Posts about medical study

Merck and Elsevier Publish Phony Peer-Review Journal

Elsevier is one of those publishers fighting open science. They try to claim that the government publishing government funded research in an open way will tarnish science. The argument makes no sense to me. Here is another crazy action on their part: they published a “journal” funded by Merck to promote Merck products. Merck Makes Phony Peer-Review Journal:

Merck cooked up a phony, but real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for its products in them. Merck paid Elsevier to publish such a tome, which neither appears in MEDLINE or has a website, according to The Scientist.

What’s sad is that I’m sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, “As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications….” Said doctor, or even the average researcher wouldn’t know that the journal is bogus. In fact, knowing that the journal is published by Elsevier gives it credibility!

As I have said the journals fighting open science should have their credibility questioned. They are putting their outdated business model above science. We should not see organizations that are focused on closing science research through deceptive publicity efforts and lobbying efforts as credible.

Related: From Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsMerck Faked a Research JournalMedical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)The Future of Scholarly PublicationFresh questions raised about prominent cardiologist’s role in “ghostwritten” 2001 meta-analysis of Vioxx trialsScience Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-usefulPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to ScienceMisleading or Deceptive ConductPeter Suber Response to Rep. Conyers

Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives

Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives by Amanda Gardner

Thousands of Americans are dying each year from lung disease caused by atmospheric ozone, a new study finds.

The greatest risk may for those living be in hot, dry cities such as Los Angeles, which has one of the highest concentrations of ozone. Residents of Los Angeles may face a 25 percent to 30 percent higher annual risk of dying from a respiratory ailment versus people in low-ozone areas such as the Great Plains, the researchers said.

An estimated 240,000 people in the United States and 7.7 million people worldwide die of respiratory disease each year, according to data from the World Health Organization. Efforts to reduce ground-level ozone have stalled in recent years, Jarrett said, and now one in three Americans lives in an area that exceeds the national standard for ozone levels.

Ozone is also a powerful greenhouse gas, Jerrett said, so measures to improve health might have the added benefit of slowing climate change.

Related: Scientists Denounce Global Warming Report ‘Edits’Rate of Cancer Detected and Death Rates DeclinesThe Pollution Magnet

Study Shows Weight Loss From Calorie Reduction Not Low Fat or Low Carb

A Randomized Trial Comparing Low-Fat and Low-Carbohydrate Diets Matched for Energy and Protein

The preliminary results presented in this paper are for the first four of six postmenopausal overweight or obese participants who followed, in random order, both a VLC [very-low-carbohydrate] and an LF [low-fat] diet for 6 weeks. Other outcome measures were serum lipids, glucose, and insulin, as well as dietary compliance and side effects. Our results showed no significant weight loss, lipid, serum insulin, or glucose differences between the two diets. Lipids were dramatically reduced on both diets, with a trend for greater triglyceride reduction on the VLC diet. Glucose levels were also reduced on both diets, with a trend for insulin reduction on the VLC diet. Compliance was excellent with both diets, and side effects were mild

Essentially the study showed that the calories had an impact on weight loss but the makeup of those calories did not. Don’t forget this is just one study. Listen to interview with the Author, Frank Sacks, on Science Friday on NPR.

Related: Big Fat Lieposts on medical studiesWaste from Gut Bacteria Helps Control WeightCommon virus may contribute to obesity

Study Finds Obesity as Teen as Deadly as Smoking

A Swedish study has found obesity is as deadly (increasing adult mortality) as smoking for teens. Combined effects of overweight and smoking in late adolescence on subsequent mortality: nationwide cohort study

Regardless of smoking status, overweight and obesity in late adolescence increases the risk of adult mortality. Obesity and overweight were as hazardous as heavy and light smoking, respectively, but there was no interaction between BMI and smoking status. The global obesity epidemic and smoking among adolescents remain important targets for intensified public health initiatives.

Obesity Just as Risky for Teens as Heavy Smoking

Dr. Martin Neovius of the Karolinska Institute and colleagues analyzed data from more than 45,000 18-year-olds who underwent military conscription tests in which their body mass index (BMI) and smoking status were recorded. The men were followed for an average of 38 years.

During the follow-up period, 2,897 of the men died. The incidence of death was highest among obese men and lowest among those of normal weight. Compared with those who had a normal weight at age 18, those who had been overweight were about a third more likely to die early, whereas those who were obese were more than twice as likely to die prematurely.

