Tag Archives: Prostate cancer

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

100 ways to live to 100: 10 bits of medical advice you should question

 

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

10 bits of medical advice you should question

In general, it’s always fair to ask for the evidence supporting any proposed medical intervention.

In general, WDDTY does this for you by quote-mining and cherry-picking to suit its anti-medicine agenda.

What WDDTY does not do is to provide any actual evidence that this information is anything other than a routine part of the normal process of informed consent, especially in the UK. For example, discussion of radical prostatectomy is dominated by a test that has been deprecated in the UK for over twenty years and an operation that never reached a quarter of its peak level in the USA.

81 Lower your blood cholesterol levels

The theory that high-fat foods—like meat and dairy—build up fat in our arteries has never actually been proven. After people eating high-fat diets were followed for 10 years and not one suffered a heart attack, researchers concluded that “the evidence is not there” to support a high fats–heart disease connection.48 In fact, high levels of the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol may actually be good for us, especially as we get older.49

Reference 48: Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2012; 22: 1039–45 Biomarkers of dairy intake and the risk of heart disease. Aslibekyan S, Campos H, Baylin A.

Reference 49: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci; 2007; 62: 1164–71 Statins and dietary and serum cholesterol are associated with increased lean mass following resistance training. Riechman SE, Andrews RD, Maclean DA, Sheather S.

The first reference is specific to dairy, noting:

Dairy product intake as assessed by adipose tissue 15:0, 17:0, and by FFQ is not associated with a linear increase in the risk of MI in the study population. It is possible that the adverse effect of saturated fat in dairy products on cardiovascular health is offset by presence of beneficial nutrients.

This is a great point against WDDTY’s anti-dairy agenda, but not really a point for the argument that cholesterolW is good for you. The second source finds:

These data suggest that dietary and serum cholesterol contribute to the skeletal muscles’ response to RET in this generally healthy older population and that some statins may improve this response.

A great point against WDDTY’s anti-statin agenda, but not much of a hit for the promotion of cholesterol either since this applies to people undergoing “12 weeks of high intensity resistance exercise training (RET) with post-exercise protein supplementation”. Few 60-69-year-olds do this, and the overall evidence is taken from the largely sedentary general population not from atypical sub-populations like this.

WDDTY seems to be disputing the lipid hypothesisW but without actually tackling it head on, still less addressing the evidence base behind it. In fact both the lipid and the chronic endothelial injury hypothesisW are converging over time to a single hypothesis which puts LDL front and centre in the mechanism of hypertension.

The Centers for Disease ControlW are blunt: “Having high cholesterol puts you at risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States”.

82 The mercury in your fillings is permanently locked in and harmless

Dentists have been saying this for years, but the European Commission’s BIO Intelligence Service (BIS) begs to disagree. The group recommends that a total ban on amalgam fillings be fully implemented in five years’ time, and the use of mercury fillings virtually eliminated throughout the EU.

No, the EU does not say that your fillings are a problem. It has a rather technical document detailing measures to reduce usage and pollution from mercury in the environment. It puts the report by Bio Intelligence Service S.A. (which is,a s the name suggests, a commercial entity and not an EU body) into context. Its principal argument is that dental use of mercury represents an environmental, not a toxicological, problem.

The report does not say that amalgam fillings in-place are a significant source of concern, instead it discusses the pollution caused by the mixing and installation of amalgam, and the disposal of amalgam after teeth are extracted or the patient dies.

Overall, you’re probably fine as long as you don’t heavily chew nicotine chewing gum. A controversy that has raged for a century without any consensus forming or any concrete and damning evidence of significant biological effect – a “smoking gun” – is evidence of philosophical differences, not provable harm.

83 Go for angioplasty

Balloon angioplasty and stents were to be medicine’s ‘miracle’ treatments for blocked arteries, but around one in 10 heart patients returns to hospital for emergency treatment following the procedures, and nearly a third of non-emergency ‘drug-eluting’ stents are also likely to cause potentially fatal harm.50 Patients given a cocktail of generic heart drugs instead do just as well .51

Reference 50: Arch Intern Med, 2012; 172: 112–7 Factors associated with 30-day readmission rates after percutaneous coronary intervention. Khawaja FJ et. al.

Reference 50b: N Engl J Med, 2007; 356: 1009–19 Long-Term Outcomes with Drug-Eluting Stents versus Bare-Metal Stents in Sweden Bo Lagerqvist et. al.

Reference 51:  N Engl J Med, 2007; 356: 1503–16 Optimal Medical Therapy with or without PCI for Stable Coronary Disease William E. Boden et. al.

This is a particularly pernicious piece of misinformation. It is very easy to find cases where people are readmitted not long after surgery for coronary heart disease: the reason they have had the surgery is often because they are very sick. Unsurprisingly, they are a poor surgical risk and a high risk for post-surgical complications. In other words, even with surgery, doctors may not be able to save them. That’s a great reason for keeping your heart in good shape and a truly terrible reason for refusing heart surgery if it’s indicated.

WDDTY say that nearly a third of drug eluting stents are likely to cause potentially fatal harm. The source absolutely does not support this.

Drug-eluting stents were associated with an increased rate of death, as compared with bare-metal stents. This trend appeared after 6 months, when the risk of death was 0.5 percentage point higher and a composite of death or myocardial infarction was 0.5 to 1.0 percentage point higher per year. The long-term safety of drug-eluting stents needs to be ascertained in large, randomized trials. (emphasis added)

 WDDTY have been caught before confusing relative and absolute risks, but rarely this blatantly.

The final study also doesn’t support WDDTY’s statement:

As an initial management strategy in patients with stable coronary artery disease, PCI did not reduce the risk of death, myocardial infarction, or other major cardiovascular events when added to optimal medical therapy.

WDDTY recommending intensive pharmacologic therapy. That’s a turn-up for the books.

84 You don’t need your womb anymore

A University of California committee of gynaecologists once concluded that three-quarters of all hysterectomies done are not necessary.52 Except for genuine indications like uterine cancer and life-threatening bleeding during childbirth, some 90 per cent of referrals for hysterectomies can be treated with conservative surgery, medication, alternative medicine, nutritional supplementation or just waiting until menopause.

Reference 52: Obstet Gynecol, 2000; 95: 199–205 The Appropriateness of Recommendations for Hysterectomy, Michael S Broder et. al.

This is an US study. One in three US women will undergo hysterectomy, compared with one in five in the UK. The US removes ovaries in 73% of cases, the UK in 20%.

WDDTY editor Lynne McTaggart is American. Sometimes she forgets which side of the pond she’s living.

Sometimes she also forgets that the anecdotal claims of quacks to “cure” endometriosis, fibroids and the like are a long way short of being evidence that they actually can do this.

85 Have ‘catch it early’ surgery for prostate cancer

Men in the early stages of the disease are often offered radical prostatectomy, where the entire gland is removed. At best, it’s a trade-off, mostly because of the high risk of permanent impotence and incontinence. Unless you’re under 55, you’re more likely to die with the disease than from it.

That’s why the standard of care for indolent prostate cancer is “watchful waiting”. Who are these doctors who supposedly “don’t tell you” this? I suspect they may be American again, though even there it’s been in decline since the early 1990s. The UK has deprecated screening since the 1990s and the UK’s rate of radical prostatectomy never reached 10 per 100,000, a quarter of the peak rate in the US.

Bottom line: if your doctor recommends radical prostatectomy, it’s probably the conservative option.

86 Have a radical mastectomy to ‘catch it all’

This mutilating operation involves removing the breast, the chest wall, the lymph nodes and much of the skin, but it confers no advantage over other, less aggressive forms of mastectomy, including the simple removal of the lump with radiotherapy.53 Also, some 70 per cent of double mastectomies—where both breasts are removed following a diagnosis of breast cancer—are unnecessary as the cancer was never likely to have spread, say researchers.54

Reference 53: Ann Surg, 1986; 204: 136–47 Treatment of primary breast cancer without mastectomy. The Los Angeles community experience and review of the literature.

Reference 54: J Clin Oncol 30, 2012; suppl 34: abstr 26 [Medline does not find this reference]

This advice is literally decades out of date. Radical mastectomy no longer involves routine axillary clearance, instead the lymph nodes are staged, often in real time. Prophylactic mastectomies will only be advised for women who already have cancer, or who, like Angelina Jolie, have both genetic and family history indications.

WDDTY were among the strident chorus of natural-woo promoters who denounced Jolie for her decision. Jolie showed grace and fortitude in the face of this torrent of bullshit, pointing out that the risk for her was in excess of 80% given family history and evidence of specific expressed genetic mutations.

Lumpectomy is the standard of care for small, well-defined tumours; radical mastectomy is not recommended lightly.

The moral of this story is, listen to oncologists, not cranks who hate the entire world of medicine on reflex.

87 Let’s fix your inguinal hernia

The wise doctor will delay surgery until the patient is in pain or discomfort—partly because he knows that surgical repair carries a long-term risk of recurrence and can itself cause more groin pain than the hernia, as it does in a quarter of patients.55 When more than 700 men with hernias underwent watchful waiting instead, the vast majority carried on with their everyday lives without a moment of pain and without the need for surgery.56

Reference 55: Ann Surg, 2001; 233: 8 Groin Pain After Hernia Repair, Robert E. Condon.

Reference 56: JAMA, 2006; 295: 285–92 Watchful waiting vs repair of inguinal hernia in minimally symptomatic men: a randomized clinical trial. Fitzgibbons RJ Jr, et. al. 

Once again, WDDTY recommends the standard of care. Well done for telling your readers what doctors already do tell them.

The only problem with WDDTY’s commentary is that it seems designed to deter anyone from undergoing repair, based on a speculative finding from 2001 (“Could it be that the major change in the technique of hernia repair that has evolved over the most recent two decades—the widespread use of implanted prosthetic mesh, whether needed or not—is a cause?”) and a report based on minimally symptomatic patients.

