You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with Jim
I love it when a commenter gives me blogging material.
Let’s face it. Blogging is a tough hobby. As much as I do love it so, sometimes I’m at a loss for blogging material. Some would argue that when that happens but not me. Why? Because the blogosphere will provide. At least, it has each and every time that I’ve ever run into difficulties. Of course, it’s even nicer when blogging material is delivered up to me right there in the comments when I’m in just the mood to take on the topic presented. Truly, blogging doesn’t get any better than this.
So let’s meet Harriet Denz-Penhey PhD, Research Associate Professor, Rural Clinical School, University of Western Australia, who showed up in the comments after a post in which I commented on a brilliant video from The Onion showing what some cancer quacks in effect fool patients into doing, namely denying that they have cancer. It was a brilliant bit of parody of “Secret”-like thinking, in essence taking the denial of a cancer patient and juxtaposing it in an overblown manner with his obviously ill appearance. True, the parody was a bit tasteless and uncomfortable to watch, but it hit very close to home. It also attracted the attention of Harriet:
People who eat an onion a day have been shown to reduce their risk of cancer by 50% in studies published in scientific peer reviewed journals.
Given that the biggest cancer quacks are oncologists you need to be careful in your sarcasm. There have been no studies which show that surgery contributes to improved survival (they have just assumed it does for a hundred years). Chemotherapy contributes only just over 2% to the five year survival rate and any contribution from radiotherapy can just as easily be explained by other scientific rationales.
Perhaps it is time to look at your own self delusion.
Unfortunately many just parrot anti-alternative therapy rhetoric without looking at the evidence. Properly prescribed and administered drugs in hospital are the third largest cause of death in the US and by the time you add in medical error, patient error, hospital contracted infections and other medical misadventure modern medicine just might be the highest cause of death in the western world.
Well isn’t that special?
First off, I’d be very, very interested in the scientific studies that show that people who eat an onion away reduce their risk of cancer by 50%. That’s some claim! So I followed back to her websites. All I could find was this, which referenced this study. In reality, it was a retrospective study of people in Italy and Switzerland. There did appear to be an inverse correlation between onion intake and cancer. What that means, who knows? It’s only one study; it’s retrospective; and who knows if there’s a confounding factor. After all, people who eat a lot of onions may do other things that are healthy, such as eating more vegetables. After all, the only adjustments that were made were for age, sex, study center, education, body mass index, and energy intake, plus, depending on the cancer, alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, parity, and family history of cancer at the same site. There are lots of confounders not covered.
Next, Harriet’s clam that there have been no studies that show that surgery prolongs survival is just plain wrong. We know that surgery prolongs survival in many cancers from multiple studies. Moreover, we know how long, which surgeries are more effective, and which types of tumors are and are not likely to be helped by surgery. As for Harriet’s claim about chemotherapy, I’ve dealth with it before on multiple occasions. Quacks like to abuse a dubious study that was custom made to minimize any findings of benefit due to chemotherapy. It’s an Australian study that she abuses here. This is a study that has been widely abused by anti-chemotherapy quackery supporters like Harriet.
It turns out that this is not such an impressive study. Certainly it is not the ringing slam dunk against chemotherapy that Harriet seems to think it is. Indeed, as I have pointed out before, this study appears almost intentionally designed to leave out the very types of cancers for which chemotherapy provides the most survival benefit. Also, it uses 5 year survival exclusively, completely neglecting that chemotherapy can prevent late relapses, and there were also a lot of inconsistencies and omissions in that leukemias were not included, while leukemia is one type of cancer against which chemotherapy is most efficacious. Indeed, the very technique of lumping all newly diagnosed adult cancers together is guaranteed to obscure benefits of chemotherapy among subgroups by lumping in patients for whom chemotherapy is not even indicated! Indeed, I think it’s worth repeating a criticism that was published in a letter about this study. After all, it’s been a year and a half since I’ve done it. I suspect that every several months I’ll have to point out the deficiencies in this study yet again, as people like Harriet keep bringing it up. In any case, here’s a letter to the editor laying out the deficiencies of this study:
The authors omitted leukaemias, which they curiously justify in part by citing the fact that it is usually treated by clinical haematologists rather than medical oncologists. They also wrongly state that only intermediate and high-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of large-B cell type can be cured with chemotherapy, and ignore T-cell lymphomas and the highly curable Burkitt’s lymphoma. They neglect to mention the significant survival benefit achievable with high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem-cell transplantation to treat newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma . In ovarian cancer, they quote a survival benefit from chemotherapy of 11% at 5 years, based on a single randomised-controlled trial (RCT), in which chemotherapy was given in both arms ; however, subsequent trials have reported higher 5-year survival rates. In cancers such as myeloma and ovarian cancer, in which chemotherapy has been used long before our current era of well-designed RCTs, the lack of RCT comparing chemotherapy to best supportive care should not be misconstrued to dismiss or minimise any survival benefit. In head and neck cancer, the authors erroneously claim the benefit from chemotherapy given concomitantly with radiotherapy in a meta-analysis to be 4%, when 8% was in fact reported .
The authors do not address the important benefits from chemotherapy to treat advanced cancer. Many patients with cancers such as lung and colon present or relapse with advanced incurable disease. For these conditions, chemotherapy significantly improves median survival rates, and may also improve quality of life by reducing symptoms and complications of cancer.
