Category: Epidemiology

Do Helmets Prevent Head Injuries?

A cycling enthusiast asked me about helmets. It seems compellingly obvious to me that a head impacting the pavement without a helmet is likely to sustain more damage than a head protected by a helmet. He challenged that, citing a BMJ article by Ben Goldacre that questioned whether the evidence showed that helmets do any good. He said I was making a...

/ May 19, 2015

Screening for disease in people without symptoms: The reality

One of the most contentious questions that come up in science-based medicine that we discuss on this blog is the issue of screening asymptomatic individuals for disease. The most common conditions screened for that we, at least, have discussed on this blog are cancers (e.g., mammography for breast cancer, prostate-specific antigen screening for prostate cancer, ultrasound screening for thyroid cancer), but screening...

/ February 2, 2015

Hot-Zone Schools and Children at Risk: Shedding light on outbreak-prone schools

The subject of parental vaccine refusal and the impact that has on disease outbreaks has been covered many times on SBM and elsewhere. I apologize to our readers who are growing tired of the subject, but there is perhaps no subject more deserving of focus and repetition. There’s also an important angle to the discussion that I’ve written on previously and which...

/ January 30, 2015

Is cancer due mostly to “bad luck”?

One of the more difficult conversations to have with a patient as a cancer doctor occurs when a patient, recently informed of her diagnosis of, for example, breast cancer, asks me, “Why did I get this? What caused it?” What almost inevitably follows is an uncomfortable conversation in which explanations of the multiple known causes of breast cancer do not satisfy the...

/ January 5, 2015

Breast cancer myths: No, antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer

Antivaccine activists frequently claim that aluminum salts used as adjuvants in vaccines cause autism. However, if you listen to the quacks and cranks, that's not all aluminum does. Oh, no, that nefarious metal is also being blamed for breast cancer. But don't throw away your antiperspirant just yet. The evidence cited to support this connection is utterly unconvincing. Much of it even...

/ October 6, 2014

Autism Prevalence Unchanged in 20 Years

That there is an “autism epidemic” is taken as a given by those who feel autism has a dominant environmental cause. The Age of Autism blog, for example, bills itself as a, “Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic.” The term “epidemic” also implies an environmental factor, such as an infection. The epidemiology of autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has never...

/ September 10, 2014

One more time: No, wearing a bra does not cause breast cancer

EDITOR NOTE: THERE IS AN ADDENDUM, ADDED SEPTEMBER 10. Besides being a researcher and prolific blogger, I still maintain a practice in breast cancer surgery. It’s one of the more satisfying specialties in oncology because, in the vast majority of cases I treat, I can actually remove the cancer and “cure” the patient. (I use the quotes because we generally don’t like...

/ September 8, 2014

Ebola outbreaks: Science versus fear mongering and quackery

“Ebola virus particles” by Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine – PLoS Pathogens, November 2008 doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000225. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons. Without a doubt the big medical story of the last week or so has been the ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the most deadly in history thus far. Indeed, as of this...

/ August 4, 2014

PETA Embraces Autism Pseudoscience

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a history of (as the old saying goes) using science as a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than illumination. In that way they are typical of ideological groups. They have an agenda, they are very open about their beliefs, and they marshal whatever arguments they can in order to promote...

/ May 28, 2014

The 2014 Ohio Mumps Outbreak

As I write this post, a large outbreak of mumps is ongoing in Columbus, Ohio. The city, which on average sees a single case each year, has seen over 250 since February. To put things in further perspective, only about 440 cases are normally diagnosed in the entire United States annually. The outbreak began on the campus of Ohio State University, where...

/ April 25, 2014