Related: Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030Obesity Epidemic Partially Explained$500 Million to Reduce Childhood Obesity in USAActive Amish Avoid Obesity

Correlation is Not Causation: “Fat is Catching” Theory Exposed

“Fat is catching” theory exposed

Their study was reported to have shown that you can “catch” obesity from having fat friends and that obesity is so contagious, it can be spread long-distance by email and instant messaging. Even healthcare professionals, who didn’t understand the etiology of true obesity or how statistics can be misused, failed to detect the implausibility of “second-hand obesity.” In fact, some doctors became so enamored with the new “science of networking” they believed it should be a new medical specialty: network medicine.

Jason M. Fletcher, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, along with Boston economist, Ethan Cohen-Cole, Ph.D., designed an ingenious study. They selected conditions that no one would seriously believe were spread by social networking and online friendships: height, headaches and acne. They then applied the same standard statistical methods used in Christakis and Fowler’s social networking research to “find” that acne, height and headaches have the same “social network effect.”

As they explained, patterns of association among people can lead to correlations in health conditions between friends that are not caused by direct social network effects at all.

There is a need for caution when attributing causality to correlations in health outcomes between friends using non-experimental data. Confounding is only one of many empirical challenges to estimating social network effects.

Excellent reminder of the risks of analyzing data for correlations. We continue to, far to often, fail to interpret data properly. Both authors of the study, received PhD’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison which strengthens my belief that it is teaching students well (just kidding).

Also another example of the scientific inquiry process where scientists challenge the conclusions drawn by other scientists. It is a wonderful system, even if confusing and not the clean idea so many have of how science works.

Related: Correlation is Not CausationSeeing Patterns Where None ExistsStatistics for Experimenters500 Year FloodsPlaying Dice and Children’s NumeracyThe Illusion of UnderstandingAll Models Are Wrong But Some Are UsefulData Doesn’t Lie But People Can Draw Faulty Conclusions from Data

Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030

Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030 by Salynn Boyles

Cancer deaths are projected to more than double worldwide over the next two decades, largely from a dramatic increase in cancer incidence in low- and middle-income countries driven by tobacco use and increasingly Westernized lifestyles.

A new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) explores the global burden of cancer, which is poised to become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2010. The report predicts that by 2030, 27 million new cancer cases and 17 million cancer deaths will occur each year worldwide. That compares to 12 million new cancers and slightly less than 8 million cancer deaths in 2007.

People really need to stop smoking. And we are pretty lame a society when we inflict such needless disease and death on our fellow humans. Curing millions of cancer patients 20 years from now will be very hard. but it isn’t hard to “cure” millions of them today. We just need people not to pay a lot of money to give themselves cancer by smoking.

Related: Nanospheres Targeting Cancer at MITRate of Cancer Detected and Death Rates Declines (in USA)Leading Causes of Death

One Sneeze, 150 Colds for Commuters

One sneeze, 150 colds for commuters

An analysis of the germs unleashed from a single commuter’s sneeze showed that within minutes they are being passed on via escalator handrails or seats on trains and underground carriages. At the busiest stations, one sneeze not smothered by a tissue or handkerchief will provide enough germs to infect another 150 commuters.

A single sneeze expels 100,000 droplets of germs into the air at 90mph. Individual droplets get transferred to handles, rails and other areas frequently held or touched. Up to 10 per cent of all commuters will come into contact with an area infected by that one sneeze, Dr Henderson calculated.

Researchers asked 1,300 workers about their health and found 99 per cent of commuters suffered at least one cold last winter. In contrast, just 58 per cent of those who work from home and 88 per cent of those who walk to work regularly caught a cold last winter.

It is amazing (or maybe not but I find it amazing) how well cold viruses have evolved to have us sneeze and send out personal virus jet packs to spread them all over and let them infect others. It is sad how impolite some people are as they go around potentially infecting hundreds of other people. Partially their ignorance of basic science may also be to blame for their behavior. It is too bad others have to suffer due to their bad manners and ignorance.

Related: Study Shows Why the Flu Likes WinterEmployees That Telecommute are the Most LoyalCommon Cold Alters the Activity of GenesStudy Finds No Measurable Benefit to Flu Shots

Do Breast Tumors go Away on Their Own?

Do Breast Tumors go Away on Their Own?

Authors of a new study hope to begin a debate challenging the conventional wisdom about early detection of breast cancer. In an article in today’s Archives of Internal Medicine, they ask: Do breast tumors ever go away on their own?