I’m willing to take bets regarding how long it will be before I have to take on this article again. Be that as it may, another thing that isn’t mentioned is that a lot of the chemotherapy in this article was given as adjuvant chemotherapy. That means the chemotherapy was not the primary therapy but rather given in addition to surgery. In those cases, the vast majority of the survival benefit is due to the surgery; chemotherapy is “icing on the cake.”
Of course, the bit about “medical errors,” I’ve addressed so recently in dealing with Dr. Dossey’s Three Musketeers of Woo that I don’t feel the need to reiterate.
Sadly, there’s so much more on Harriet’s two websites, so much so that I can only hit the “high points.” For instance, Harriet parrots the quack nostrum of “boosting the immune system” and blaming “toxins” for cancer. Boosting the immune system is, as has been explained here and elsewhere, a meaningless claim, and toxins, as I have said, are nothing more than a fancy “science-y”-sounding word for what, when you look at it closely, is nothing more than the modern day equivalent of miasmas or evil humors.
Harriet’s is basically garden variety woo for the most part. However, she distinguishes herself with some seriously despicable rhetoric:
Remember that the person who got cancer, became ill because of who they were and what they were doing. To become a person who has recovered from cancer means they will need to change some of who they are and what they are doing. These changes will be reflected in the physiological processes of the body, including how well the immune system functions.
Gaaaaahhh! Not this crap again!
Let me repeat this very slowly. Although there are some modifiable lifestyle risk factors that contribute to cancer, in the vast majority of cases it is not the fault of the person with cancer that they got cancer in the first place. One of the only exceptions I can think of is long term heavy smokers. Even in that case I realize just how addictive nicotine is and how hard it is for smokers to quit and therefore see nothing productive in blaming them for their cancer.
That’s not even the most pernicious part of Harriet’s statement. What I find most despicable is how she says that cancer patients became ill because of who they were. What the hell does that mean? Does that mean my mother-in-law developed a rare form of triple negative breast cancer, which killed her within two years of diagnosis (and the first anniversary of whose death is fast approaching) died because of who she was? Screw you, Harriet!
I apologize. Not to Harriet, but to my other readers. I’ll calm down now. But if there’s one aspect of “alternative” medicine that pisses me off more than other, it’s the “blame the victim” subtext to so much of it. If you get sick, it’s not because you were unlucky, or because some nasty pathogen managed to bypass your body’s physical and immune defenses, or because one of your cells went haywire and grew into a cancer. Oh, no. It’s because you didn’t eat the right foods, do enough or the right kind of exercises, take the right supplements, do the right meditations, or make yourself into the disease-invulnerable superman or superwoman that so much of alt-med claims you can be. (Think Bill Maher’s idiotic claims.) In other words, if you get sick, it’s your own damned fault! In fact, if you go to the extreme, believing in The Secret for instance, when you’re told that you can bring good things to yourself by your own thoughts and wishes, the unspoken converse to woo-ful concept is that, if bad things are happening to you, you must be bringing them upon yourself somehow. Harriet’s statement is in that vein.
I guess all those thousands of dead in Haiti wanted that earthquake to happen the other day.
Harriet is also–of course!–selling a book entitled Beat The Medical Odds: Stories Of Unexpected Recovery. It actually has an interesting idea at its core, namely this:
I wanted to do some research into miracles where every doctor would be surprised by the recovery. Research into what I had, chronic fatigue syndrome, wouldn’t work because many doctors thought that was a psychiatric problem and anyone could get better if they only “sorted themselves out.”
So I looked to explore what it was that people who should have died (but didn’t) had in common. I wanted to study people who had miraculous recoveries…
So after a lot of talking with doctors I came up with an idea they had to accept. I would research people who had less than a 10% chance of survival given their diagnosis and treatment. I would look for those who did “better than expected.”
That was much easier to sell to the doctors. I was then able to put together a proposal for the research, apply for and receive funding to do it and get Ethics Committee approval to do it.
It’s actually a rather interesting idea, if you strip it of the woo and try to apply actual science to the question. So, naturally, I did what I always do when I see research claims by someone who apparently holds a real academic medical position. I searched Pubmed. Apparently Dr. Denz-Penhey has published 15 papers in the last 17 years. Not bad. However, they’re pretty much all about medical school education in a rural clinical school. There’s nothing there about cancer or terminal illness. Yes, I knew what the answer to my question would be before I searched PubMed, but hope springs eternal. I had really hoped that Harriet had actually published the results of her “study” in the peer-reviewed literature.
No such luck.
Instead, she wrote a book to sell to desperate patients, who hope that there’s something in there that could make them one of these outlier patients. It’s not even a real book, too. Rather, it’s a downloadable book and doesn’t appear to be available other than as a PDF, with this claim:
Yes Harriet! I need to know what suvivors did to beat the medical odds when they had a terminal condition!
I understand that by placing my secure order today, I will be getting instant access to the amazing secrets of suvivors.
I will have valid hope because if it is possible for one person with a terminal condition to go into remission it is possible for another person to do so.
I will know what the survivors did and what was important to them and will be able to choose whether to do something similar to improve my own quality of life.
Unfortunately, there’s a problem with hoping to be an outlier patient, and that’s that outliers are outliers because their situation and how they do are not relevant to the vast majority of people–including you. Yes, there’s an off chance you might be one of those people if you ever developed terminal cancer, but the odds are so much against it that suggesting that we know how to increase the odds that a patient will be one of those rare survivors are a cruel lie and false hope.
