Tag: cancer

How to avoid almost half of all cancers

December 6, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
How to avoid almost half of all cancers

The Guardian reports that it’s not all in the genes:

Around 40% of cancers in women and 45% of those in men could be prevented by a healthier lifestyle, including drinking less, smoking less and losing weight, according to the most comprehensive study of the risk factors to date.

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Colonoscopies: a sure way to save thousands of lives every year.

November 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Colonoscopies: a sure way to save thousands of lives every year.

Every year 50,000 Americans die of colon cancer or rectal cancer (combined, they are referred to as colorectal cancer). If Americans over 50 years of age (and those in other higher risk categories) were screened for colorectal cancer as recommended, 80% of these cancer deaths could be avoided.

These numbers are staggering. To put them in perspective, about 3,000 Americans died during the 9/11 attacks, which caused this country to become apoplectic to the point where it started an entirely needless war that is currently in its seventh year. Needlessly undiagnosed colon cancer takes the lives of more than ten times as many Americans as 9/11 every year. Needlessly undiagnosed colon cancer killed enough Americans over the past twelve months to fill an entire major league baseball stadium. So where is the “war on colon cancer?

My insurance company just send me a mailer reminding me of the importance of obtaining a colonoscopy, the gold standard for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer. The statistics are so stark that it would be irrational for anyone to not proceed with this procedure, even though going through with it are less than pleasant.

Given that I’m 53 and I’ve never had such a procedure, I signed up. I started looking for information on the internet and found this highly informative video introduced by Katie Couric and featuring Dr. Jon LaPook, a gastroenterologist, who undergoes a colonoscopy on camera to demonstrate both the preparation and the procedure. After viewing this video, the entire thing looks a lot less daunting.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

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Number of swine flu deaths versus other kinds of deaths

October 29, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Number of swine flu deaths versus other kinds of deaths

How many Americans have died from swine flu compared to deaths from other major causes of deaths. This chart will surprise a lot of people. I checked out some of the stats with reputable sources and they seem legit.

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Statistical illiteracy afflicts health care professionals and their patients

June 7, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Statistical illiteracy afflicts health care professionals and their patients

Over at Scientific American Mind Gerd Gigerenzer and his colleagues have published a terrific article documenting the statistical illiteracy that sometimes runs rampant in health care fields. The article, “Knowing Your Chances,” appears in the April/May/June 2009 edition.

The authors point out numerous medical care fallacies caused by statistical illiteracy , including Rudy Giuliani’s 2007claim that because 82% of Americans survived prostate cancer, compared to only 44% in England, that he was lucky to be living in the United States and not in England. This sort of claim is based on Giuliani’s failure to understand statistics. Yes, in the United States, men will be more quickly diagnosed as having prostate cancer (because many more of them are given PSA tests), and then many more of them will be treated. Despite the stark differences in survival rates (the percentage of patients who survive the cancer for a least five years, “mortality rates in the two countries are close to the same: about 26 prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 American men versus 27 per 100,000 in Britain. That fact suggests the PSA test

has needlessly flagged prostate cancer in many American men, resulting in a lot of unnecessary surgery and radiation treatment, which often leads to impotence or incontinence. Because of overdiagnosis and lead-time bias, changes in five-year survival rates have no reliable relation to changes in mortality when patterns of diagnoses differ. And yet many official agencies continue to talk about five-year survival rates.

Gigerenzer and his colleagues give a highly disturbing as example regarding mammogram results. Assume that a woman just received a positive test result (suggesting breast cancer) and asks her doctor “What are the chances that I have breast cancer?” In a dramatic study researchers asked 160 gynecologists taking a continuing education course to give their best estimate based upon the following facts:

A.) the probability that a woman has breast cancer (prevalence) is 1%
B.) if a woman has breast cancer the probability that she tests positive (sensitivity) is 90%
C) if a woman does not have breast cancer, the probability that she nonetheless tests positive (false-positive rate) is 9%

The best answer can be quickly derived from the above three statements. Only about one out of 10 women who test positive actually has breast cancer. The other 9/10 have been falsely diagnosed. Only 21% of physicians picked the right answer. 60% of the gynecologists believed that there was either an 81% or 90% chance that a woman with a positive test result actually had cancer, suggesting that they routinely cause horrific and needless fear in their patients.