The 2001 paper refers to what is now termed post herniorraphy pain syndromeW, a recognised complication that leads to – guess what? – the standard of care being “watchful waiting” for minimally symptomatic patients. The problem does not seem to be caused by mesh itself, but by damage to the nerves, which may be consequent from the original injury

So as usual it’s safe to follow WDDTY’s advice as long as you’re not actually ill…

88 Let’s cut out your gall bladder

This procedure (cholecystectomy) may increase the risk of colon cancer, according to a review of 33 studies.57 Surgery can often make matters worse by injuring the bile duct, releasing gallstones and causing more digestive issues. Stones can usually be sorted out by avoiding processed food and sugar, eating less red meat and eschewing HRT, which doubles the risk.

Reference 57: Gastroenterology, 1993; 105: 130–41 A meta-analysis of cholecystectomy and risk of colorectal cancer. Giovannucci E, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ.

CONCLUSIONS: Because the risks varied substantially by study design and because time since cholecystectomy or potentially confounding factors were often not considered, we could not firmly quantitate this risk. However, the findings are consistent with other evidence that suggests some characteristic of bile acid metabolism increases the risk of cancer of the proximal colon.

CholecystectomyW became much more common in the 1990s after laparoscopic techniques were devised which made the surgery effectively a day-case. Yes, like any surgical procedure, it has potential complications, and those should be (and are) taken into account when considering surgery.

The accuracy of WDDTY’s commentary can be demonstrated pretty simply:

WDDTY: Surgery can often make matters worse by injuring the bile duct, releasing gallstones and causing more digestive issues

Goldman’s Cecil Medicine (24th ed.): The most serious complication of cholecystectomy is damage to the common bile duct. This occurs in about 0.25% of cases.

Often… 0.25%. I think this might be a problem of perspective.

WDDTY: “Stones can usually be sorted out by avoiding processed food and sugar, eating less red meat and eschewing HRT, which doubles the risk”

NHS: “There are several non-surgical ways to break down gallstones, but they are only effective in around less than 1 in 10 cases and are rarely a viable option.”

Perhaps WDDTY has been mistaking the claims of its advertisers for fact.

89 Sort your overactive thyroid with surgery

Nearly a third of all cases will resolve on their own. Even when just part of the thyroid is removed, only 30 per cent will have normal thyroid levels after eight years, a whopping 41 per cent will have a permanently underactive thyroid and 12 per cent will still be hyperthyroid.58

Reference 58:  J Endocrinol Invest, 1993; 16: 195–9 Follow-up evaluation of patients with Graves’ disease treated by subtotal thyroidectomy and risk factor analysis for post-operative thyroid dysfunction. Sugino K, Mimura T, Toshima K, Iwabuchi H, Kitamura Y, Kawano M, Ozaki O, Ito K.

Grave’s diseaseW is the commonest but not the sole cause of hyperthyroidismW, and it’s not the sole indication for thyroidectomy. In fact, it’s been considered debatable for some time:

Operation is indicated mainly when the disease is severe with a larger goitre or in younger age groups (below 40 years) where radioiodine may not be advisable. For preoperative treatment the use of antithyroid drugs in preferred, although iodine perhaps in combination with beta blockers may be used safely as well at least for moderate cases. In the presence of alternative means of treatment surgery should not exceed an operative risk of 0.5-1.5% with virtually no mortality

It’s unlikely that any patient will be offered surgery for management of hyperthyroidism without first excluding non-surgical approaches. WDDTY seems to think partial thyroidectomy is common, in the UK at least this is not the case. As the NHS says:

Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland is known as a total or partial thyroidectomy. It is a permanent cure for recurrent overactive thyroid.

Your specialist may recommend surgery if your thyroid gland is severely swollen (a large goitre) and is causing problems in your neck.

Other reasons for surgery include:

  • a person is unable to be treated with radioiodine treatment as they are pregnant and they are unable or unwilling to take thionamides
  • a person has a severe form of Graves’ ophthalmopathy
  • the symptoms return (relapse) after a previous successful course of treatment with thionamides

It is normally recommended that the entire thyroid gland is removed as this means there will be no chance of a relapse.

See that word “specialist”? In the UK you will not get anywhere near thyroidectomy for Grave’s disease without seeing a specialist endocrinologist and exhausting the alternatives.

It’s almost as if doctors know what they are talking about and WDDTY don’t.

90 You need a blood transfusion

This routine medical practice suppresses the immune system, increasing the chances of infection, pneumonia—and cancer. Patients who received a transfusion during cancer surgery are 42 per cent more likely to develop cancer again, say Johns Hopkins University researchers.Transfusions should be reserved for emergencies like trauma or haemorrhage, when they can be a lifesaver.59

Reference 59: Anesthesiology, 2012; 117: 99–106 Variability in blood and blood component utilization as assessed by an anesthesia information management system. Frank SM, Savage WJ, Rothschild JA, Rivers RJ, Ness PM, Paul SL, Ulatowski JA.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of data acquired from an anesthesia information management system allowed a detailed analysis of blood component utilization, which revealed significant variation among surgical services and surgical procedures, and among individual anesthesiologists and surgeons compared with their peers. Incorporating these methods of data acquisition and analysis into a blood management program could reduce unnecessary transfusions, an outcome that may increase patient safety and reduce costs.

Needless to say, this does not support WDDTY’s statement. The article proposes spreading of best practice in the context of the US health system (where interventions may risk being profit-driven).

Yes, transfusions might indeed have negative effects, especially in the US where payment for blood donors has led in the past to contaminated supplies. However, cancer surgery tends to be at the upper end of things that are not considered “emergencies” even by WDDTY’s rather arbitrary standards, and some people might consider that the chances of being offered a transfusion just on the off chance when you’re not in mortal danger is probably pretty low. Especially in the NHS.

100 ways to live to 100: Think twice about these tests

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Think twice about these tests

This is an area where WDDTY is more likely to be right, simply because there is a reasonable consensus that screening leads to overdiagnosis and false positives. However, WDDTY’s advice is based on prejudice and dogma. It is less complete and less well argued than the numerous evidence-based discussions of the pros and cons of various tests.

Our advice on avoiding unnecessary tests is this: read Dr. Margaret McCartney’s The Patient Paradox. This will help you to understand false positives and false negatives, and to ask intelligent and informed questions that will lead you to make a pragmatic choice over a particular test, rather than hysterical anti-medicine rejection of all tests however appropriate.

51 The PSA (prostatespecific antigen) blood test for prostate cancer

It produces false negatives a third of the time and has overdiagnosed more than one million men since its introduction in 1987.29 Unless you have an aggressive cancer, consider watchful waiting. Ditch statin drugs, which increase your risk of this cancer by one-and-a-half times, and reduce carbs, avoid red meat and eat a Mediterranean diet.

Reference 29: J Natl Cancer Inst, 2009; 101: 1325–9 Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment after the introduction of prostate-specific antigen screening: 1986-2005. Welch HG, Albertsen PC.

PSA is a marker, it is useful in monitoring progression as part of “watchful waiting” (the standard of care for indolent prostate cancers) but its use as a screening test is controversial, not least because the “normal” level of PSA varies widely. From the Wall Street Journal:

Richard Ablin, a professor of pathology at University of Arizona College of Medicine, discovered the prostate-specific antigen in 1970, and for nearly as long, he has argued that it should not be used for routine screening.

So the fact that PSA screening is problematic is not only not something “doctors don’t tell you”, it’s something that the inventor of the test itself has been saying for decades, and which medical journals are confirming.

PSA screening has been discouraged in the UK since the 1990s.

WDDTY can never resist a dig at statins (we’ll review that later), or an opportunity to plug the mediterranean diet (presumably in a modified version that does not include pasta, breads or tomatoes, since these are all fingered as causing problems within this article as well as elsewhere).

52 Routine mammograms (unless cancer is suspected)

This blunderbuss approach, which uses X-rays to detect breast cancer, doesn’t see cancer at its earliest stages and fails to pick up aggressive tumours. For every woman whose cancer is correctly detected, 10 healthy women will go through unnecessary worry, further testing and even treatment before doctors realize they’ve been misled by a false-positive. Consider thermography instead.

So close! This was almost a correct piece of advice, and then they went and ruined it by promoting a quack diagnostic technique instead.

Breast thermography is, to put it bluntly, useless as a diagnostic tool. It’s dissected here by David Gorski, a surgical oncologist specialising in breast cancer. To quote the American Cancer Society:

Thermography has been around for many years, but studies have shown that it’s not an effective screening tool for finding breast cancer early. Although it has been promoted as helping detect breast cancer early, a 2012 research review found that thermography detected only a quarter of the breast cancers found by mammography. Thermography should not be used as a substitute for mammograms.

Oh, and mammograms do detect cancer, just not perfectly. As with any area of medicine, breast cancer staging and screening is a work in progress. There is a debate about what to do with DCIS, for example. There is certainly a debate about routine mammography and the ages at which it should be considered. Above all, our understanding of the nature of indolent disease is developing rapidly. It seems likely that as the population ages many more people are likely to die with cancer than die of cancer.

53 Blood pressure readings

Many factors can distort a BP reading by as much as 5 mmHg: acute exposure to cold, recent alcohol intake, incorrect arm position, an incorrect cuff size—and even the presence of the doctor, now so common that it’s called ‘white-coat’ hypertension. Blood pressure falls at night, and night-time blood pressure is considered the most accurate predictor of heart attack.30 Consider 24-hour blood-pressure monitoring, not the old-fashioned cuff.

Reference 30: Lancet. 2007 Oct 6;370(9594):1219-29. Prognostic accuracy of day versus night ambulatory blood pressure: a cohort study. Boggia J et. al.

Why don’t doctors tell you this? Oh, they do. A single high reading in the doctor’s surgery is never the trigger for intervention unless it’s very high. Normal range is 120/80 to 140/90, so the uncertainty of 5 mmHg is clinically insignificant – if your pressure is 200/100 this is not going to be down to the white coat effect.

Compare and contrast WDDTY’s advice with that from the National Institutes for Health.

54 Routine smear tests

Many doctors still offer women an annual smear test for cervical cancer—even though they’ve been told the test can do more harm than good. The test throws up many false positives—incorrectly ‘seeing’ abnormal tissue that triggers a series of further and more invasive tests, plus needless worry. Even the advises a smear test once every three for those aged over and once every five years for those between 30 and 65.31

Reference 31: Am J Prev Med, 2013; 45: 248–9 The times they (may) be a-changin’: too much screening is a health problem. Harris R, Sheridan S.

