Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Back to my day job . . .

A couple of quick hits from the new JAMA:

  1. I wrote a couple of months back about European studies that called into question whether routine screening mammography really reduces the breast cancer death rate, at least for women not at high risk. A new analysis commissioned by the National Cancer Institute finds that screening has contributed substantially to the decline in breast cancer deaths in the U.S. Caveats still remain: most lesions found by screening are benign, and you have to go through all the sturm und drang. Probably something like 30% of cancerous lesions wouldn't have gone on to cause clinically significant disease, but you have to go through surgery and chemo anyway because the docs can't tell the difference. But most women will probably decide it's worth it for the survival benefit. Still, talk it over, make up your own mind.
  2. Is this really a major problem, or more "War on Drugs" hype? Some burn specialists in rural areas are saying that the number of people burned in home meth lab accidents is straining their resources and forcing them to ship innocent victims of house fires out of the county. But David Duncan, a research consultant, says "There are just not enough [meth lab explosions] to cause a national problem for burn centers. . . . And while meth lab cooks are not likely to have insurance coverage, their numbers are tiny compared ot the millions of people losing Medicaid coverage or working for companies cutting back on health coverage." Right on. (Reporting by Mike Mitka.)
  3. Quackery: There's a mass marketing campaign -- totally illegal, as a matter of fact -- for Human Growth Hormone as an anti-aging elixir. Fuggedaboudit. Not only does it not work, and cost hundreds of dollars a month, it causes joint pain, muscle aches, edema, probably diabetes and, oh yeah, maybe breast cancer. Vile scum, that's what they are -- many of them M.D.s. (Commentary by Thomas Perls, Neal Reisman, and Jay Olshansky.) I recommend Quackwatch, even though some of my friends will think the proprietor, Stephen Barrett M.D., suffers from excessive orthodoxy. Maybe so, but you need to hear his point of view.
There's more of interest, but that's enough for one post.

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