Consumer Health Digest #18-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 4, 2018

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. 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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

U.S. adults asked about their cancer views. A Harris Poll conducted for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) found that 39% strongly or somewhat agreed that "Cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies, without standard cancer treatment(s)" and that 75% strongly or somewhat agreed that "Alternative therapies are a good supplement to standard cancer treatments(s)." The study had a base sample of 4,038 U.S. adults 18+ and an additional sample of 849 people with cancer that enabled it to include a total of 1,001 people who have had cancer. The poll also found:

The full set of poll findings is on the ASCO Web site.

"Alternative" is a commonly used buzzword for dubious cancer therapies. People with cancer who use them have been found to have an elevated risk of dying of cancer. ASCO's chief medical officer, Richard L. Schlitsky, M.D. said that the findings about "alternatives" were frightening and that the general public needs to be educated about in this area. The faulty beliefs are likely due to massive exposure to misinformation and irrational thinking through the Internet and other media. Noting this, the Respctful Insolence Blog concludes:

Of course, answering a survey (which has nearly no possible negative consequence) is different than facing a life-or-death diagnosis like cancer and having to decide upon treatment (which most definitely does). Nowhere near 40% of cancer patients decide to treat their cancers "naturally," because the specter of possible impending death has a way of focusing the mind. Nonetheless, the high prevalence of belief in such quackery shows just how much misinformation about cancer is out there, being spread through multiple means. Even though this survey was clearly limited, we have a lot of work to do. A lot of people believe in alternative cancer cures and don't know the potential downsides of pursuing them. It's a problem that's likely to be even more difficult to tackle than antivaccine conspiracy theories, given that antivaccine views, although associated with the same sort of world view as belief in alternative cancer cures, are not held by nearly as large a percentage of the public.

Ontario, Canada's chiropractic regulatory body blasted. Two journalists have reported that the College of Chiropractic of Ontario (CCO) has done almost nothing to stop chiropractors from exaggerating what they can do. The report noted:

[Benedetti P. MacPhail W. Chiropractors at a crossroads: the fight for evidence-based treatment and a profession's reputation. The Globe and Mail. Nov 1, 2018]

Nutrition Facts food label revised. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the "Nutrition Facts" label that will be required on packaged foods beginning in 2020/2021. The changes include:

The FDA says that the new label reflects how people eat today and updated scientific information including understanding of links between diet and chronic disease.. Some companies are already using the new format. [Nutrition Facts label reboot: a tale of two labels. FDA. Oct 28, 2018]

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This page was posted on November 4, 2018.