The Screening Test that Caused an Epidemic

There is a worldwide epidemic of thyroid cancer. South Korea has been hit the hardest; in 2011, the rate of thyroid cancer diagnoses was fifteen times what it was in 1993. There have also been dramatic increases in other countries including the United States, France, Italy, the UK, and Japan, and lesser increases in Scandinavia

A Questionable Letter of Recommendation for Ear Candling

The New York Times Magazine has published a remarkable article by Kathryn Jezer-Morton: a letter of recommendation for ear candling. It is part of a regular series of “Letters of Recommendation” that the magazine publishes as “celebrations of objects and experiences that have been overlooked or underappreciated.” Jezer-Morton’s article is remarkable for providing insight into

New Superfoods: Kakadu Plums and Cockroach Milk

Can I claim to be psychic? I predicted this. In a previous column, “Superfood Silliness,” I wrote: “At frequent intervals, yet another entrepreneur identifies yet another unfamiliar tropical fruit that can be imported and sold to gullible health nuts at exorbitant prices. I wonder what the next fad will be.” I didn’t have to wonder

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Do They Really Work?

Glucosamine and chondroitin are widely used for osteoarthritis pain. My daughter even gives them to her elderly horse. Their popularity is puzzling, since the evidence from scientific studies indicates that they don’t work. Wikipedia has a useful survey of the history, studies, criticisms, and systematic reviews (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_trials_on_glucosamine_and_chondroitin). It includes a long list of references. I

Genius Java: Memory Boosting Coffee

My local newspaper is an unending source of amusement in the form of ads for questionable health products—ads that demonstrate clever marketing tactics aimed at scientifically illiterate and gullible readers. Perhaps it is a waste of time to critique them, but I like to think that consumers can be educated about the deceptive methods these

The CAMphora: Health in a Jar

Amazon.com sells a lot of other stuff besides books. One of its most intriguing offerings is the SweatEvaporating/Sauna/HealthyUrn/NanoAnion/NegativeIon/FarInfraredRay/Hyperthermia/Fumigate/PulseMagneticField/PurpleClay/Underglaze Pastel And Yellow-glazed—Lotus Out Of Clear Water. I am not making this up: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B019QTUIA2/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new. I will quote the whole deliciously garbled product description for your enjoyment: Embedded 2200 pcs Health-rock Gemstone by specific rules, healthy urn manufacturing

The Truth About Cancer

Ty Bollinger’s documentary series “The Truth About Cancer” demonizes conventional oncology and promotes alternative cancer treatments. I recently wrote an article for Science-Based Medicine pointing out how very untruthful it is. I showed that it used unreliable sources and was full of lies, distortions, omissions, false claims, myths, fallacies, and frankly dangerous misinformation. The “Truth

Uninformed Consumers Are Treating Their Flu Symptoms with Muscovy Duck Offal (Minus the Duck)

What if you bought a can labeled “beef stew,” and when you got ready to enjoy a hearty dinner you found there was nothing in the can but water? What if you discovered fine print on the label that said “Contains no beef stew”? You would be upset. You might think that anyone would be

Newborn Babies Don’t Have Sex, So Why Do We Vaccinate Them for a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Vaccination is arguably the greatest accomplishment of modern medicine; vaccines have saved millions from death and disability, and smallpox has been eradicated forever. But vaccines are not without their critics. Since Jenner first experimented with cowpox, there have been people who have rejected vaccinations for various reasons, usually appallingly wrong-headed ones. A strong anti-vaccine movement

Screening Tests and Primum non nocere

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase meaning “first do no harm.” It is commonly attributed to Hippocrates, but if he ever said any such thing, he certainly didn’t say it in Latin. He lived in ancient Greece from 430 BC to 370 BC and presumably spoke Greek. The phrase, in English and in Latin,