to him.

2. Stress

“Stress of any sort is a major cause of cancer,” sez Kingsley, who then clearly specifies mental stress. Environmental stress doesn’t get a look-in in the tiny paragraph devoted to this “major cause”.

3. Too much acid

And in at Number Three is that firm favourite, alkaline diet! It’s been debunked over and over. The quacks love it, because it sounds vaguely plausible – acids are aggressive, right? So if you have too much acid, like when you get heartburn, it must be bad for you, right? – and they can sell supplements for it. Next up is another traditional quack mark-catcher:

4. Free radicals

These things were all in the news some years ago and were thought to contribute to ageing. There were ads everywhere for expensive moisturising creams claiming to combat free radicals and make your skin look 23% younger, or something. Diet hucksters published recipe books claiming to combat free radicals. Foodstuffs on supermarket shelves were claiming to combat free radicals. About the only thing not claiming to combat free radicals was the Army. Again, there’s no evidence to support it, but since when did that stop quacks from selling anything?

5. A fungus

YES! Where would a round-up of pop-eyed, straw-in-the-hard quackpottery be without C. albicans? When it strikes, it generally infects the mouth or the genitals. It does not, despite the assertions of Kingsley and similar profiteering fuckwits, regularly infect the whole body and get into the bloodstream. That, fortunately, is very rare.  The day you have candidemia raging through your circulatory system, you had better put yourself in the hands of a real doctor in an emergency ward or you will very shortly not be in possession of a single fuck to give, because you will be dead.

Kingsley’s test for C. albicans involves trying to float your spit on top of a glass of water for half an hour. Trust me, if you have an oral candida infection, you will know about it. The perils of eating too many homegrown cherries, since you ask. The cream I had to rub on the inside of my swollen cheeks tasted disgusting (I loathe orange flavouring) and it was a weird sensation to feel the colonies pop and die as the treatment got to them.

6. …

… Now isn’t that odd? There isn’t a 6th cause. All that trumpeting and ranting,  and they couldn’t even count to 6? What a rip-off.

Here are the main causes of cancer, according to real cancer specialists on a reputable website like Cancer Research UK:

  • Cancer causing substances (carcinogens)
  • Age
  • Genetic make up
  • The immune system
  • Smoking, bodyweight, diet and physical activity
  • Day-to-day environment
  • Viruses
  • Bacterial infection

Not quite the same as Kingsley’s list, is it? Now, this is where Kingsley gets down to the nitty-gritty and you understand why they were so desperate to get this issue out to the mugs, even as a freebie. It’s blatant native advertising:

1. How to diagnose your supposed ailments without bothering your doctor?

There are some blood tests that Kingsley recommends:

  • serum ferritin, which he incorrectly states is often overlooked when testing for anaemia),
  • thyroid function – another pointless test, as it will be prescribed by a doctor if patient presents symptoms of hypo- or hyper-thyroidism,
  • Vitamin D – while most Europeans are said to be low in Vitamin D, it is not considered useful to test for it. Spending 15 minutes a day in outdoors is probably enough, unless you’re daft enough to wear a burka
  • candida overgrowth. This is the quack-invented ailment which you test for by floating spit on a glass of water. It’s the second time I’ve typed this and I still cannot believe someone would seriously propound such transparent bullshit.
  • stool analysis – of course a quack, member of a breed that’s forever ranting about gut imbalances and such-like nonsense – is going to put the anal back into analysis. According to Kingsley: farting, constipation, the shits or an itchy arse are obviously due to some sort of infection. Not due to eating too many beans, or burgers or not wiping properly.

Now, how to get these tests done? Well, you can use your local lab, as long as you ignore their reference levels as those are just averages and absolutely not tailored to you. This is Standard Quack Ploy No 1: convince the mark  you believe they’re extra-special and that only you really understand their specialness and special needs for special treatment. Because they’re so much more special and different to everyone else.

Kingsley recommends 3 labs for this work. One is Genova Diagnostics, which I’d already noted as suspicious but couldn’t get beyond the login page to examine, and Biolab, which I’d already listed as quack-facilitating. Above all, though, he praises Neuro Lab, who have a terrible Web reputation and, when you see the claims the owner makes, you can understand why:

 In the late 1970’s (Olga Galkina) was one of the principles in a joint eastern bloc project that utilised Lactobacillius Bulgaricus as an extremely successful product in treating cancer patients.

Admire also this little gem of raging WTF:

schizophrenia is associated with too much memory and the younger age group whereas Alzheimers disease is associated with the ageing process and too little memory.

So, that’s three quack-friendly labs promoted. He goes on to promote various superfluous supplements and homeopathic remedies, usually specifying a brand and always specifying a stockist. More covert advertising. Last but not least, oh deary me no, we have Dr Patrick Kingsley’s Patent IV Vitamin Cocktails.

And all this fuckwittery, of which I have skimmed but the scum-covered upper atmosphere, and more comes from a book written by Kingsley. It is available AT SPECIAL DISCOUNT PRICE (What else?), signed by the author himself, and comes with lots of discount coupons for more pointless quack products.

No wonder WDDTY are so eager to spread their rag around, at a loss if need be. If sales figures continue to plummet, expect them to send people to distribute it at subway exits. With multipage native advertising pieces like that, they’re almost there anyway.

Processed food chemical definitely causes cancer, say researchers

Reblogged from Gareth Lewry’s blog, with permission.

Here is a hint, Doctor’s don’t tell you it because it’s crap!!

So I came across the “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” Facebook Page earlier today.  I have known for sometime that this is essentially aimed at people who want an alternative view to the mainstream medicine approach to curing your ails, and cant be bothered to educate themselves any further than this.

On the surface it looks OK, the articles are compelling and full of what they call  “science”. However that is the surface.  When you dig a bit deeper you see that most of the articles and information they are conveying to the public is disingenuous to say the least.

Here is an example of a post on FB:

FB post from 22/7/14

Now, this post is typical of what they are doing, they are sensationalising the story Massively, however there are some half truths in there that make it credible, and therefore lends to being a source of credible information.  However as they have given a source for their article I decided as a good sceptic, it would be irresponsible of me not to back up the information I’m reading by going back to the original source……and here it is: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/140701.htm

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/140701.htm
As you can see the FB post says that Acrylamide definitely causes cancer, but when I look at the actual press release, I’m buggered if I can find the phrase “definitely causes cancer” or anything near it.  Posting this sort of disingenuous misinformation is dangerous, because people who solely read this for their scientific information are already on the wrong path and will end up believing this nonsense.

So as my good deed for the day I thought I would help them out.  Here is my response to them:

response

I hope they understand I’m only trying to help…. by actively discrediting this nonsense before people buy to much into this. However as I am relatively new to this,   I implore you all to to be careful what you read especially about health and science.  I will always post references to articles so at least you will have the source of information, and if I get it wrong (as we all do from time to time) I welcome feedback, as it is a learning experience for me as well.