Routine smear tests are a curate’s egg. In women at high risk, they are likely to be warranted. In women at low risk, not so much. If your GP is not up on the current state of knowledge (and they should be), ask for a referral to a specialist gynaecological clinic.

The take-home message that must be reinforced here is not that screening is evil, but that a borderline positive smear is not a cause for worry, it is a prompt for further investigation only.

55 Routine dental X-rays

Your dentist keeps telling you it’s safer than an airplane flight, but dental X-rays could triple the risk of meningioma, a kind of brain tumour. Children who have a Panorex or full-mouth X-ray before the age of 10 run the greatest risk, and even bitewing X-rays increase risk. Regular exposure may also cause heart disease. Annual checkups should be urgently reconsidered, say Yale University researchers.32

Reference 32: Cancer, 2012; 118: 4530–7 Dental x-rays and risk of meningioma. Claus EB, Calvocoressi L, Bondy ML, Schildkraut JM, Wiemels JL, Wrensch M.

Actually we agree that you should avoid unnecessary X-rays, because unlike WDDTY we understand the difference between ionising and non-ionising radiation. X-rays are ionising radiation. 

But good dentists don’t do routine X-rays. They use them to diagnose and guide treatment. If your dentist recommends routine X-rays then consider changing your dentist.

If you want an example of gratuitous exposure to unnecessary X-rays, look to your local chiropractor.

56 CT (computed tomography) scans

This whole-body, three dimensional imaging system is one of the most sensitive early-warning detectors of cancer, internal bleeding, heart problems, stroke and neurological disorders, but the standard course of two or three CT scans is equivalent to the radiation levels of Hiroshima or Nagasaki atomic bombs;33 just one scan is equivalent to around 500 standard chest X-rays, reckons the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Children who are scanned run a far higher risk of developing cancer.34 Ask for any other kind of imaging exam first.

Reference 33: N Engl J Med, 2007; 357: 2277–84 Computed Tomography — An Increasing  Source of Radiation Exposure David J. Brenner, Ph.D., D.Sc., and Eric J. Hall, D.Phil., D.Sc

Reference 34: Radiat Res, 2010; 174: 753–62 Thyroid cancer risk 40+ years after irradiation for an enlarged thymus: an update of the Hempelmann cohort. Adams MJ, et. al.

This is a rehash of a story in the December 2013 issue, “CT scans increase children’s cancer risk“. The second reference is puzzling as it refers to patients who had radiotherapy, not CT scans. The evidence for increased risk of cancers in children following CT scans is epidemiologically sound and does not rely on making inferences from unrelated research.

CT scans are used to rule out potentially life-threatening conditions, especially in children. Brain haemorrhage, for example. The sources are unanimous in supporting their diagnostic use and the fact that the benefits outweigh the risks, but equally unanimous in urging caution and ruling out other diagnostic tests first.

It should be pointed out that radiation increases risk, but does not inevitably produce cancer. Tsutomu YamaguchiW was exposed to radiation equivalent to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, having been caught in not one but both blasts. He died in 2010 aged 93. The Wikipedia article on hibakushaW (survivors of the atomic bombs) is interesting; the fact that the memorials are still being updated annually does indicate that being exposed to radiation is not a death sentence, however undesirable it might be.

The take-away message here is that it’s fine to challenge the diagnostic necessity of any test, but don’t rule out scans that reveal potentially fatal conditions just because of fear of some uncertain future consequence.

57 Routine prenatal ultrasound

The prenatal ‘miracle’, which uses high-frequency pulsed sound waves to image the fetus in the womb, gets it wrong so often that up to one in 23 women told by doctors they’ve miscarried may end up terminating a pregnancy. Scans see’ a miscarriage the pregnancy is viable, say researchers London and Belgium.35 Reserve this when something really wrong, and consider waiting before ‘completing’ termination if the test concludes you’ve miscarried.

Reference 35: Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol, 2011; 38: 503–9 Gestational sac and embryonic growth are not useful as criteria to define miscarriage: a multicenter observational study. Abdallah Y, et. al.

A second bite at the cherry for ultrasound (should we dock one from the tally of 100 things and make it 99 things?). Does the source support WDDTY’s conclusion? Only partly:

There is an overlap in MSD growth rates between viable and non-viable IPUV. No cut-off exists for MSD growth below which a viable pregnancy could be safely excluded. A cut-off value for CRL growth of 0.2 mm/day was always associated with miscarriage. These data suggest that criteria to diagnose miscarriage based on growth in MSD and CRL are potentially unsafe. However, finding an empty gestational sac on two scans more than 7 days apart is highly likely to indicate miscarriage, irrespective of growth.

In other words, there is a level at which ultrasound can detect a definitely non-viable pregnancy, but the margins are more blurred than was thought. This is in first trimester pregnancies, where only a few generations ago many women would not even know they were pregnant. Spontaneous abortionW is common in the early stages, often before the woman is even aware that she’s pregnant.

The source absolutely does not support a blanket rejection of obstetric ultrasonographyW, or even of early ultrasound where bleeding is present. However, the mandatory use of ultrasound introduced by anti-abortionists in some US states is unquestionably abusive and morally repugnant.

58 Peripheral bone densitometry

It’s the most commonly diagnostic tool for osteoporosis, and it measures usually the hip and spine, but bone mineral density (BMD) is not uniform throughout the skeleton. Although the WHO criteria for a healthy BMD apply only to the hip and spine, a wide range of ‘normal’ BMDs elsewhere in the body may be misdiagnosed as abnormal by these criteria. Diagnosing osteoporosis is still not an exact science, say researchers; you have a strong chance of being misclassified, especially when the test is done in those under 65.36

Reference 36: BMJ, 2000; 321: 396–8 The increasing use of peripheral bone densitometry (Editorial)

Differential diagnosis of osteoporosisW versus osteopeniaW is indeed a grey area, but it’s a distinction without a difference as both indicate a loss of bone density. DEXA scans can be perofrmed on central or peripheral bones, peripheral scans are easier and the machinery is smaller (and often portable).

Needless to say the BMJ article does not undermine the use of bone densitometry, but does question the use of a pragmatic epidemiological definition of osteoporosis, as the threshold for intervention. In other words, it may be valid to treat low-end osteoporosis as osteopenia – essentially using calcium and vitamin D as a first line of treatment before launching right in with bisphosphonatesW. This is what any good doctor would do anyway. But how will the doctor make the diagnostic call without a DEXA scan? Would you prefer a core DEXA, involving a trip to the radiology department of your nearest big hospital and a longer procedure with greater X-ray exposure, or a possibly clinic-based scan that will give a less accurate but probably still clinically useful answer?

As usual, WDDTY takes an absolutist stance that doesn’t help.

59 Biopsy

In a biopsy, a small bit of tissue is removed under local anaesthetic to diagnose a serious illness like cancer. Besides infection, puncturing nearby organs, and causing tears and bleeding, the greatest danger is that biopsies can inadvertently ‘seed’ or spread cancer. With breast biopsies, the risk of recurrent cancer from a ‘needle metastasis’ is about one in 15.37 Request PET (positron emission tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) instead.

Reference 37: Acta Radiol Suppl. 2001 Dec;42(424):1-22. Aspects in mammographic screening. Detection, prediction, recurrence and prognosis. Thurfjell MG.

The relevant section of the abstract is:

Local recurrences in 303 nonpalpable breast cancers with preoperative localizations and breast conservation therapy were evaluated for needle-caused implant metastasis. A total of 214 percutaneous biopsies were performed. There were 33 local recurrences. Needle-caused seeding or implantation as based on the location of the recurrence in comparison to the needle path in the mammograms was suspected in 3/44 (7%) invasive cancers without radiotherapy.

This absolutely does not support the idea of rejecting biopsy. These instances of needle-caused seeding are primarily in women who had breast-conserving surgery (“lumpectomy”) for active cancers, and note that it’s more likely to happen when women opt not to have radiotherapy. In the absence of cancer, there are no seed cells.

The overall thrust of the article is actually a vindication of diagnostic mammography:

Screening mammograms comprising of 32 first round, 10 interval and 32 second round detected cancers and 46 normal were examined by an expert screener, a screening radiologist, a clinical radiologist and a computer-assisted diagnosis (CAD) system. The expert screener, screening radiologist, clinical radiologist and the CAD detected 44, 41, 34 and 37 cancers, respectively, while their respective specificities were 80%, 83%, 100% and 22%. Later, with CAD prompting, the screening and the clinical radiologist detected 1 and 3 additional cancers each with unchanged specificities. Screening mammograms comprising 35 first round, 12 interval and 14 second round detected cancers and 89 normal findings were examined without and with previous mammograms by experienced screeners. Without previous mammograms, the screeners detected 40.3 cancers with a specificity of 87%. With previous mammograms, 37.7 cancers were detected with a 96% specificity.

Neither PET nor MRI can accurately diagnose whether a tumour is malignant or not. If your doctors recommend a biopsy, it’s because they think you are likely to have cancer. The utility of baseline mammograms is demonstrated, as is the importance of having a properly trained clinical radiologist review the films.

As to the issue of seeding, Prof. Bill Heald CBE, pioneer of the total mesorectal excisionW procedure for colorectal cancer, is a firm advocate of lavage to minimise seeding – he routinely flushed the abdominal cavity and port sites with copious amounts of dilute antiseptic.

Discouraging people from having a truly accurate differential diagnostic pathological test to differentiate the presence, type and possibly aggression of a cancer? I’d question the medical credentials of anyone giving such advice. If indeed they had any.

60 Computed tomography (CT) angiography

The use of intravenous dye and CT technology to provide an ‘inside view’ of the coronary arteries is fast replacing the exercise stress test done in doctors’ surgeries. It’s also doubling the rate of invasive cardiac procedures, including surgery, say Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.38 Ask to have the standard gym bike or treadmill stress test instead.

Reference 38: JAMA. 2011 Nov 16;306(19):2128-36. Association of coronary CT angiography or stress testing with subsequent utilization and spending among Medicare beneficiaries. Shreibati JB, Baker LC, Hlatky MA.

