Ten years ago the Human Genome Project reported the complete sequencing of human DNA, one of the greatest accomplishments of modern science. Having a map of our genome opens the door to exciting new possibilities for medical research and personalized medicine. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted “Genomics testing may soon be… read more "Genomic Testing – Are We There Yet?"
It’s easy to think of medical tests as black and white. If the test is positive, you have the disease; if it’s negative, you don’t. Even good clinicians sometimes fall into that trap. Based on the pre-test probability of the disease, a positive test result only increases the probability by… read more "Screening Tests – Cumulative Incidence of False Positives"
You’ve all heard the dramatic testimonials in the media: “I had a PSA test and they found my prostate cancer early enough to treat it. The test saved my life. You should get tested too.” The subject of screening tests is one that confuses the public. On the surface, it… read more "PSA – To Screen or Not to Screen"
Genewize http://www.genewize.com/is a new company offering “100% Product Personalization from Your Personal DNA Assessment.” They analyze your DNA to identify certain selected SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and use the data to tweak the ingredients of the nutritional products they want to sell you (containing everything from vitamins to spinach powder).… read more "Genewize – Not Wise, Not as Advertised"
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… read more "A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests"
A really snazzy new invention allows doctors to see inside their patients’ hearts as never before: the CT angiogram. It produces gorgeous 3-D video images of the beating heart in action. It allows us to see the blood flow through the heart’s chambers and it shows any plaque in the… read more "Are Cardiologists Ordering Too Many CT Angiograms?"
Sometimes diagnosis is straightforward. If a woman has missed several periods and has a big belly with a fetal heartbeat, it’s pretty easy to diagnose pregnancy. But most of the time diagnosis is much more difficult. Alzheimer’s can’t be diagnosed for sure until the patient dies and you do an… read more "Diagnostic Dilemmas"
Phrenology was a 19th century pseudoscience that claimed to associate brain areas with specific personality traits. It was based on palpating bumps on the skull and was totally bogus. New brain imaging procedures are giving us real insights into brain function in health and disease. They are still blunt instruments,… read more "SPECT Scans at the Amen Clinic – A New Phrenology?"
There is a new industry offering preventive health screening services direct to the public. A few years ago it was common to see ads for whole body CT scan screening at free-standing CT centers. That fad sort of faded away after numerous organizations pointed out that there was considerable radiation… read more "Ultrasound Screening: Misleading the Public"
I never thought I’d be promoting ignorance! I’ve always thought the more information, the better; but there are exceptions. I’m going to explain something that is very counterintuitive and grates against every fiber of our truth-seeking skeptical brains. The ad shouts, “Tests That Can Save Your Life… Stroke is America’s… read more "Ultrasound Screening, Fish Oil, and Ear Candles: Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss"