Estrogen Matters

Hormone replacement therapy in menopause is safer and more effective than we have been led to believe. A new book examines the evidence and sets the record straight. Estrogen replacement stops hot flashes cold and is a veritable Fountain of Youth. Estrogen replacement is dangerous: it kills women. It prevents heart disease. It causes heart

Precision Medicine and Uncertainty

Precision medicine is a development that promises to tailor treatments to the individual patient based on genetic and other molecular and cellular analyses. In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative. A website for Precision Medicine claims to offer “perfect care for every individual.” Much of what we read

Therapeutic Touch Pseudoscience: The Tooth Fairy Strikes Again

When tested, therapeutic touch (TT) practitioners failed to detect the human energy field they thought they could feel. Experimental setup from Rosa et al., from JAMA, 1998, 279 (13) A study out of Iran titled “Therapeutic touch for nausea in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: Composing a treatment” was recently published in the journal Complementary Therapies in

A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests

I’m going to follow Mark Crislip’s example and recycle my presentation from The Amazing Meeting last week, not because I’m lazy or short on time (although I am both), but because I think the information is worth sharing with a larger audience. We’ve all had screening tests and we’re all likely to have more of them, but

Science-Based Medicine Meets Medical Ethics

There are four main principles in medical ethics:  Autonomy  Beneficence  Non-maleficence  Justice Autonomy means the patient has the right to consent to treatment or to reject it. Autonomy has to be balanced against the good of society. What if a patient’s rejection of treatment or quarantine allows an epidemic to spread? Beneficence means we should

Hyping Health Risks

Three kids on the same block were diagnosed with leukemia last year. That couldn’t happen just by chance, could it? There MUST be something in the environment that caused it (power lines, the chemical plant down the street, asbestos in their school, iPods, Twinkies?). Quick, let’s measure everything we can think of and compare exposures

A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests

I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. I’m skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine. I don’t write about conventional medicine so much, because I don’t need to. Science itself is inherently skeptical and scientific medicine is self-criticizing and self-correcting. When better evidence comes along, medical