And that’s what Harriet is peddling.
It may well be worthwhile to study such outliers scientifically. Finding them may be difficult, but I can see how a rigorous examination of unlikely cancer survivors might provide information that would help us understand cancer biology. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what Harriet is doing. My guess is that she’s just interviewing them with a heapin’ helpin’ of confirmation bias to identify factors that she already believes in. Even if she’s not, why did she publish her “study” results in an online book that she’s hawking on her website, rather than in a peer-reviewed medical journal?
83 replies on “Beat the medical odds?”
“After all, people who eat a lot of onions may do other things that are healthy, such as eating more vegetables. After all, the only adjustments that were made were for age, sex, study center, education, body mass index, and energy intake, plus, depending on the cancer, alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, parity, and family history of cancer at the same site.”
This is not correct. While not mentioned in the methods section, in the results section it is stated that they did adjust for vegetable intake but that this did not influence the outcomes very much.
OK, missed that. I always pay a lot more attention to the actual methods section than I do to a sentence buried in the results section. If they adjusted for that, it should have been in the methods section.
In any case, a reread shows that the other thing I meant to say, namely that they didn’t appear to adjust for meat intake, appears to be true. Either way, this study, while interesting, is only one study and has a lot of issues. I don’t see that enough confounders have been adjusted for to make such blanket statements of the sort that Harriet makes. She picks one study and assumes it is The Truth.
Speaking as a student of the University of Western Australia, who loves her uni and its general reputation for excellence:
WTF is she doing on any faculty, let alone ours?
Speaking of hawking books, when I peeled back the lid of my Stonyfield Farms yogurt this morning, I saw the following message:
I was wondering if you were familiar with this book at all, and your thoughts on it, since it is being advertised on the packaging of yogurt likely to be bought by “wellness”-oriented folks.
I find this really disturbing.
Through my involvement in other areas of medical education in Australia I have come across these names many times. Unfortunately, Denz-Penhey has been associated with a number of very significant people through her medical education research and one of them (Campbell Murdoch) provides a testimonial for her book on the website. These people are training a significant number of rural general practitioners (family physicians) in Australia – but if this is the standard of a faculty member, how good is the quality of training around critical thinking and research skills?
But I guess this is the pattern that we continue to see more and more – the trend towards “Integrative Medicine” goes hand in hand with the tendency of our training to not encourages us question these outlandish claims.
Oh, and PS – She doesn’t have a medical qualifications . . .
“BTheol PhD Otago.”
t it’s not okay for doctors to blame her for her condition.
It’s interesting she should say this, because that sounds an awful lot like what she herself is saying about cancer — that it’s because of who you are, and will change if you correct that. So I guess it’s okay for her to blame cancer victims for their condition, bu
Apologies for the shocking grammar in my post – but it is 2am over here . . . .
But if there’s one aspect of “alternative” medicine that pisses me off more than other, it’s the “blame the victim” subtext to so much of it. If you get sick, it’s not because you were unlucky, or because some nasty pathogen to bypass your body’s defenses, or because one of your cells went haywire and grew into a cancer. Oh, no. It’s because you didn’t eat the right foods, do enough or the right kind of exercises, take the right supplements, do the right meditations, or make yourself into the disease-invulnerable superman or superwoman that so much of alt-med claims you can be. (Think Bill Maher’s idiotic claims.) In other words, if you get sick, it’s your own damned fault! In fact, if you go to the extreme, believing in The Secret for instance, when you’re told that you can bring good things to yourself by your own thoughts and wishes, the unspoken converse to woo-ful concept is that, if bad things are happening to you, you must be bringing them upon yourself somehow.
That’s part of the autism woo mind set, isn’t it? You did something wrong. You ate the wrong thing, vaccinated your child with OMG POISONS, fed your child the wrong thing. You caused this. You did something wrong. It’s not random, it’s not chance, it’s you. But! You can fix it! You can repair the damage you caused! It’s both blaming the victim/family but also holding out hope of renewal and salvation in the guise of avoiding vaccines, eliminating foods, chelation, etc.
orac: “…(the) woo-ful concept is that, if bad things are happening to you, you must be bringing them upon yourself somehow…In other words, if you get sick, it’s your own damned fault!”
The woo corollary to this is that if alt med nostrums and treatments aren’t working, or if they injure or kill you, the problem is not with the supplements or therapies, it’s that you aren’t following the protocols correctly. When the herbs destroy your liver or cause renal failure, it can’t be that they’re toxic – no, you’re just not doing it like the ancient Chinese did.
The adventures of Harriet Denz-Penhey bring to mind a study I’d like to do, exploring the potential link between having a hyphenated name and the likelihood that one is churning out woo.
Might be interesting.
Please don’t blow a capacitor – but how is this for a target rich environment . . . . .
Everything is there, Vitamin D, ‘boosting the immune system’, ‘toxins’, ‘80% of oncologists would not have chemo’ . . . hell, there is even a pharma-shill gambit or two in there.
Truly, the cancer-woo is strong with this one.
Dude, she was asking for cancer, walking down a dark alley with that sexy miniskirt on. You can’t really blame the cancer. Really, it was all her fault. She was practically begging for it!
What about people who do a lot of sunbathing and use tanning beds extensively, then develop melanoma? Addiction doesn’t apply there.