Researchers of this controversial article note that one type of cancer found through screening — a rare childhood tumor, called neuroblastoma — sometimes disappears. In the new article, researchers try to learn if the same phenomenon occurs with invasive breast cancers found with mammograms

The Natural History of Invasive Breast Cancers Detected by Screening Mammography

Conclusions: Because the cumulative incidence among controls never reached that of the screened group, it appears that some breast cancers detected by repeated mammographic screening would not persist to be detectable by a single mammogram at the end of 6 years. This raises the possibility that the natural course of some screen-detected invasive breast cancers is to spontaneously regress.

As with so much medical research the results are not completely clear. Studies need to be followed by more studies, which often lead to more studies. As long as progress is being made this is a perfectly reasonable course of scientific inquiry. And even if progress is not being made this can be perfectly reasonable – finding answers can be hard.

Related: Breastfeeding Linked to More Intelligent KidsDiscussing Medical Study ResultsCancer Cure, Not so Fast

Rate of Cancer Detected and Death Rates Declines

Declines in Cancer Incidence and Death Rates in report from the National Cancer Institute and CDC:

“The drop in incidence seen in this year’s Annual Report is something we’ve been waiting to see for a long time,” said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS). “However, we have to be somewhat cautious about how we interpret it, because changes in incidence can be caused not only by reductions in risk factors for cancer, but also by changes in screening practices. Regardless, the continuing drop in mortality is evidence once again of real progress made against cancer, reflecting real gains in prevention, early detection, and treatment.”

According to a U.S. Surgeon General’s report, cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths, with lung cancer accounting for 80 percent of the smoking-attributable cancer deaths. Other cancers caused by smoking include cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, kidney, and uterine cervix and myeloid leukemia.

Diagnoses Of Cancer Decline

The analysis found that the overall incidence of cancer began inching down in 1999, but not until the data for 2005 were analyzed was it clear that a long-term decline was underway. “The take-home message is that many of the things we’ve been telling people to do to be healthy have finally reached the point where we can say that they are working,” Brawley said. “These things are really starting to pay off.”

Brawley and others cautioned, however, that part of the reduction could be the result of fewer people getting screened for prostate and breast cancers. In addition, the rates at which many other types of cancer are being diagnosed are still increasing

Some experts said the drop was not surprising, noting that it was primarily the result of a fall in lung cancer because of declines in smoking that occurred decades ago. They criticized the ongoing focus on detecting and treating cancer and called for more focus on prevention.

“The whole cancer establishment has been focused on treatment, which has not been terribly productive,” said John C. Bailar III, who studies cancer trends at the National Academy of Sciences. “I think what people should conclude from this is we ought to be putting most of our resources where we know there has been progress, almost in spite of what we’ve done, and stop this single-minded focus on treatment.”

Related: Is there a Declining Trend in Cancer Deaths?Cancer Deaths Increasing, Death Rate DecreasingLeading Causes of Deathposts discussing cancerNanoparticles to Battle Cancer
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New Antipsychotics Old Results

Risks Found for Youths in New Antipsychotics

A new government study published Monday has found that the medicines most often prescribed for schizophrenia in children and adolescents are no more effective than older, less expensive drugs and are more likely to cause some harmful side effects. The standards for treating the disorder should be changed to include some older medications that have fallen out of use, the study’s authors said.

“I think the reason the use of these newer drugs has gone up so fast is that there was this widespread assumption that they were safer and more effective than what we had before,” Dr. McClellan said. “Well, we’re seeing now that that’s not the whole story.”

Related: Lifestyle Drugs and RiskHow Prozac Sent Science Inquiry Off TrackOveruse of Antibiotics

Study Finds No Measurable Benefit to Flu Shots

Do Flu Shots For The Elderly Save Lives? Just Washing Hands Works Better, Says Study

The widely-held perception that the influenza vaccination reduces overall mortality risk in the elderly does not withstand careful scrutiny, according to researchers in Alberta. The vaccine does confer protection against specific strains of influenza, but its overall benefit appears to have been exaggerated by a number of observational studies that found a very large reduction in all-cause mortality among elderly patients who had been vaccinated.

The study included more than 700 matched elderly subjects, half of whom had taken the vaccine and half of whom had not. After controlling for a wealth of variables that were largely not considered or simply not available in previous studies that reported the mortality benefit, the researchers concluded that any such benefit “if present at all, was very small and statistically non-significant and may simply be a healthy-user artifact that they were unable to identify.”

“Over the last two decades in the United Sates, even while vaccination rates among the elderly have increased from 15 to 65 percent, there has been no commensurate decrease in hospital admissions or all-cause mortality

Related: New and Old Ways to Make Flu VaccinesStudy Shows Why the Flu Likes WinterOver-reliance on Prescription Drugs to Aid Children’s Sleep?