WDDTY advocate an older test because it finds fewer cases. Remind me again why that would be a valid criticism? Computed tomography angiographyW is a relatively new technique. As with any CT scan, there is exposure to ionising radiation. As with any CT scan, it will only be appropriate when the risks are outweighed by benefits. Rejecting a test on ideological grounds, as WDDTY do, is foolish.

 

100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy house

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy house

This section is the worst supported, the most agenda-driven, the most counter-factual and the least referenced. It’s also actively, rather than passively, harmful. Recommending homeopathy instead of antibiotics is stupid but it is no worse than not treating the condition. Advocates for electrosensitivity not only don’t fix the cause of the illness, they are the cause.

Oddly, as @LennyLaw points out, they have omitted a rather important factor that is of particular relevance to the WDDTY core demographic (TQ9ers): radon. Moving away from the South-West, or at least testing for radon and if necessary installing radon extraction equipment, is far more likely to be of benefit than guarding against non-existent electrosensitivity.

But then, radon is natural. In August 2007 (apparently the last time  they mentioned radon), WDDTY were promoting the evil of mobile phone radiation as opposed to:

…frequencies similar to those found in the earth’s natural background radiation, which is being emitted from radon gas, lightning, the sun or the earth’s own magnetic field. Also, over the course of our human
evolution, our bodies have developed defence mechanisms against those natural frequencies.

Yes, you read that correctly. Radon is apparently not a problem because natural. Something else doctors don’t tell you.

26 Choose a home away from power lines, electrical meters and substations, and railway lines if you can

Studies show an elevated risk of leukaemia in children who live and sleep near power lines. If in doubt, measure the EMFs in your home or have independent monitoring done. Visit www.powerwatch.org.uk or check out WDDTY’s Electrosmog Doc’s column.

The claim that power lines cause any demonstrable health effect is soundly rejected by an immense body of research. As the Health Physics Society note:

In conclusion, there are no known health risks that have been conclusively demonstrated to be caused by living near high-voltage power lines. But science is unable to prove a negative, including whether low-level EMFs are completely risk free. Most scientists believe that exposure to the low-level EMFs near power lines is safe, but some scientists continue research to look for possible health risks associated with these fields. If there are any risks such as cancer associated with living near power lines, then it is clear that those risks are small.

This is an important point: science can never prove a negative, so no study finding demonstrating an effect, however weak, however likely to be coincidental, can ever be truly refuted. This is cynically exploited by fearmongers such as Powerwatch and “WDDTY’s electrosmog doc” to build a subculture of paranoia and self-reinforcing anecdotes. More on this later.

Some studies do indeed show a weak positive correlation between childhood leukaemia and power lines. Others show the opposite. There is no credible evidence of adult cancers being caused by this. An effect on only one cancer in only one age group seems unlikely to be anything but chance.

27 Cook with electricity

Nitrogen dioxide, spewed out by gas cookers and gas and oil-burning boilers, often stays concentrated in the home particularly in this age of double glazing, and is implicated in arthritis, asthma and other allergies. One American study concluded that gas cookers generate concentrations of nitrogen dioxide of 200–400 ppb (parts per billion); this means the average kitchen with a gas cooker has an atmosphere comparable to levels of pollution usually accompanied by government health warnings. Also consider moving your gas boiler outdoors.

There are four mains sources of risk in gas cooking, three of which WDDTY missed entirely:  fire, NOx, CO and microparticulates (<100nm). Of these, particulates applies roughly equally to electric cooking and fire to a lesser degree. So of the four risks, one of which is similar with electricity and one is lesser but still present, they missed three, and proposed the most expensive solution (changing cookers) rather than the cheapest (decent extraction).

In fact, a modern gas oven (with no pilot light) will emit very little CO or NOx and a decent extraction system (as fitted in most kitchens these days) will fix it. 

Here’s a review in Occupational and Environmental Medicine from 2001:

Very high concentrations of oxides of nitrogen may also be generated by gas cooking, and with no extraction and poor ventilation, may reach concentrations at which adverse health effects may be expected. Although respiratory effects of exposure to NOx might be anticipated, recent epidemiology suggests that cardiac effects cannot be excluded, and further investigation of this is desirable.

Again, the message is pretty clear: ensure your kitchen has efficient ventilation, and your gas appliances are serviced regularly. Or opt instead for the much more expensive option of changing your cooker, and forget about the particulates because WDDTY chose not to think about them.

Presumably you’re supposed to knit your own electricity, since you live where there are no power lines.

I’m not sure how well this plays with WDDTY’s core demographic, who are solidly in the Aga target market. No doubt WDDTY’s raw food “expert” will tell you not to bother cooking at all.

28 Minimize your exposure to volatile organic compounds

Derived from petrochemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde can be found in plywood, particleboard (chipboard), wood panelling, insulation, ordinary house paint and adhesives. All ‘outgas’ a stew of toxic vapours at room temperature, causing eye and respiratory irritation, memory impairment and possibly even cancer. Choose eco-friendly paints and real wood over MDF and other ‘wood compounds’. Blast VOCs out by turning the heat up to 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) and opening the windows. Repeat for two or three days.

WDDTY cite no source for this, and I can find no credible source advocating it.

Most outgassing is during the first few weeks after installation, and modern houses may be force-ventilated during this period for exactly that reason. There are various types of insulation, but all have either inherent vapours or are treated to prevent rot, and the treatments have vapours. This is a great reason to ensure the house for a while after treatment. Choosing a random temperature that your heating system probably can’t achieve, so will require large-scale space heating, is irrational.

Perhaps as well as eating your food raw you’re supposed to live in a cold house.

29 Check your water-supply pipes

Although lead pipes have been banned since the 1970s, most of the water in Britain still runs through rickety old Victorian pipes, and the drinking water for one in 10 British people has a lead content far in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Lead is known to cause brain damage and lower the IQ of children chronically exposed.

Again no source is cited, and no credible source comes readily to mind for the 10% figure or for the risks of lead from legacy mains supply infrastructure. For a house to have lead pipes and the householder not to know, it must have been built before 1970 and not modernised since then – and the householder probably has to have been living there since before 1970, since surveyors note lead piping as part of the normal building survey. If you are concerned about your domestic water you can have it tested free of charge by your water company.

Hard water areas even where lead pipes are still in place, have lower lead levels due to the limescale buildup on pipes. The claim that “most of the water in Britain” still runs through “rickety old Victorian pipes” is questionable. Leaving aside the fact that large chunks of British housing did not even exist in the Victorian era, including whole towns and cities, the largest network of Victorian pipes was Thames Water’s, and they have been replacing them for much of the last decade to mitigate leaks.

The pipes will not necessarily have been lead, either. Thames Water describe their legacy infrastructure as “Victorian cast iron pipes”, but if (like Lynne McTaggart) you grew up in the US, you might have a valid concern: the lead industry mounted a huge campaign in the US to promote lead for municipal supplies despite its higher cost over cast iron, and the cleanup from this is still in progress. I found no obvious evidence of parallel campaigns in the UK.

So this looks like advice based on the assumption that the UK situation is the same as that in the US. It isn’t.

30 Consider wood floors and area rugs

Carpets in homes trap more allergens, are doused with dangerous pesticides and outgas more chemicals than do uncarpeted floors.

Again, no source is cited. If you do follow this advice remember that most laminate flooring is on an MDF back, which WDDTY also tell you causes a problem. In fact, no such problem exists: the gases reduce exponentially over time. There’s also no evidence that a rug is any different from a carpet in this respect.

It might be wise not to carpet your new baby’s room with brand new white shag pile.

Washing the puke out is a bugger.

31 Minimize your exposure to indoor EMFs

Keep the TV and computer screens at a reasonable distance. Place beds and chairs six to eight feet away from domestic sources of EMFs like electricity meters and TVs, and keep bedside electrical or battery-operated appliances at least two feet from your head. Don’t keep electric blankets on while you sleep, and also unplug all electrical devices in your bedroom at night (like TVs, telephones and computers).

This is a mix of archaic advice and paranoid nonsense. In the old days of cathode ray tubes, it made good sense to sit a decent distance form the screen (both from the point of view of avoiding exposure to low-level ionising radiation, and because it minimised perception of flicker. With modern LCD screens, this is unnecessary.

There is no credible evidence at all of ill effects from battery appliances. There are literally no sources other than paranoid EMF/electrosensitivity sites promoting this, but again, more below.

32 Make sure all family members use computers safely

If you’re a man, don’t use Wi-Fi with the computer in your lap as it may adversely affect your sperm and fertility.21 technology, and set up a network for your household computer using the electrical system.

Reference 21: Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan;97(1):39-45.e2. Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation. Avendaño C, Mata A, Sanchez Sarmiento CA, Doncel GF.

As usual with such studies, the Wi-Fi element is not separated. The most likely cause is heating, well know to affect sperm. No obvious control for this is included in the paper.

It’s now time to wrap up the credible evidence for adverse systemic effects from Wi-Fi usage around the home:

tumbleweed

But it’s much worse than that. The Wi-Fi paranoids, promoting “electrosmog” and “electrosensitivity” are not just not helping, they are actually the cause of the problem.

Studies on so-called “wind farm syndrome”, Wi-Fi issues and the like, consistently find that they exist only where they are talked about in the media. There is no known physical way they could happen, no credible objective evidence linking the symptoms to the purported cause, but a strong evidence base for the “noceboW effect”, whereby the symptoms are caused not by the purported source but by the expectation that they will be caused by it.

WDDTY is playing a part in actively making people sick.

33 Choose safer household cleaning products

Most ordinary cleaners contain a cocktail of chemicals toxic to people and plant life. Choose cleansers free of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), phenols, formaldehyde, naphthalene and other widely used chemicals. Avoid air fresheners, which are just chemical cocktails. Ditto for materials impregnated with flame retardants.

You should definitely avoid anything made from chemicals. Oh, wait, you can’t: everything is made of chemicals, by definition.

Definitely avoid cocktails of chemicals though. Use only the pure elements. Oh, wait, that’s utterly impractical and ridiculous.

Seriously, there are all kinds of reasons for handling cleaning agents with care (and absolutely never consuming them as a miracle cure), but used in accordance with the instructions, they are safer than the consequences of not using them. Bleach is effective in killing bacteria and preventing infections.