The woo corollary to this is that if alt med nostrums and treatments aren’t working, or if they injure or kill you, the problem is not with the supplements or therapies, it’s that you aren’t following the protocols correctly. When the herbs destroy your liver or cause renal failure, it can’t be that they’re toxic – no, you’re just not doing it like the ancient Chinese did. (Dangerous Bacon)
This is the way that all traditional healers operate and it is people who are good at convincing people of this thinking that become shamans or “healers”. It is the basis of faith healing as well. The more things change….
About the yogurt guy (Servan-Schreiber): Orac, I hope you will comment on this guy, because there isn’t much to turn up with google–just lots of glowing book reviews and a pathetic Wikipedia entry with many “citation needed” notations. It seems he “recovered” from a brain tumor with lots of woo added to his surgery, chemo and radiation–sound like Suzanne Sommers, crediting the woo, not the medicine.
1. University of Western Australia? Isn’t that where HIV/AIDS denialists(the Perth Group)worked at the hospital and *allegedly* misled people into thinking that they were profs ? 2.About the “onion-a-day” routine: sounds like a less palatable version of “6-almonds-a-day” regime of Edgar Cayce- which was supposed to prevent all cancer.
Can I just say… wow that “eating onions” thing was stupid?
50% reduction in what kind of cancer, in what region of the world and under which conditions ? how many people in the study had family history of cancer ? How many worked around carcinogens such as Asbestos ? It’s bollocks.
“…the person became ill because of who they are…”
By Darwin’s thumb, the woman has a point!
If who you are (physiologically) is largely determined genetically, whether or not you get cancer is based on “who you are.”
Not sure how all her woo changes that, though, unless she figures that by killing people with cancer she’s reducing the likelihood that “cancer genes” will be passed on.
Which reminds me. I really do have to blog that recent study allegedly linking abortion to breast cancer that WND is crowing about in a flaming pit of burning stupid. Maybe a Monday two-fer between Orac and his “friend.” 🙂
Wait, how did those of us with hyphenated names get sucked into this?
That’s a good point, though for older melanoma patients, I think they get credit for a) not knowing about the cancer risk when they were young and b) having been told that lots of sun was good for you. They’re victims of bad advice, in some respects.
On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that it’s impossible (or at least highly impractical) to totally avoid the Sun, especially in certain professions, and one may not entirely have a choice about those. What if the only job you can get after six months of searching is tarring roofs? You’re gonna get a lot of sun exposure, and there’s only so much that sunscreen can do for you.
Come on Orac, you know the Haiti quake happened because they made a pact with the devil back in 1804, and threw poor Napoleon III off of their throne when he’d gone to all the trouble of traveling back in time to rule over them.
Looks as though somebody knows as much about cancer as Pat Robertson knows about history.
Actually, regular and excessive use of tanning beds would be more likely to increase the risk of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are much less lethal than melanoma. The greatest risk factors for melanoma are frequent sunburns (as opposed to tanning) at a young age, family history, a large number of melanocytic nevii (moles) and a fair complexion. You can avoid subburns, of course, but the other factors, not so much.
“What about people who do a lot of sunbathing and use tanning beds extensively, then develop melanoma? Addiction doesn’t apply there.”
What if they bought the tanning bed from Joseph Mercola because he told them they needed more natural vitamin D? I mean, they’re recommended by the Vitamin D Council, they’ve got to be legit!! (sarcasm)
Don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but the blame-the-patient campaign is making disturbing inroads into conventional medicine, too.
She claims to have published the “academic version” of her research in a journal called Qualitative Health Research in 2008.
I hate the phrase “beat the odds.” If you were given a 10% chance of living five years, and you’re alive five years later, you’ve left a hypothetical wake of nine dead people behind you. I may just be misunderstanding statistics, but I’d rather people not congratulate me on proving the percentages right.
Personal Resiliency: Serious Diagnosis and Prognosis With Unexpected Quality Outcomes. Qualitative Health Research, Vol. 18, No. 3, 391-404 (2008)
Yep. You cannot learn anything about probabilities (either discover them or evaluate them) by looking at a single event.
Hmmm. I swear that one didn’t come up on my PubMed search the first time. I must be slipping, missing two things in one post, namely not finding her blog and not finding that article. Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. Either that, or I should stop blogging at 11 PM no matter what.
Oh, well, I think the name of the journal says it all “Qualitative Health Research.” The abstract sure doesn’t look any more impressive than the e-book. (Maybe I’ll look up the article itself when I get back to my office.) As for her blog, well, Holy Woo, Batman! It’s even worse than her websites. She repeats the same deceptive chemotherapy study. She parrots alt-med tropes. She even does her share of H1N1 vaccine bashing, complete with fear mongering about mercury and squalene, and complaints about how the flu vaccine is nothing more than a ploy for big pharma to make massive profits–and more fear mongering about squalene.
So she’s anti-vax, too. What a surprise.
As for her “study,” here‘s what she said about it:
I wonder why it took so long for her to get it published and why it ended up in a low tier journal. Well, no I don’t.
If Harriet wants a real bestseller about outliers, she could tell us all what it was that major lottery winners do to become seriously wealthy.
As for the “Pat Robertson theory of oncogenesis,” I really want to know what she has to say about neonatal cancer. Probably picked the wrong ancestors or something.
I used Google Scholar.
People who eat an onion a day have been shown to reduce their risk of cancer by 50%
No, silly, you use onions to repel vampires!
