Two Views of the War on Cancer

Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. By Gayle Sulik. Oxford University Press, New York, 2010. ISBN: 0199740453. 424 pp. Hardcover, $29.95.  The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. By Siddhartha Mukherjee. Scribner, New York, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-4391-0795-9. 571 pp. Hardcover, $30. The pink ribbon is a widely recognized symbol

Overdiagnosis

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch has written a new book Over-diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, with co-authors Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin.  It identifies a serious problem, debunks medical misconceptions and contains words of wisdom. We are healthier, but we are increasingly being told we are sick. We are labeled with diagnoses that

A New Perspective on the War against Cancer

Myths and misconceptions about cancer abound. Oncologists are frequently criticized for torturing patients by burning, cutting and poisoning without making any real progress in the war against cancer. Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist and cancer researcher, tries to set the record straight with his new book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.   It

The China Study Revisited: New Analysis of Raw Data Doesn’t Support Vegetarian Ideology

Over a year ago I wrote about The China Study, a book by T. Colin Campbell and his son based on a huge epidemiologic study of diet and health done in China. The book’s major thesis is that we could prevent or cure most disease (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye and

Red Meat: Is It Hazardous to Health?

Red meat consumption has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer (breast, colorectal, stomach, bladder, prostate, and lymphoma). There are plausible mechanisms: meat is a source of carcinogens, iron that may increase oxidative damage, and saturated fat. But correlation and plausibility are not enough to establish causation. Is red meat really

Taking Control of Death

Science isn’t the only game in town. Literature can teach us things about the world that science can’t. It can give us vicarious experience and insight into other minds. Two recently published novels illuminate why perfectly rational people might reject the help of scientific medicine and prefer to die a little sooner but to die

Questioning Colonoscopy

Everybody knows that colonoscopy is the best test to screen for colorectal cancer and that colonoscopies save lives. Everybody may be wrong. Colonoscopy is increasingly viewed as the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening, but its reputation is not based on solid evidence. In reality,  it is not yet known for certain whether colonoscopy can

The China Study

One of our readers asked that we evaluate a book I had not previously heard of: The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health, by nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, PhD, with his non-scientist son Thomas M. Campbell II. The China Study was an epidemiologic survey of diet and health conducted

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

LIVING PROOF: A MEDICAL MUTINY

Book Review of LIVING PROOF: A MEDICAL MUTINY By Michael Gearin-Tosh 334 pp. New York: Scribner, 2002.  ISBN 0-7432-2517-1, $25.00. The author, an Oxford professor of English literature, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and advised to have chemotherapy. He rejected that advice because of the toxicity of chemotherapy, the uncertain prognosis, and his aversion to