Avoid air fresheners? Well, yes, unless you want your home to smell like a cheap minicab.

But avoid flame retardants? There are no words to describe how dangerously stupid this would be. Every year in the UK there are nearly 60,000 house fires and 500 people die. The number of cases of people provably killed by flame-retardants in furniture and soft furnishings is, as best I can establish, zero.  That’s why it is illegal to sell some products in the UK unless they are treated with flame retardant.

34 Watch out for lead in house paint

House paint containing lead is largely banned in the UK and US, but could be present in older houses. Leaded paint is an often ignored source of lead in the blood and the greatest source of lead poisoning in children.

A telling point: yes, lead paint has been banned since the 60s, but it is still the leading source of lead poisoning ,even though WDDTY want you to believe that 10% of UK houses have dangerous levels of lead in their water.

Even WDDTY can’t be wrong all the time!

35 Clean up your ‘dirty electricity’

Surges of high-frequency voltages or EM radiation in 50–60 Hz power lines can cause a variety of disorders like asthma, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus and electrical hypersensitivity; all improve when exposure is reduced.22 Buy a Graham–Stetzer (GS) filter (www.stetzerelectric.com), which is specially designed to clean up power from inside and out by shorting out highfrequency

Reference 22: Electromagn Biol Med, 2006; 25: 259–68 Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: biological effects of dirty electricity with emphasis on diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Havas M.

This is complete nonsense. There is no proven link between high frequency transients and these conditions, the Stetzer claims in WDDTY are misleading and unsubstantiated. The study cited is unblinded and refers to a condition with cyclic symptoms.

Once again WDDTY are causing a problem not fixing it. And they are doing so on the say-so of a columnist whose entire business is selling the products to “cure” the problem he purports to diagnose.

It’s a bit like sending someone to Bernie Madoff for advice on clearing their debts.

Addendum: Thanks @PencilBloke for pointing out that this is also mutually exclusive with point 32 – any system that effectively filters high frequency transients from your mains supply will also ground out the superposed high frequency signals used by ethernet over power. On the whole you’re probably better off with a steam-powered difference engineW.

36 Choose safer cosmetics

Perfumes and cosmetics contain a witch’s brew of carcinogens, mutagens, preservatives and toxic heavy metals. New evidence shows makeup and cosmetics cadmium play a key development of aggressive often fatal breast cancer.23 Encourage all the women and preteen and teenage girls in your family to use non-toxic makeup and nail polish.

Reference 23:  PLoS ONE, 2013; 8: e72639 Chronic Cadmium Exposure Stimulates SDF-1 Expression in an ERα Dependent Manner, Esmeralda Ponce, Natalie B. Aquino, Maggie C. Louie.

Why use any form of makeup or nail polish? Seriously? Needless to say the source doesn’t mention cosmetics as a source of cadmium, so even when WDDTY give what would appear to be simple and reasonable advice, they still get it wrong!

37 Choose cars that run on petrol or electricity

Diesel cars may release less carbon dioxide, but they higher levels of particulate matter, VOCs and nitrous oxide—all harmful to human health and responsible for nearly three-quarters of toxic air pollution. The Environmental Protection  Agency (EPA) has now labelled diesel exhaust a ‘likely’ carcinogen.24

Reference 24a: Environ Health Perspect, 2002; 110: A458–64 NIEHS News Rising from the Ashes: NIEHS Awards Post-WTC Grants, E Dooley

Reference 24b: Lancet Oncol, 2002; 3: 581 Clear skies not so clean

WDDTY have apparently never heard of diesel particulate filters, which have become ubiquitous since these two (old) publications. Actually of course the environmentally responsible choice is to walk, cycle and use public transport as much as possible, but this is unlikely to go down well with an audience which is likely to be interspersing pages of WDDTY with discussions of whether the BMW or the Volvo is safer for taking Tarquin and Jocasta to the Montessori nursery.

The issue for the driver is not what goes out of the tail pipe, but what’s present in the cabin. Cabin air quality is no worse in diesel cars, and modern diesels with emission controls are much less dirty than older cars anyway. The major source of exposure to diesel fumes is likely to be sitting in heavy traffic, regardless of what powers your own car.

38 Use natural pesticides

The weed killers and insecticides we spray all around our gardens can cause cancer—especially leukaemia in children, brain tumours and prostate cancer—as well as birth defects, arterial damage and other disorders.25 Use eco-pesticides and natural pest prevention methods.

Reference 25: Institute of Science in Society, ISIS Report 06/10/10

ISIS is not a particularly reliable source. It is committed to campaigning against biotechnology. The linked source includes an exhortation to “Ban GMOs Now“, not a hallmark of a neutral source.

There’s no doubt that pesticides can cause health damage. The evidence that they do so when used prudently on non-food plants is slim to none, and the evidence of any significant effect even from use on food plants is pretty weak, provided the levels are as per the directions.

In the end, the balance between higher yields and less pesticide is one on which reasonable people can (and do) differ. We recommend you take your sustainable gardening advice from Bob FlowerdewW rather than Lynne McTaggart.

39 Choose safer personal-care products

Avoid shampoos and toiletries using TEA (triethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine) and products with excessive perfumes, nanotechnology and hair dye (which contains resorcinol and p-phenylenediamine, or PPD, both linked to allergies, cancer and sudden death).

We would go further. Avoid pretty much any product sold on TV by fake scientists wearing white coats and using sciencey-sounding bollocks to sell overpriced junk. Especially if they talk about “nourishing” your hair: hair cells are dead, you might as well attempt to bring roadkill back to life by “nourishing” it.

However, WDDTY cite no sources for their particular selection of things to avoid. So it’s opinion, based on a well-established agenda and well-established lack of good critical judgement.

40 Limit your mobile phone use

Some 200 studies point to health hazards like brain tumours and infertility that may be due to long-term mobile-phone use, especially among children. An Italian court recently found a direct causal link between extensive mobile phone use and brain tumours Keep your mobile phone an arm lengths’ away when not in use, says electrosmog expert Guy Hudson, and text rather than talk whenever you can.

The number of studies pointing to a possible relationship is irrelevant, because the scientific consensus is that there is no solid evidence of a causal relationship, and such a relationship would be unexpected as mobile phones do not emit ionising radiation. It’s no surprise that electrosmog believers like Hudson advise against mobile use, but his opinion is known to be misleading (see above).

For credible information on mobile phones and cancer risks see Cancer Research UK, the World Health Organisation, the National Cancer Institute and other reputable sources.

The consensus of these sites is clear, and we covered it in Talking on your mobile phone 16 minutes a day triggers cancer, and the Mayo Clinic sums it up nicely:

For now, no one knows if cellphones are capable of causing cancer. Although long-term studies are ongoing, to date there’s no convincing evidence that cellphone use increases the risk of cancer. If you’re concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, consider limiting your use of cellphones — or use a speaker or hands-free device that places the cellphone antenna, which is typically in the cellphone itself, away from your head.

Who to believe? A man who sells you products to supposedly make your “dirty electricity” clean, or prestigious cancer research institutes and international public health bodies?


Errata and updates:

  • Item 27 updated 25/12/2013 thanks to a tip from @ogoffan

100 ways to live to 100: Your best supplements

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your best supplements

Supplements are the “gateway drug” of the SCAM industry. They skirt the boundaries of legitimacy, alluding to incredible claims that are never explicitly made in the adverts – relying instead on extraordinary testimonials and sciencey-sounding bullshit in alternative magazines like WDDTY. Most of the WDDTY editorial panel appear to profit from selling supplements, and this is also a profitable sideline for homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks.

Unless you live on a farm, grow all your own organic vegetables and have access to free-range meat, it’s almost certain you have vitamin deficiencies even on the best of diets. Ideally, get yourself tested by a knowledgeable nutritionist to determine which nutrients you need or aren’t getting from your food, and customize your supplement programme accordingly.

This is a blatant sales pitch. There is no good evidence that organic produce is significantly more nutritious than equivalent intensively farmed produce, there is a robust consensus that most people with a healthy balanced diet do not need supplements, and SCAM propagandists are in total denial regarding the rather obvious fact that routine supplementation is medication by any definition, and many of the largest supplement manufacturers are also pharmaceutical companies.

Whatever your political slant, you’ll find an ideologically consonant source telling you that supplements are a waste of money. Daily Mirror, Guardian, Telegraph,  Huffington Post, even the Daily Mail. The claim that the human body has evolved such that even the highly nutritious and enriched modern diet is routinely deficient in large numbers of essential nutrients is implausible, and the promotion of this idea is evidence of the propaganda machine that underpins the immensely profitable supplement industry.

And if your diet is deficient in essential nutrients, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to fix your diet?

The very last person you should consult is a “nutritionist”. Has the public learned nothing from Gillian McKeithW, the noted celebrity copromnancer and holder, like Ben GoldacreW’s cat, of a worthless fake “doctorate” form a worthless fake “health college”? Nutritionists are unregulated, may be untrained or (worse) trained in batshit crazy doctrines with no basis in reality, and their main source of income may well be selling the very supplements they recommend.

21 Choose a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement

Choose a supplement from a reputable brand. If you can’t find one to your liking, take the nutrients individually.

What constitutes a reputable brand? NBTY, formerly Nature’s Bounty, is a $3bn corporate conglomerate; it owns Holland & Barrett and is owned in turn by the Carlyle GroupW. Centrum is owned by Pfizer. Seven Seas is owned by Merck.

22 Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D

About a third of the general population is vitamin D-deficient. The vitamin offers natural protection against most cancers and heart disease, and can also boost immunity and vascular function. People who regularly supplement with vitamin D increase their longevity by 7 per cent. The body naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight—just 5 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day between 10am and 3pm, without sunscreen, is about enough to do the job.20 Otherwise, supplement with 600–1,000 IU vitamin D/day (400–1,000 IU/ day for those aged 18 and under).

Reference 20: Am J Clin Nutr, 2004; 80: 1678S–88S  Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Holick MF.

Vitamin D is the new vitamin C. The same inflated claims, the same mega dosage recommendations from the same industry lobby groups (e.g. the “Vitamin D council”).