Dude, she was asking for cancer, walking down a dark alley with that sexy miniskirt on.
Sounds quite a bit like the Gardasil “controversy”.
It’s garlic for vampires.
I think onions are for oni.
People who eat onions (and garlic) often repel other humans thereby reducing any significant chance of spreading disease.
Time to write that book and publish I guess…
It’s garlic for vampires.
Actually, what I meant was the kudlaks, the Yugoslav form of the vampire. Whether is works on other types of the undead is subject of ongoing research.
@Sami: Could be worse, you know. At Macquarie University, we have a Department of Chiropractic. In the Faculty of Science.
Did I read this too fast, or was this woman thinking survival from chronic fatigue syndrome should be considered a “miracle”? (As a panic-attack/anxiety sufferer I am cracking up.)
I wonder what she did to deserve her condition…
In any regard, I just wrote a post myself about Centegra offering a lecture on how modern endocrinology isn’t working, so try acupuncture! And I had a conversation with a friend who developed a sudden thyroid disorder, but she is too afraid to take “radioactive” iodine so she’s not taking anything, even though her Dr. told her her heart is beating too fast & she’ll eventually die form it.
I don’t have a problem with people who have “chronic fatigue syndrome” plunking down the $200 for an acupuncture treatment. I do have a problem with people who do not have DEADLY diseases and disorders scaring the crap out of people who DO into not taking their meds.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have an exceptionally hard time wrapping my head around some of the methods used in qualitative research. Also, I’ll admit I didn’t read the entire article at Qualitative Health Research, but here is the entirety of her “Design” section:
“Because there is so little literature discussing the
components of healing and spontaneous remission,
we considered that grounded theory would give the
greatest amount of useful information. Grounded
theory is a method which allows the data to determine
the variables, relationships, and content in a theory.”
Um, what? Seriously.
However, I did notice that her research consists of interviews with 11 people. Maybe I can get a PhD, too, after my next dinner party.
“Grounded theory” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grounded_theory) would not appear to be appropriate for studies outside the social sciences. It seems akin to poking a stick into something to see what happens, not that there is anything wrong with that. I will leave further comments about the subject to those who are probably more qualified than I am.
meh. it’s deja woo all over again.
Dr. Denz-Penhey makes an interesting assertion:
Part of this is true – people who get cancer generally got it because of who they are: rather long-lived multicellular eukaryotes. If we changed any of these factors, there would be less human cancer.
However, becoming a single-celled organism, much less a prokaryote (baceteria or archaea) would change much of what I think constitutes our unique “human-ness” (not to mention our “mammal-ness” and “animal-ness”). Also, few people would consider dying young – before age 30, for example – as a reasonable trade-off for lower cancer incidence.
Besides, by the time a human being is diagnosed with cancer, it is usually too late to change those characteristics (multicellularity, for example) that led to cancer.
Even for behavior-dependent cancers (e.g. lung cancer from smoking and melanoma due to UV exposure), the time to change the behaviors is before (long before) the cancer develops. Of course, it is always a good idea to stop smoking after being diagnosed with lung cancer, but the impact is far less than stopping earlier (or, better yet, not starting).
Why is it that “alternative” medicine cranks can’t wrap their heads around the idea of genetics? We’ve made such strides in understanding cancer as a dysfunction of DNA damage repair and cell cycle control, yet people like Dr. Denz-Penhey continue to parrot the idea that by eating the “right” foods and taking supplements (or, worse yet, phytotoxin-containing “herbal” remedies) patients can somehow magically correct the DNA of their cancer cells.
Well, if nutrition, herbs and “supplements” could change our DNA, we’d have a lot more “diversity” in the species. In fact, I doubt that we’d be a single species anymore.
Here’s something for the “Cancer Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About” crew: bacteria never get cancer! So, by the “logic” of most “alternative” medicine practitioners, we should all eat like bacteria. For anyone who’d like to try this “therapy”, I’d suggest starting out with the diet of an heterotrophic aerobe, like E. coli rather than, say, a methanotroph or chemolithoautotroph.
It’s just one of the “Cancer Secrets” they don’t want you to know about.
Of course the earthquake was the fault of the Haitians. Didn’t you hear what Pat Robertson had to say? The only way the Haitian freedom fighters long ago could overcome the oppressive forces of Napoleon III was to make a pact with Satan, and the earthquake is Jehovah’s payback. (and yes, that is what he actually said; I’m not joking about that)
Of course, Haiti was granted independence by Napoleon I, 44 years before Napoleon III came to power, but that glaring error doesn’t mean the rest of brother Pat’s rant isn’t Gospel true, does it?
Since $DAUGHTER actually uses qualitative research methods, I have at least a passing acquaintance with some of the concepts. IIUC, it’s a useful tool for developing lines of inquiry (think isolated case reports.) By definition, though, qualitative research methods eschew statistical analysis.
Bottom line: attempting to extract quantitative conclusions (“50%”) from a qualitative study is the sort of thing that peer review is supposed to spew coffee over.
I don’t think ‘granted’ is the mot juste for what Napoleon did.
Yellow jack gets much of the credit, no?
The whole Pat Robertson comment was thoughtless and stupid and only deserves to be made fun of.
It sounds like Pat Robertson is confusing Haiti and Mexico.
Does he like La Paloma Blanca?
