Consumer Health Digest #11-16
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 9, 2011
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Study looks at vaccine hesitancy. A study of 376 responses to a prominent survey has found that most parents take their children for recommended vaccinations, but there are widespread fears that vaccines cause autism and that children are getting too many vaccines at once. [Kennedy A and others. Confidence about vaccines in the United States: understanding parents' perceptions. Health Affairs 30:1151–1159, 2011] A book review in the same journal issue identified reasons for these unfounded fears:
- By giving equal airtime on television shows such as Oprah to the likes of actress Jenny McCarthy and other celebrities to inveigh against vaccination, and by treating the facts about vaccine safety as if they were still in dispute, the media foster fear and confusion.
- Parents bombarded with mixed messages about the dangers of technology—are more likely to listen to emotional narratives and charged stories than to reasoned evidence about what is right for our children.
- The media, technophobia, irresponsible doctors, and an increasingly risk-averse middle and upper class have all played key roles.
- Andrew Wakefield's report, which ran in the Lancet, may have been be "the flimsiest, most underpowered study supporting a conclusion of monumental importance to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal in the past fifty years."
- Bernadine Healy, M.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health, is quoted repeatedly by anti-vaccinators as having serious qualms about vaccine safety.
- Medical schools are not teaching students how to engage parental worries about vaccine safety.
- Public health agencies have not pulled their weight in the vaccine wars. Those in charge do not speak out forcefully and vehemently in support of vaccines.
For more about vaccine fears, see:
- Gerber JS, Offit PA. Vaccines and autism: A tale of shifting hypotheses. Clinical Infectious Diseases 48:456–461, 2009.
- Offit PA, Moser, CA. The problem with Dr Bob's alternative vaccine schedule. Pediatrics 123e164–e169, 2009.
New data on cancer survivors published. The National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have analyzed cancer incidence and follow-up information from nine Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) programs to estimate the number of people in the United States ever diagnosed with cancer who were alive on January 1, 2007. [Cancer survivors —United States, 2007. MMWR 60:269-272, 2011] The analysis found:
- The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased from an estimated 3.0 million in 1971 (1.5% of the U.S. population), to 9.8 million (3.5%) in 2001 and to 11.7 million (3.9%) in 2007. This growth can be attributed to earlier detection, improved diagnostic methods, more effective treatment, improved clinical follow-up after treatment, and an aging U.S. population.
- Female breast (22.1%), prostate (19.4%), and colorectal (9.5%) cancers were the most common types of cancer diagnosed, accounting for 51.0% of diagnoses among persons who were alive on January 1, 2007.
- Among cancer survivors on January 1, 2007, about 7.6 million (64.8%) had lived with a diagnosis of cancer for at least 5 years and 1.1 million of had lived for at least 25 years.
Anti-quackery classic posted. Quackwatch has posted a digital copy of Lessons from the History of Medical Delusions, by Worthington Hooker, M.D. The book was published in 1850, when scientific medicine was in its infancy, but Hooker correctly identified what he called "the principal elements or cases of medical delusions" as dispositions toward (a) considering whatever follows a cause as being the result of that cause, (b) basing one's beliefs on a single theory, (c) espousing the opposite of what is generally believed, (d) theorizing instead making strict observations, (e) fashion in diseases and in their remedies, (f) undue fondness toward new things, and (g) putting a low value upon the medical profession.
This page was revised on June 10, 2011.