The evidence that adequate vitamin D is important, is pretty solid. The evidence that most people are deficient, not so much. For example, it has been found that the apparent deficiency of vitamin D in African-Americans is an artifact of an evolutionary adaptation; the amount of bioavailable vitamin D is much higher than blood tests suggested.

It is likely that modest supplementation would benefit older people, especially postmenopausal women, though there are potential disbenefits and  some of the claims are shown to be false.

More research is needed. The supplement industry instead spends more money on marketing.

23 Make antioxidants the mainstay of your supplement programme

To minimize damage from free radicals, the toxic byproducts of your body’s metabolism, take adequate daily levels of vitamin A (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene or 10,000 IU as retinol), 1–3 g of vitamin E (tocotrienols, up to 600 IU), zinc (10–50 mg), selenium (200 mcg) and vitamin C (1–3 g). And take a good B-complex supplement containing at least 50 mg of thiamine and riboflavin, and 50 mcg of B12.

It’s astonishing that the human race has evolved a metabolism that s incapable of surviving without industrially refined supplements, especially since the availability of these supplements only goes back two or three generations.

Before necking bottles of beta-CaroteneW, it’s as well to be aware that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage, and cardiovascular and total mortality in people who smoke cigarettes or have a history of high-level exposure to asbestos (source).

Once again, a normal healthy balanced diet should contain all the nutrients you need unless you are assessed as deficient by a competent medical professional (i.e. not a nutritionist).

24 Don’t forget magnesium (200–400 g/day) and chromium (100 mcg/day)

According to a large-scale study by the renowned British lab testing service Biolab (see #15), people become deficient in both minerals as they age, and both are necessary for heart health. Magnesium is also essential for bone health and more absorbable than calcium supplements.

Biolab is mainly “renowned” as a lab which offers dodgy diagnostics alongside proper ones and refers people to half the editorial board of WDDTY for treatment of the non-existent conditions they thus diagnose.

NHS Choices seems to think that magnesium and chromium are both widely present in the diet, with no supplementation necessary. The difference may be explained by the fact that NHS Choices is not selling diagnostic tests to allow its referred physicians to profit by selling you the supplement. But that would be conspiracist thinking, and we should probably leave that to WDDTY.

25 Take good-guy bacteria

Invest in a quality probiotic, which includes lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and non-disease causing strains of Escherichia coli and streptococci.

I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Probiotics have been tested on a long list of diseases and conditions, and it appears that a scientific consensus is approaching for the use of certain probiotics for lactose intolerance and rotavirus diarrhea. Claims related to these benefits may be the first to be accepted in many jurisdictions. Before other claims are approved, manufacturers will have to invest considerable time and money to obtain data to show the efficacy and safety of their probiotic product. The data and documentation required to obtain a label health claim will be different in different jurisdictions because of differences in legislation. These discrepancies will add to the challenges faced by probiotics producers and consumers. – J. Nutr. June 2008 vol. 138 no. 6 1250S-1254S The Evidence to Support Health Claims for Probiotics

That’s probably why the Mayo Clinic says that “You don’t necessarily need probiotics — a type of “good” bacteria — to be healthy”.

The probiotic industry is also huge. Major manufacturers are Danone (a multi-billion-Euro French multinational) and the Japanese Yakult corporation. Yakult submitted a request for marketing authorisation, the result of which was:

The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and maintenance of the upper respiratory tract defence against pathogens by maintaining immune defences.

Still, at least Yakult is actually paying for some research, albeit that it has precisely the same sources of bias as any other industry funded research, and still doesn’t support the claims they want to make.

100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy digestion

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy digestion

11 Cut down or avoid eating wheat

Lots of people can’t tolerate this relatively new food in the human diet, particularly as it’s been so genetically tampered with. Each grain contains wheat-germ agglutinin (WGA); in small quantities it can inhibit nerve growth factor, which is vital for healthy neurons.8 WGA can disrupt endocrine function,

causing rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, insulin resistance, and kidney and digestive problems;9 it can also bring about cell death10 and chronic inflammatory conditions. Switch to carbs like millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice and corn.

Reference 8: Scand J Gastroenterol, 2010; 45: 1197–202; Positive serum antigliadin antibodies without celiac disease in the elderly population: does it matter? Ruuskanen A, Kaukinen K, Collin P, Huhtala H, Valve R, Mäki M, Luostarinen L.

Reference 9: BMJ, 1999; 318: 1023–4 Do dietary lectins cause disease? David L J Freed

Reference 10: Toxicol In Vitro, 2004; 18: 821–7 Studies on the joint cytotoxicity of Wheat Germ Agglutinin and monensin. Dalla Pellegrina C, et. al.

Those references don’t support the overall claims, of course. The first finds that “Although AGA positivity is of clinical relevance only in a subset of elderly people, it seems to be related to rheumatoid arthritis and depression, both conditions linked to celiac disease”. This is testable using tTG antibody testing. Valid, worth pursuing, narrowly applicable as the summary suggests. The second says “The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment”, again valid but speculative, and if we don’t have something firmer than speculative nearly 15 years later, perhaps it’s not that significant.

The third reference is a corker. It suggests that eating wheat could treat cancer – the self-same apoptosis that is promoted by some of their quack advertisers. But of course that would never do, wheat is a baddie not a goodie, so it’s spun as “causing cell death”.

There are at least a couple of other problems with the section itself, in addition to the sources not saying what WDDTY claims for them.

First, wheat is an excellent source of essential dietary fibre, while quinoa is ethically and environmentally dubious. Second, wheat intolerance is massively less common than rancid quack tomes such as Wheat Belly would have you believe. Coeliac is the best known and is relatively common – up to 1% of the UK population – but that can be objectively tested, and those with genuine wheat intolerance do not have coeliac.

It’s unlikely that as many as 5% of people have wheat intolerance.

Wheat is the bête noire of many a quack nutritionist, but solid evidence to support this status is lacking. Intolerance and allergy is more common in children than in adults (children often outgrow it), and it introduces non-trivial restrictions on diet.

Bottom line: do not self-diagnose as allergic or sensitive to anything, and don’t allow anyone else to diagnose you either unless they are a fully trained and qualified dietician or doctor. Remember, even prominent TV “nutritionists” can turn out to have bought their worthless degrees off the internet.

12 Dump homogenized or pasteurized lowfat dairy

People who consume large quantities of dairy products have higher levels of circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), linked to an increased risk of numerous cancers.11 Men with the highest IGF-1 levels quadruple their chances of getting prostate cancer with low-fat milk, which strips away the anticancer protective effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).12

Reference 11: Recent Pat Anticancer Drug Discov, 2012; 7: 14–30 Insulin-like growth factor: current concepts and new developments in cancer therapy. King ER, Wong KK.

Reference 12a: Science, 1998; 279: 563–6 Plasma insulin-like growth factor-I and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Gann PH, Ma J, Wilkinson P, Hennekens CH, Pollak M.

Reference 12b: Am J Clin Nutr, 2005; 81: 1147–54 Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG.

This is a rehash of WDDTY’s “is dairy cancer food”. We checked that question and found that the answer is probably “no”, and the sources WDDTY use to support it, generally don’t support it and occasionally say pretty much the opposite.

13 Root out any allergies or food intolerances

Besides wheat, suspect the other big seven: corn, soya, sugar, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers), yeast, egg and dairy. Find out if you’re intolerant by following an elimination diet (see WDDTY November 2012).

This is also a rehash of old material including the silly article on arthritis. WDDTY seem to have a particularly schizophrenic view of tomatoes. They contain lycopene (which apparently makes you immortal), are part of the immortality-conferring mediterranean diet, but it turns out they also cause all manner of illnesses.

According to the Mayo Clinic the eight most common food allergies are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Corn, Solanaceae, yeast and sugar do not figure at all. The FDA has the same list, the NHS has a longer and more specific list split into allergies common in children versus adults, again:  corn, Solanaceae, yeast and sugar do not figure at all.

It’s so confusing! Unless you look at the actual evidence rather than a filtered, cherry-picked version in an anti-medicine rag promoting the quackery of so-called nutritionists, of course.

14 Eat your greens for calcium

Dairy products actually accelerate the rate at which calcium is lost from the body, and calcium supplements as a rule are not properly absorbed; in one large study, an increased consumption of pasteurized milk did not protect against bone fractures. Just one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day, rather than once a week, can cut the risk of hip fracture in half.13

Reference 13: Am J Clin Nutr, 1999; 69: 74–9 Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA.

Another rehash of the arthritis article’s claims, and continuing the WDDTY agenda against dairy. Needless to say the source does not support the claim: it finds that “Low intakes of vitamin K may increase the risk of hip fracture in women. The data support the suggestion for a reassessment of the vitamin K requirements that are based on bone health and blood coagulation.”

15 Check out your stomach acid

If you suffer from acid reflux or poor elimination, get your stomach acid levels tested by Biolab Medical Unit (9 Weymouth Street, London W1W 6DB; www.biolab.co.uk; tel: 0207 636 5959) or Genova Diagnostics (63 Zillicoa St, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, USA; tel: (828) 253 0621).

This message was brought to you by our sponsors. Biolab is a respectable lab but it also runs some distinctly dubious tests. It refers patients to a number of the WDDTY editorial panel (can you say “undeclared conflict of interest”? I thought you could) for treatment of medically unrecognised conditions based on questionable tests.

16 Find out if your gut is ‘leaky’

If the walls of the large intestine are excessively permeable, allowing larger food molecules through, this will reduce food absorption and lead to allergic symptoms. Confirm the diagnosis through Biolab or Genova (see the infobox) and repair the gut wall with probiotics, plus the amino acid glutamine and glutathione, an important antioxidant. If you have digestive difficulties, get checked for Candida overgrowth and parasites by doing a stool test (Contact Genova Diagnostics Europe, Parkgate House, 356 West Barnes Lane, New Malden, Surrey KT3 6NB; tel: 0208 336 7750; www.gdx.net/uk).

This message was brought to you by our sponsors.

