FSM Friends news & articles

Regulating fringe practitioners: “The end result of licensing practitioners who are not science-based is that fraud and pseudoscience now has the imprimatur of legitimate medicine, the public is largely confused about the true status of these practitioners, and the regulatory process is used to promote rather than prevent harm to the public.”

Your gout, your fault? You or someone you know may have experienced gout before. It’s excruciatingly painful, debilitating, and not an event that anyone wants to repeat. Diet and alcohol consumption are regularly cited as causes of gout, and it’s widely believed that gout is a something you bring upon yourself, usually as a result of an indulgent lifestyle. This belief has been around for centuries – as long as gout has been documented. Gout used to be a status symbol – only those with enough wealth (and food) might be lucky enough to have a gout attack.

Gout is a consequence of excessive uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced by the body as a part of metabolism, and it is normally eliminated in the urine. Uric acid is only poorly soluble in blood, and when it crystallizes out of the blood (as urate) and into joints or the skin, it causes the condition known as gout. The big toe is affected in about half of cases, and it appears like a sudden case of inflammatory arthritis, causing swelling and pain.

Individual food choices contribute no more than 1% of an effect on serum urate levels, and diets overall appear to have very little influence. Genetic factors, conversely, are strongly correlated with urate levels and overall are responsible for over 20% of the variation in urate levels. While this is not a study of patients with gout, or a comparison of dietary changes vs. medication management, it does give further weight to the need for medication to help manage uric acid levels. This study should also give some reassurance to patients and health providers that, like so many other medical conditions, “blaming the patient” for their circumstances is harmful and wrong.


Antiperspirants and breast cancer riskAt a recent scientific conference, I had a colleague ask me if antiperspirant use is linked to breast cancer (I research breast cancer). I told her I’d never heard that and did some internet searchers the next day. Sure enough, there they were, site after site rabbitting on about the dangers of antiperspirants, with particular attention paid to that darling of the anti-vaccine crowd, aluminium. I thought if a scientist could be concerned about this myth, how many other people have bought this line. Here is the final word on antiperspirants and breast cancer, from the American Cancer Society. Antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer.

Can (and should) a doctor tell my biological relative my genetic results without my consent? Genetic testing opens up a minefield of ethical issues. Duty of care and doctor-patient confidentiality may work in opposition when a patient finds they have a degenerative genetic disorder – is the doctor then duty bound to reveal this to potentially affected family members?*

“Under the Privacy Act 1988, medical professionals can disclose genetic information to at-risk genetic relatives (blood relations) of an individual who refuses to disclose that information themselves. But that disclosure must be necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of another individual who is a genetic relative.”

(*TL:DR version is No, doctors are able to let family members know).

Research reveals strategies for combating science misinformation“We’re really just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the full network of actors and how they’re moving money in these efforts,” said McConnell, a co-author. “The better we can understand how these networks work, the better the chances that policymakers will be able to create policy that makes a difference.”

Why you should stop buying vitamins and get more sleep instead: The current trial evidence is insufficient to advise routine dietary supplementation in the general population of healthy individuals. The message is simple: most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or mortality. Their widespread use is not justified, and they should be avoided. This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies, who represent the majority of supplement users in the U.S., Canada and other countries. From a public health perspective, funding should be allocated to policies, campaigns and interventions that improve dietary patterns in the general public and disadvantaged population subgroups — interventions that increase consumption of plant foods containing the required vitamins and minerals for optimal health.

Today’s Abused Health Concept

 Cancer death rate continue to decline: Advocates of sCAM medicine love to claim that cancers rates are going up, that cancer is “exploding”. And as usual they don’t check the facts. They find the thing that they WANT to be true, and then they claim it. Instead, we see that the opposite is true. Both cancer prevalence and cancer mortality have been steadily decreasing as modern medicine acts to treat the disease, ease the symptoms, and to understand, address and prevent the underlying causes. “While these data are a bit complicated to unpack, there are some clear signals. Cancer detection and treatment are overall steadily improving. Public health campaigns to reduce risk factors and improve screening are also effective.”

So why do sCAM med lovers keep claiming that cancer is increasing? It suits their narrative as a factoid. It triggers fear and emotion. It allows them to imply that there is something inherently wrong with modern life, to imply that modern medicine is failing, and to imply that sCAM medicine can do better. It allows them to claim that THEY are to holistic ones, addressing the root cause of disease, despite the fact that they can neither prevent, reduce, or treat cancer effectively. So next time someone tells you cancer rates are going up, ask them how trustworthy their source was.

Great moments in Health and Science

Hans Wallstén, inventor of the stent. When arteries in the heart narrow and their blood supply is at risk, stents can act as “human plumbing” to keep these vessels open and to reduce the risk of a heart attack.