Skin pH: Salesmanship, Not Science

People are being encouraged to worry about the pH of their skin and to try to change it. These concerns and interventions are not supported by scientific evidence. You have probably heard of the alkaline diet. Public knowledge of pH, the scale by which acids and bases are measured, is plagued by misinformation. People who

Everlywell: At-Home Lab Tests That Don’t Make Sense

EverlyWell offers 34 at-home tests for everything from IgG tests for food sensitivities to a Sleep and Stress test. Most of them make no sense and are likely to mislead customers. Here we go again! First I wrote about Theranos, then SmartJane, and now EverlyWell. More companies are jumping on the at-home testing bandwagon; apparently the convenience and

Smart Jane Test of Vaginal Health: Clever Marketing, Questionable Science

Gonorrhea. The SmartJane test is not the way to diagnose this. The uBiome company’s SmartJane test claims to use state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, statistical genetics, algorithms, and other proprietary innovations so women can assess their own vaginal health. Customers collect samples with vaginal swabs and mail them in for processing. They

Too Many Tests

Doctors order too many tests. Some are useless, some are harmless (except for the cost), but some can lead to serious bodily harm. Misconceptions about tests Many people, even doctors, tend to think of tests as giving consistent, reliable, yes/no answers. They think a test can make a diagnosis, but that’s not how it works.

Chiropractor Treating Concussions for Earlier Return to Play

A chiropractor is using questionable diagnostic and therapeutic measures to return athletes to play sooner after a concussion. Not a good idea. A science teacher contacted me with concerns about a story he saw on his local TV news. It featured a chiropractor in his area who is treating athletes with concussions. He claims that

An HBO Documentary about the Theranos Fraud Raises Concerns

Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos to develop a device that could do 200 tests on a single drop of blood in a minute. She lied; it failed; she is being tried for fraud and conspiracy. The HBO documentary The Inventor tells the story but has some flaws. We can learn lessons from what happened. Alex Gibney’s film The Inventor:

Kidney Cancer and Incidentalomas

Kidney cancer diagnoses are increasing but there has been no increase in mortality or rate of metastases. Kidney cancer is most often diagnosed as an incidental finding on a CT scan that was done for unrelated reasons. Treatment may not always be needed. In the February 1, 2019 issue of American Family Physician, there is an

Osteopenia: When Does Decreased Bone Density Become a Disease Requiring Treatment?

Osteoporosis is routinely treated with bisphosphonates to prevent fractures. A new study suggests that osteopenia should be treated too. But questions remain.  Bisphosphonate drugs have been shown to increase bone density and prevent fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (remember Sally Field in those ads for Boniva?) but what about women with milder decreases in

Vertigo Voodoo: A Crazy-Sounding Cure That Actually Works

A sequence of positional changes sounds like voodoo, but is actually an effective way to cure benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This will not be my typical Science-Based Medicine post. What it is not This will not be: About vaccines, diet, pseudoscience, quackery, or alternative medicine A critique of a questionable treatment, claim, or practice

Questioning the Annual Pelvic Exam

A new article in the Journal of Women’s Health by Westhoff, Jones, and Guiahi asks “Do New Guidelines and Technology Make the Routine Pelvic Examination Obsolete?” The pelvic exam consists of two main components: the insertion of a speculum to visualize the cervix and the bimanual exam where the practitioner inserts two fingers into the