Leaky gut syndrome is a quack diagnosis.Candida overgrowth is a quack diagnosis. If WDDTY were a responsible publication they would tell you this, rather than feeding you to labs which will diagnose non-existent or unrecognised conditions and refer you to quacks who will “treat” them.

17 Give up the white stuff

Besides causing tooth decay and diabetes, just 10g of any simple sugars, brown white, will temporarily suppress immune system white cells by a whopping 40 per cent.14 Consuming sugar is linked to inflammatory bowel disease, gallstones and kidney stones, high blood pressure, stomach and endometrial cancer, and even shortsightedness. It’s just plain bad for you, full stop.

Reference 14: Dent Surv, 1976; 52: 46–8, Sucrose, neutrophilic phagocytosis and resistance to disease. Ringsdorf WM Jr, Cheraskin E, Ramsay RR Jr.

This study is rapidly approaching its 40th birthday. NHS Choices offers much more moderate advice, that is also (obviously) more practical.

18 Periodically detox

Virtually all of us are walking around with a cocktail of some 100,000 ubiquitous environmental chemicals in our blood, some of which are now known to be ‘bioaccumulating’ in human fat and causing a variety of health problems.15 Take regular saunas, exercise and extra fibre plus Chlorella, Spirulina and coriander (cilantro), as they all show evidence of clearing heavy metals from the body (see pages 80–81 for more detox tips).

Reference 15a:  Altern Med Rev, 2000; 5: 52–63;

Reference 15b: Environ Health, 2011; 10: 9 Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a systematic review Annette Prüss-Ustün1, Carolyn Vickers, Pascal Haefliger and Roberto Bertollini

If there’s one thing that marks out a quack, it’s “detox”. Hysterical references to unidentified “toxins” building up in our bodies, are used to sell expensive treatments that vary between worthless and downright dangerous. Exactly what you’d expect, in fact, given that the first reference is to Alternative Medicine Review, a junk journal devoted to promoting quackery.

The second source is reputable, but does not support detox. It is instead discussing the human effects of dioxins and other known toxins (real ones, identified by name) and recommending means to reduce exposures to these. It does not mention detox even once.

And the reason the reputable source doesn’t mention detox? Detox is what your liver does.

The only known value of detox is as a red flag to avoid a quack.

19 Steer clear of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

Found in virtually every processed food and soft drink (a standard cola has about 17 teaspoons’ worth), HFCS picks up deadly mercury during processing. Also avoid chemical sweeteners like aspartame, now characterized by many as an excitotoxin, shown to cause seizures and brain neuronal damage in animals.16 Aspartame also been linked to cancer in animal studies.17

Reference 16a: J Neuropathol Exp Neurol, 1972; 31: 464–88 Glutamate-induced brain damage in infant primates. Olney JW, Sharpe LG, Feigin RD.

Reference 16b: Eur J Clin Nutr, 2008; 62: 451–62 Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain P Humphries, E Pretorius and H Naudé

Reference 17: Am J Ind Med, 2010; 53: 1197–206 Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice. Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L.

Aspartame is another of WDDTY’s bogeymen. It’s also, according to the best available evidence, safe (and the unreliable evidence is equally unreliable, with mercola.com describing it as “by far the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods”. 1972 is the oldest source used anywhere in the entire article. Wikipedia has a nice discussion of aspartame controversyW. It’s one of the most heavily studied additives in use, and there is a vast amount of evidence indicating its safety.

20 Drink a bit of alcohol

Drinking lightly (a glass every few days) rather than heavily or abstaining seems to be the safest and healthiest overall drinking for preventing heart disease.18But make it red wine, which contains health-giving resveratrol, and also helps prevent inflammation.19

Reference 18:  Eur J Clin Nutr, 2010; 64: 561–8 Relationship between alcohol intake, health and social status and cardiovascular risk factors in the Urban Paris-Ile-de-France Cohort: is the cardioprotective action of alcohol a myth? Hansel B, Thomas F, Pannier B, Bean K, Kontush A, Chapman MJ, Guize L, Bruckert E.

Reference 19: FASEB J, 2009; 23: 2412–24 Resveratrol attenuates C5a-induced inflammatory responses in vitro and in vivo by inhibiting phospholipase D and sphingosine kinase activities. Issuree PD, Pushparaj PN, Pervaiz S, Melendez AJ.

Red wine may indeed be good for you in moderation, but these sources don’t prove it. The first is vulnerable to multiple confounders, the second does not discuss red wine, because the amount of bioavailable resveratrol in wine is unpredictable. It is possible that resveratrol is clinically useful, but the studies don’t compare it with other substances and don’t support its use along with the well-known and potent toxin: ethanol.

Low grade prostate cancer “not a killer”

WDDTY has a particular genius for taking things that doctors do tell you, adding spin, and thereby giving significantly less reliable advice.

Take this piece from January 2014, a rare foray (for WDDTY) into the realm of men’s health:

LOW-GRADE PROSTATE CANCER ‘NOT A KILLER’

Prostate cancer doesn’t become more aggressive over time. Low-grade cancer always stays that way and doesn’t become life-threatening, researchers have discovered, which supports the ‘watchful-waiting’ approach.

Cancer specialists have assumed that prostate cancer can develop and change, and recommend surgery or radiotherapy if the patient is under the age of 65 or so.

But researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have discovered that not only can the treatment result in impotence or incontinence, it may also be unnecessary if the cancer is identified as low-grade. In an analysis of cancer tissue taken from more than 1,200 prostate cancer patients between 1982 and 2000, the researchers discovered that the low-grade cancers invariably remained as such.

Instead, men diagnosed with a low-grade cancer should adopt a watchful-waiting strategy, where there are regular check-ups but no intervention.

Reference: Can Res, 2013; 73: 5163; Gleason Grade Progression Is Uncommon, Penney et. al.

This is not news. It never was news. The article quantifies the risk of progression in low-grade tumours, underlines the notorious unreliability of PSA as a sole indicator of progression, and… advocates the standard of care.

Watchful waiting is the standard of care for low-grade prostate tumours. It has been for years. The fact that more men die with prostate cancer than of prostate cancer has been common knowledge for decades, the risk of false positives from screening is widely documented (e.g. Dr. Margaret McCartney’s excellent The Patient Paradox) and the adverse effects of prostate surgery are also well-known.

The only obvious effect of an article like this will be to discourage those men for whom surgery is indicated, and possibly to frighten some men off having tests at all lest the “medical mafia” try to sell them unnecessary and potentially debilitating surgery.

What doctors don't tell you
Why don’t doctors tell you that low-grade prostate cancer probably doesn’t need aggressive treatment?

They do.

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Arthritis: it’s not old age, it’s inflammation

Arthritis patients: Fertile prey for quacks.
Like any sufferer from a painful chronic condition, arthritis patients are fertile prey for quacks. Here WDDTY engages in its signature combination of legitimate new research, prehistoric papers beloved of cranks, and uncritical acceptance of practitioners with an agenda and a business to promote, to synthesise a claim that is not actually supported by the sources they cite.

“Doctors have long assumed that osteoarthritis is largely caused by traumatic injury or ‘wear and tear’, but new research suggests that the disease may actually be driven by low-grade inflammation”

Except that doctors are quite clear on the plausibility of autoimmune disorders as a contributor to osteoarthritis, the contribution of one factor does not contradict the contribution of other factors, and the cited studies acknowledge limitations that WDDTY airily waves aside.

The pièce de résistance is representing mainstream research on the side-effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as “proof” of the quack diagnosis of “leaky gut syndrome“.

Continue reading Arthritis: it’s not old age, it’s inflammation

Is dairy ‘cancer food’?

Is dairy ‘cancer food’?
Is dairy ‘cancer food’? asks WDDTY rhetorically in its “special report” by an unnamed writer.

Based on the opinions of a “cancer expert” who is not an oncologist, is no longer GMC registered and sells supplements, a notorious crank with a history of misleading claims, and arm-waving appeals to “every expert” which are not backed up by evidence of consensus of expert opinion, a favourite bogeyman of “nutritionists” is asserted to be a cause of cancer.

Where sources are cited, they fail to back the text supposedly based on them. For example, a source that states a risk from high but not low-fat dairy intake is stated as evidence that dairy per se increases risk.

2013-11_15Is dairy ‘cancer food’?

Author not identified

“In my view, anyone with cancer should give up dairy completely,” says Dr Patrick Kingsley, British cancer expert and author of The New Medicine. From Tokyo to Arizona, every expert who focused on cancer and nutrition repeated the same mantra: Give up dairy.

Patrick Kingsley is not an oncologist. he is not GMC registered. He is a proponent of his self-originated “new medicine” and a vendor of alternative treatments. Support for his claims to expertise and the validity of his treatments comes primarily in the form of books authored by himself. He appears to have no peer-reviewed publications indexed by PubMed.

Searches of common databases and information resources reveals no consensus n favour of dairy exclusion among dieticians or oncologists. The primary search term linking cancer and dairy is a study finding slightly elevated risk of prostate cancer associated with dairy consumption, which acknowledges that it cannot unpick the effects of dairy from the role of calcium in vitamin D metabolism (see below).

British scientist Jane Plant was 42 years old when she first noticed a lump in her breast; six years later, the disease had spread to her lymph system and she was left with a lump “the size of half a boiled egg” protruding from her neck. Plant’s situation, deemed terminal, rapidly turned around when she decided to cut out dairy.

Within days the malignant lump on her neck began to shrink and, within six weeks, it had vanished completely. That was 25 years ago—it hasn’t returned since.

The idea of a metastatic malignancy that was cured in weeks by simply excluding dairy from the diet, is implausible. No sources are provided for the claim.

Jane Plant is a geologist and geochemist, not a medical scientist.

New evidence From Kaiser Permanente research division, which tracked nearly two thousand breast cancer survivors for up to 12 years, shows that women who continue eating dairy after their  breast cancer has
been diagnosed are 49 per cent more likely to die from their cancer (and significantly more likely to die from any cause) than women who cut such foods from their diet.1

Reference 1: J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 May 1;105(9):616-23. High- and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis. Kroenke CH, Kwan ML, Sweeney C, Castillo A, Caan BJ.

BACKGROUND: Dietary fat in dairy is a source of estrogenic hormones and may be related to worse breast cancer survival. We evaluated associations between high- and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.