Besides, I think it was the Old Testament that said something about the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons even unto the fifth generation. Assuming anyone who made this alleged pact with the Devil was alive in 1790 and allowing 30 years per generation, then children of the fifth generation were born about 1940 and are old enough to have some residual immunity to the H1N1 virus.
Anyone not old enough to sing in the Haitian equivalent of the [email protected] chorus is an innocent victim of Pat Robertson’s logic.
I refuse to endorse, support or worship any being who is that thoughtlessly cruel. And, I certainly refuse to take advice from anyone foolish enough to suggest such a thing.
I suspect that at least part of the “blame the victim” mentality re “toxins” is coming out of the strong emphasis put on pollution in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. If you grew up then, you were raised to be concerned about industries dumping pollutants into air, water, and ground — rightly so, perhaps, but the specter of pollution itself probably formed a childhood boogeyman. It was all over the schools. Whistleblowers were heroic figures. People who were not trying to get rid of pollution, were the bad guys. Give a hoot.
When I ask alties what they mean by “toxins,” they seem to think it means toxic waste put into the environment by corporations and businesses, which have now polluted the cells in our bodies.
Brilliant. I’m going to work on marketing a new system for people to change their multicellular status.
A bit of further research into ‘Dr’ Denz-Penhey reveals that her Bachelors Degree was in – wait for this – Theology. I have no idea what her PhD is in, but I can guarantee it has nothing to do with medicine.
As someone who was essentially cured of a cancer as a result of surgery and radiation this makes me so very very intensely fucking irritated. My cancer has no known cause except radiation exposure in some patients, and there are no toxins or life style choices that could possibly have caused my cancer (no vacations to Chernobyl)and no life style change that could possibly impact the likelihood of a recurrence. What twaddle Harriet. And itâs damn sure my recovery from cancer would have been unexpected without surgery. Thanks for the take down Orac.
It would appear that Harriet is all about the happy, resilient cancer patient who should use natural cures.
As Australians, we’re very proud of the fact that we punch above our weight with respect to world affairs. For a population of 22-odd million, we export talent and expertise in all fields.
You want a strident anti vaxer? I give you Meryl Dorey.
You want an bible thumping YEC? Say hello to Ken Ham.
Now we can add a cancer quack to that esteem list. Welcome to the Hall of Shame, Harriet.
“A bit of further research into ‘Dr’ Denz-Penhey reveals that her Bachelors Degree was in – wait for this – Theology. I have no idea what her PhD is in, but I can guarantee it has nothing to do with medicine.”
Based on her publications and job in Australia, it probably has to do with health education.
Here’s one of her screeds on medicine that is getting republished around the wooisphere, and which does not make you feel confident about any effect she might be having on impressionable young medical minds, not to mention embarassing the institution she works at.
HDP: “I get very irritated about those professionals who gravely inform the public about the supposed dangers of supplements and the problems they can cause. I understand that there has only been one possible death in the last years that might have been attributable to an overdose of a supplement. Please note these qualifications as it wasnât actually proven.”
Ms. Denz-Penhey’s own education seems selective at best.
Dense Penny ?
Denhs-Penhey, alias Dense Penny and her loony sister Oily Tits (Orly Taitz).
Here’s a story for you Harriet. My sister was diagnosed with an inoperable lung tumor near her heart at 47. She was given a 12% chance of survival with a then-new radical chemo radiation treatment. My family was devastated, but she was strong and kept improving. She lost her hair. She kept improving. She never complained and never lost her sense of humor. She kept improving with each transfusion of “toxins”. The final treatment was a radiological brain treatment. My sister lived for seventeen more years after lung cancer.
In those seventeen years, she got a job, she took cruises, she saw all her grandchildren born. She took care of them and enjoyed her life to the fullest. One day, two years ago, she drove through the garage wall. She had no idea what happened. This was followed by spells of dizziness and nausea. As she knew it very well might, the cancer had returned.
This time it was in her lungs, spine and brain. She was gone in five weeks. In this case the oncologists told her that chemotherapy and radiation might give her a few more months to live, but that because of the lesions on her brain, she would most likely spend those months blind and possibly even deaf. She bravely declined and then proceeded to die as well as any human could ever hope to.
Her gratitude to those oncologists who initially gave her seventeen extra years was expressed through goodbye visits with each and every one of them. She never felt that they had let her down. She never felt that she’d been cheated or poisoned. She knew that she was given nearly two decades that she would have missed without chemo and radiation. Four grandchildren she would have never known, and she knew one other thing that she was fond of reminding all of us: shit happens. Love every moment you have here. Kindly wake the fuck up Harriet, and stop blaming people who get sick because you’re terrified of cancer.
Ye gods. In my own backgarden….
Im an alumni of, and a Clinical Associate Professor in, two health faculties at UWA.
Although physically isolated from the rest of the world, it’s a prestigious, progressive university – for example, Barry Marshall (Nobel laureate of Helicobacter plyori fame) is on staff.
I have never heard of this person until now. I very much doubt that the vice chancellor knows that her (and her colleague Dr Murdoch, who appears in the testimonials) are aware that UWA employees are expressing these views in association with their academic appointments.
Also, in reply to a query above, the so-called “Perth Group” of dissident HIV “researchers” has absolutely no connection to UWA whatsoever.
As a ‘survivor’ (bowel cancer in my case) I’ll give you the ‘secret’ for free.
1)Listen to your doctors.
2)Put up with the treatment, yeah chemotherapy is nasty and scary, tough.