What I found amazing is that you can quickly and easily determine that 10% is a correct answer based upon the above three statements–simply assume that there are 100 patients, that one of them (1%) actually has breast cancer and that nine of them (9%) test false positive. This is grade school mathematics: only about 10% of the women testing positive actually have breast cancer.

As the article describes, false diagnosis and bad interpretations often combine (e.g., in the case of HIV tests) to result in suicides, needless treatment and immense disruption in the lives of the patients.

The authors also discuss the (tiny) increased risk of blood clots caused by taking third-generation oral contraceptives. Because the news media and consumers so often exhibit innumeracy, this news about the risk was communicated in a way that caused great anxiety. People learned that the third-generation pill increased the risk of blood clots by “100%.” The media should have pack is aged the risk in a more meaningful way: whereas one out of 7000 women who took the second-generation pill had a blood clot, this increased to two in 7000 women who took the new bill. The “absolute risk increase” should have been more clearly communicated.

Check out the full article for additional reasons to be concerned about statistical illiteracy.

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Bush Administration destroyed cancer research center and scattered the researchers

May 13, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
Bush Administration destroyed cancer research center and scattered the researchers

Affiliated Press – May 13, 2009

Recently discovered secret documents indicate that, in 2006, the Bush Administration ordered the destruction of a major cancer research center and banned the doctors and researchers from ever again communicating with each other.

Dr. Rod Nym, former Director of the center, recently agreed to discuss this disturbing incident with the Affiliated Press. Nym indicated that the towering brick and mortar research center had its genesis several years ago thanks to a large grant by the Marduk Foundation. The Center was built in the middle-east corridor of the tri-state region to bring together hundreds of cancer researchers from all corners of the globe.

Even though the researchers and doctors came from many different countries and spoke many different languages, they were able to communicate efficiently thanks to special software installed throughout the center. The software was similar to Babelfish, and it instantly translated any language into any other language, enabling the researchers to collaborate to an extent never before seen in an international research team.

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All that talk about life after death . . .

March 18, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
All that talk about life after death . . .

Highly religious people should be more willing to say goodbye to the material world, right? It turns out that devout believers cling ferociously to Earthly life. That’s the finding of a new study reported by the Center for Inquiry:

[T]erminal cancer patients who reported drawing comfort from religion were significantly more likely to demand heroic care during their final week of life than those less attached to faith. Strong believers were also significantly less likely to engage in advance-care planning activities like making a living will, signing a do-not-resuscitate order, or naming a health-care proxy.

The difference between religious and non-religious was not trivial:

Only 3.6 percent of the least religious received mechanical ventilation during the final week of life, compared to 11.3 percent of the most religious.

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Montana judge sticks her neck out for terminally ill patients

December 7, 2008 | By | 7 Replies More
Montana judge sticks her neck out for terminally ill patients

Let’s see . . . who should have the final say over whether a terminally ill person has suffered enough and should be allowed to check out of life Earth.  Based on the debacle involving Terry Schiavo I’m betting that the country will be split down the middle in this emerging battle in the culture […]

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Sniffing out skin cancer

August 21, 2008 | By | 9 Replies More
Sniffing out skin cancer

I thought the bloggers of DI might be interested in a short video I recently had a hand in creating and during which I got to see behind the scenes at a sensory laboratory. Chemist Michelle Gallagher, while doing her post-doctoral research at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, became fascinated when she learned of a […]

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Take a couple of deep breaths and then read this closely: it isn’t dangerous to use marijuana.

July 5, 2008 | By | 28 Replies More
Take a couple of deep breaths and then read this closely: it isn’t dangerous to use marijuana.

It is awkward for me to argue that adults have the right to smoke marijuana. Whenever I make this argument, I suspect that people think that my arguments constitute a thin and self-serving façade for my own personal desire to smoke marijuana. I have never smoked marijuana, though, and have never desired to do so, […]

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