RESULTS: In multivariable-adjusted analyses, overall dairy intake was unrelated to breast cancer-specific outcomes, although it was positively related to overall mortality. Low-fat dairy intake was unrelated to recurrence or survival. However, high-fat dairy intake was positively associated with outcomes. 

CONCLUSIONS: Intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis (emphasis added)

The claim that cancer outcomes are significantly worse in women who consume dairy products is specifically refuted by this study. It finds, however, an association between high fat dairy (i.e. more of the oestrogenic hormones in dairy fat) and mortality.

This would be a good reason to switch to lower fat dairy products and a terrible reason to exclude dairy, especially for post-menopausal women at risk of osteoporosis.

“There is now consistent and substantial evidence that the higher the milk consumption of a country, the greater their breast and prostate cancer risk,” says British nutritionist and author Patrick Holford.

Patrick Holford qualified as a psychologist, has no legitimate qualifications in diet, is a vendor of supplements, an HIV-AIDS denialist and promotes quack ideas such as hair analysis.

According to 2008 figures, the incidence of breast cancer for women in China was 21.6 for every 100,000 people, while in America the rate is 76, in the UK it’s 89.1 and in France—a country famous for its love affair
with butter and cream—it’s 99.7.2 These differences cannot be reduced to genetics, as migrational studies reveal that when Chinese and Japanese people move to the West, their rates of breast (and prostate) cancer go up.

This is an example of the post hoc fallacy. There is no proven causal relationship.

Reference 2: http://globocan.iarc.fr/factsheets/cancers/breast.asp#INCIDENCE

Compare this with a list of countries by milk consumption. Fourth highest milk consumption per capita is India. India has well below average breast cancer incidence. While a link is possible, it is not supported by these figures.

Adulterated milk

But the problem may have more to do with the state of today’s store-bought milk, and our obsession with ‘low-fat’ rather than with dairy per se. For instance, when scientists look for the link between dairy and prostate cancer, they find that the risk is higher only with low-fat milk, which delivers too high levels of calcium and strips out the protective anticancer effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA),a powerful anticarcinogen.3

Reference 3: Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG.

CONCLUSIONS: Dairy consumption may increase prostate cancer risk through a calcium-related pathway. Calcium and low-fat milk have been promoted to reduce risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer. Therefore, the mechanisms by which dairy and calcium might increase prostate cancer risk should be clarified and confirmed. (emphasis added)

This finding is inconsistent with the breast cancer finding, and is stated by the authors to be a weak finding (“may increase risk”) which requires further analysis to unpick the different factors involved, including the roles of calcium and vitamin D.

Why milk might feed cancer

CLA also protects against the most cancer accelerator: insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. The hormone naturally circulates in our blood and, like cortisol, progesterone and oestrogen, it’s necessary—it’s in mother’s milk to ensure the baby grows, and levels of IGF-1 rise in puberty to stimulate the growth of breasts. As we grow older, levels naturally drop off. That is, unless you’re a dairy lover.

This appears to be addressed by reference 1: it is related to fat content not dairy per se.

“We certainly know that people who consume a lot of dairy products will have higher levels of IGF-1,” says Patrick Holford.

“It simply does what it’s meant to do—stimulate growth. It also stops overgrowing cells from committing suicide, a process called ‘apoptosis’.”

Besides breast cancer, elevated IGF-1 levels have been linked to increased risks of colorectal, breast, pancreatic, lung, prostate, renal, ovarian and endometrial cancer.4 In fact, men with the highest IGF-1 levels quadruple their risk of prostate cancer 5

Reference 4: Recent Pat Anticancer Drug Discov. 2012;7:14–30. Insulin-like Growth Factor: Current Concepts and New Developments in Cancer Therapy Erin R. King, MD, MPH and Kwong-Kwok Wong, PhD

A somewhat puzzling source as it is reviewing patent reports related to IGF-1.

Reference 5: Science. 1998 Jan 23;279(5350):563-6. Plasma insulin-like growth factor-I and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Gann PH, Ma J, Wilkinson P, Hennekens CH, Pollak M.

“Identification of plasma IGF-I as a predictor of prostate cancer risk may have implications for risk reduction and treatment” – the source mentions dairy only once, as a citation to Am. J. Epidemiol. (2007) 166 (11): 1270-1279. Calcium, Dairy Foods, and Risk of Incident and Fatal Prostate Cancer The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, Park et. al. which states: “Although the authors cannot definitively rule out a weak association for aggressive prostate cancer, their findings do not provide strong support for the hypothesis that calcium and dairy foods increase prostate cancer risk.”

A search for each of the cancer types listed plus dairy, taking the first obvious peer-reviewed study for each:

  • Colorectal cancer: “Milk intake was related to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer” – J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Jul 7;96(13):1015-22. Dairy foods, calcium, and colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of 10 cohort studies.
  • Breast cancer : As above, a risk associated with high but not low-fat dairy produce
  • Pancreatic cancer: “Total meat, red meat, and dairy products were not related to risk” – Am. J. Epidemiol. (2003) 157 (12): 1115-1125. Dietary Meat, Dairy Products, Fat, and Cholesterol and Pancreatic Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study Michaud et. al.
  • Lung cancer: No obvious significant studies, but dairy farmers have lower lung cancer incidence.
  • Prostate cancer: As above, weak evidence of increased risk, uncertain at this stage whether it is dairy specific or related to calcium / vitamin D link
  • Ovarian cancer: “Overall, no associations were observed for intakes of specific dairy foods or calcium and ovarian cancer risk” – Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Feb;15(2):364-72. – Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Genkinger et. al.
  • Endometrial cancer: “Total dairy intake was not significantly associated with risk of preinvasive endometrial cancer. [W]e observed a marginally significant overall association between dairy intake and endometrial cancer” – Int J Cancer. 2012 Jun 1;130(11):2664-71. Milk, dairy intake and risk of endometrial cancer: a 26-year follow-up. Ganmaa et. al.

So the boldly asserted claim of a strong link with numerous specific cancers, not backed by references to sources, is contradicted where sources address the question directly.

However, the claim that dairy increases risks of these cancers is stated as fact (again without sources) by  Vegan International Voice for Animals, and contradicted with allusions to sources but no specific references by The Dairy Council, whose summaries are in line with the studies listed above.

In general, claims that milk is a significant and substantial risk factor for cancers are linked primarily to sites with an ideological commitment to reduced dairy consumption or other alternative diet and health claims.

But what about bones? 

We’ve been repeatedly told that drinking milk builds strong bones, yet clinical research tells a different story. One study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased pasteurized milk consumption on fracture risk.

The source of this figure is Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504–511. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women Diane Feskanich, Walter C Willett, and Graham A Colditz. This refers to post-menopausal women; as it notes: “A review of the literature concluded that there is no clear benefit of higher milk or dairy food intake on bone mass or fracture risk in women > 50 y of age but that a benefit is seen in women < 30 (37)”

The WDDTY article appears to be using the bait-and-switch tactic of conflating two cohorts (pre- and post-menopausal women)with different risk and benefit profiles.

Could eating your greens provide better protection?

A report from the US Nurses’ Health Study found that those eating a serving of lettuce or other green leafy vegetables every day cut the risk of hip fracture in half compared with eating only one serving a week.6

Reference 6: Am J Clin Nutr, 1999; 69: 74–9 Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA.

CONCLUSIONS: Low intakes of vitamin K may increase the risk of hip fracture in women. The data support the suggestion for a reassessment of the vitamin K requirements that are based on bone health and blood coagulation.

This applies to post-menopausal women, for whom dairy is not found to be protective.

A much later and wider-ranging study is Health Technol Assess. 2009 Sep;13(45):iii-xi, 1-134. Vitamin K to prevent fractures in older women: systematic review and economic evaluation. Stevenson M, Lloyd-Jones M, Papaioannou D.:

CONCLUSIONS: There is currently large uncertainty over whether vitamin K1 is more cost-effective than alendronate; further research is required. It is unlikely that the present prescribing policy (i.e. alendronate as first-line treatment) would be altered.

This suggests that sources may have been selected to serve an agenda rather than on the basis of the best and most current research.

Dark leafy greens not only provide calcium, but are also a potent source of vitamin K, which helps in calcium regulation and bone formation. There’s another benefit to choosing non-dairy foods. “Eating nuts, seeds and greens gives you the right balance of calcium and magnesium, but you don’t get that balance in dairy products,” says Holford. For those considering switching to soy milk, you might be interested to hear how it is made. According to Dr Al Sears, a physician with extensive experience in natural healthcare, it involves “washing the beans in alkaline or boiling them in a petroleum-based solvent; bleaching, deodorizing and pumping them full of additives; heat-blasting and crushing them into flakes; and then mixing them with water to make ‘milk’.”

This rather transparent dig at soya milk is no doubt entirely unrelated to the fact that in the US soya is routinely sourced from GM crops. Surely it would be entirely out of character to attack an entire food source on the basis of an instinctive dislike for genetically modified crops.

Thankfully there is a plethora of options available for the non-dairy consumer today, ranging almond milk to raw truffle chocolate.

Thankfully there is no credible evidence that any such thing is required, as fake milk products tend to be an acquired taste.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that cutting out dairy will prevent or cure cancer?

Because there’s no good evidence it will.

The Big Cancer Cover-Up

The big cancer cover-up: WDDTY vol 23 no. 11 (March 2013)
The big cancer cover-up is an op-ed by Bryan Hubbard following the Neon Roberts case. Positioned as highlighting “the shortcomings of conventional cancer treatments and the bias against fair testing of the alternatives”, it is instead a credulous Gish gallop across the landscape of cancer quackery.

The only therapies which get a rough ride, are those supported by reliable evidence. And here Hubbard turns the conspiracy dial up to eleven.

For example, Hubbard states: “Chemotherapy’s true success rate hovers around the 2 per cent mark—the cancer patient has a 2 per cent chance of living a further five years or longer if he has chemotherapy”. This is complete nonsense. Not only is it grotesquely inaccurate in the case of, say, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, where five-year survival with chemo as primary therapy is in excess of 80% and some patients are 40 years and more post chemo, it’s also grotesquely untrue in the aggregate.

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