Heh, whenever you find someone like that, it’s easy and fun to induce total brain crampage as follows:
Since we know that 98% of the atoms in our bodies are replaced each year [yes, this is true – “You could look it up,” as the saying goes] does that mean our bodies seek out new toxic waste atoms to replace the old ones?
Watch their eyes glaze over as they try to wrap their minds around that, and just walk away, leaving them to wonder….
This is off the subject but my husband just sent me this interesting article on ars technica.
The article said of ABC speaking to Jenny McCarthy about autism:
I love my husband 🙂
DayOwl 2 23:
Unfortunate, but not surprising. The “blame the victim” mentality, particularly when it comes to health, is ancient and may be at least partly fundamental to human nature. The Bible is rife with examples. We modern readers tend to miss the subtext of stories such as Jesus healing lepers, thinking “oh, it’s a faith healing story” but ancient readers would’ve picked up on something else — not merely that Jesus *could* heal lepers but that he *would*. People didn’t quarantine to prevent infection; they had no concept of infection control. Rather, they quarantined because the ill were *bad people* and you don’t associate with *bad people*. And lepers were *really* bad. You didn’t know what they’d done to deserve leprosy, but it must’ve been something really bad. Or maybe something their parents, or grandparents did — the idea of retribution passing down a few generations was in the old Jewish Scriptures, as someone else has noted in this thread. So the Christian Scriptures are useful not merely to Christians but to anyone wanting a window on the culture of the period.
That’s just one example. Many cultures have done precisely the same thing, and although science has given us good reasons to move away from it, there seems to be a very strong urge in ourselves to slide back to it. I think a big part of it is our natural sense of fairness, a trait which has been observed in nearly all social mammals. If things appear unfair, it gives us cognitive dissonance, and we want desperately to resolve that. An easy way out is to assume that it isn’t really unfair; the bad thing must’ve been deserved. Hence we get the concepts of divine punishment and karma. The other big part of it is, of course, our tendency to confuse causation and correlation. Our minds are very good at rapidly drawing connections. While useful for learning what foods are poisonous, we pay for this efficiency with a lot of false positives.
So I am not at all surprised that there are mainstream medical types who will blame the patient. I’d actually be more surprised to learn that it was really a new phenomenon; I’m sure it’s been going on throughout. Unfortunately, it’s human nature, and we need to be vigilant and always promote science and reason if we want to fight it.
Sooo, she knows the secret to curing cancer, but decided that she’s only telling people willing to pay her for it?
What a nasty woman.
#33 “It’s garlic for vampires. I think onions are for oni.” – Bronze Dog
So do shallots work on both?
“If you get sick, it’s not because you were unlucky, or because some nasty pathogen managed to bypass your body’s physical and immune defenses, or because one of your cells went haywire and grew into a cancer.”
this. this is why i read this blog, and this is why i keep coming back. thank you.
Jud, I could look it up, but I have my doubts: how does bioconcentration fit into that 98% claim? There are real environmental toxins, and they really do collect in top-of-the-food-chain predators.
I don’t like it when religious people lie for their gods, and I’m not going to start lying to defeat woo-woo.
I remember the name Servan-Schreiber from an obsequious book he “wrote” in praise of Carnegie Mellon University, back in the late 1980s. The text was full quotes from people with messianic zeal about the institution, and while it probably pleased the administration there a great deal, most of us then teaching or studying there were baffled and disgusted.
I took a skeptic look at the onion and garlic study. As an epidemiologist, I knew there had to be something fishy about it.
At first glance, I found it odd that the authors didn’t publish any numbers to support their testing for confounding (smoking status, vegetable intake). Even IF it didn’t have an effect, the authors must be aware that they’re going to take on major criticism for their findings. Failing to “show your work” is highly suspicious, but not proof of any wrongdoing.
Second, I took at look at the odds ratios in Table 2. Epidemiological studies that find protective effects usually find odds ratios no lower than 0.75. This is because the majority of things that improve cancer survival have been discovered already. Some of the odds ratios found in the high-onion group are UNBELIEVABLY low. For those of you not familiar with the statistic, an odds ratio of 0.17 means that a high onion intake (one per day) makes you 5.88 times less likely to develop laryngeal cancer. I doubt even the most well-targeted chemopreventative agent ever invented can give you results like that. Hmm, the stench of woo gathers.
The authors weren’t explicit in their description of food surveys, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t tell people they were looking for a preventative effect of onions/garlic. If they had, this would open the study to the major flaw of case/control studies – the issue of recall bias. What this means is that people who are sick are more likely to selectively remember and inflate the frequency of health-damaging behaviours, as a way of post-hoc justifying why they got sick. But again, that probably didn’t happen here, as it would be difficult to give a survey to someone laughing in your face at how dumb your hypothesis is.
HOWEVER, knowing something about these surveys, I’d invite you to take a look at the frequencies they use. 0, less than 1, between 2 and 6, and more than 7. This is not an interval scale, the data are not continuous. Respondents likely answered “Never, less than one a week, more than one a week, every day” or something along those lines. If actual frequencies were collected, grouping them in these seemingly arbitrary categories is evidence of “fishing” – mucking about in the data to find groups that support the hypothesis. Even if that wasn’t the case, the middle category is so broad that it skews the distribution far from where any parametric test is useful (not normally distributed, 2/wk and 6/wk are considered equal).
Finally, all this boils down to the model they use. A MH test for trend (I’m assuming that’s what they used – they don’t say, which is another bad sign) becomes less effective the fewer categories are present. In this case, it would be considered good statistical practice to separate into as many categories of frequency as possible to get even numbers in each group (if possible). The test for trend can then evaluate whether the “slope” of effect is present. The authors instead use arbitrary groups, likely based on the limitations of their findings, which have wildly different values for n. They further treat each frequency category with equal weight. Look at oropharyngeal cancer for instance. Both the “less than 1” and “2-6” categories have odds ratios that cross zero (no statistical significance), but the “always” category has an extremely powerful odds ratio which drags the test for trend into significance. The 53 patients in that category represent 3% of the total population.
The principle of “GIGO” states that if you put bad data into a good model, you’ll get bad results. The correlary is that if you put good data into a bad model, you’ll also get bad results. However, when you put bad data into a bad model, you get into the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
YOU GOT EPI’D!
And all of that is to say nothing of the fact that if you have a bunch of variables in a model and you’re trying to predict which combination thereof affects the outcome status best, you’re supposed to load them all in and then use stepwise elimination methods to get rid of the ones that don’t explain the error term. You’re NOT supposed to assume your hypothesis is correct and then massage the data until you arrive at the conclusion that onions are better than other diet, exercise, smoking, family history, genetic profile, etc. etc. at predicting a person’s cancer risk.
I think I’m in love with you! 😉
Last week I tried to make prokaryotic nutrition interesting for first year Bio students. (I don’t think I succeeded.) Next week, I will provide them with your comment, and ask them to suggest why you would recommend a chemoheterotrophic diet rather than the others …!
OT – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see one of the “Stem Cell Treatment” ads on a SB page …
(This one was for the XCell-Center at the Institute of Regenerative Medicine, in Germany. I’ve also seen ads for ones in Mexico. I know Google Ads throws stuff they think relates to the page content, but it’s still sad.)
The Publishers Weekly review of Servan-Schreiber’s book indicates that it starts out well-grounded in science but then extrapolates right into woo-ville, including the arrant nonsense that having a “positive attitude” will make your cancer go away. (As a cranky cancer survivor, I find this claim particularly galling.) He attempts to defend this codswallop by insisting that he recommends these altmed approaches in addition to, not in lieu of, conventional medicine.
Sorry, I forgot to mention that the review is on amazon.com.
I think Harriett miswrote the results of the study, it should really have been “people who READ THE onion a day have been shown to reduce their risk of cancer by 50% in studies published in scientific peer reviewed journals”.
My father had a similar disease progression, he smoked for ~30 years and quit ~1985, in Dec 2001 he was diagnosed with Non-Small Cell lung cancer (stage IIIB) inoperable because of the proximity to the heart, had chemo/radiation followed by a study medication (I can’t remember the name right now) that was being studied to prevent return of cancer (it was proven to not be efficacious and the study was stopped before the end). In 2007 they found the cancer had metastasized into his brain they did overall radiation to shrink the tumors and then Gamma-Knife surgery to kill them, but it did not completely kill the tumors, so he had open brain surgery to remove the tumors in Sept 2008, he did well for a few months but the symptoms came back and the Dr’s thought that it might have gotten into his spinal cord. Instead of undergoing more treatment/surgery he decided along with the entire family to go into hospice care and he died less than a week later at home, surrounded by friends and family. Without modern medical care and chemo/radiation therapy he would not have lived to see his second granddaughter and grandson born. Yes, he partially caused his cancer by smoking for so long, but there’s nothing he could have changed after he was diagnosed to change that fact. People like this “Dr.” should be prosecuted for negligent homicide if any patients die while following their advice.
That’s exactly it.
Lare to this post, but I wanted to add that my mother and my father in law are alive today thanks to chemotherapy. They are both wonderful people who have substantially contributed to the well-being of others, and did not deserve cancer, but both are in their 80s and are at risk for age-related disease.
In short: Fuck you, Harriet, and your victim-blaming.
What a revolting woman. She preys on high-risk cancer patients and uses her degree as a shield for criticism. I’d like to kick her in the shin for manipulating the desperate and for probably believing that her answers are legitimate.
I one-hundred percent agree with Diamond Glass on this. I think that is sick to try and confuse cancer patients away from proper medical treatment.
Here are some ideas for some blogs write about random things like carrots or used computers or something like that. But out of the two I would prefer used computers because everyone loves used computers. I know I do:-)
Whenever a life is on the line, fear gets into all steps of the decision making process. Fear of the unknown can cause patients to trust their doctors (the supposed “expert”) to the bitter end. Fear of statistics (most people do die after going to the hospital…) can lead people to choose quackery over solid procedures. And unfortunately, there are websites galore to further confuse anyone trying to do any sort of research on the subject. Ah, the modern world, like the old one, but with much noise!
Am I the only one who finds this discussion a little emotional and one-sided?
I don’t know of anyone that could stand eating an onion a day. Its not worth the health benefits if you ask me. I’m crying just thinking about it.
These Necromancers are spammers.
I think that its great to see that there are a lot of people that can beat the medical odds against a certain disease that they are fighting. I know that there are times where things are not always going to go the way that you want them to, but man you need to just do what you can to make that you fight, fight hard and you are not going to fail. Keep that mentality and stay positive and it is going to make the whole ordeal go a lot better. I know it isn’t easy, but its worth it, no matter what the outcome!