BREAKING NEWS: Correactology can no longer cure cancer!!

From as the result of in-depth clinical trials (how else would they know that their treatments can cure so many severe and varied diseases and conditions?) the experts at the Correactology Centres (which I have discussed before) have removed “cancer” from the list of “ailments” that Correactology can treat.  A quick scan from an archived version of their “Ailments Treated” page from 4th November 2007 shows 127 ailments, but that list on the current version of the page is only 126.  In case you are wondering whether I am serious, I want to be absolutely clear that a PubMed search for “Correactology” produces zero results.  The removal of cancer from the list was an edit to the website, rather than a contribution to scientific research.  There have been no trials.  There are no datasets.  There are anecdotes and testimonials that score very low on the evidence pyramid.  Nevertheless, Correactologists take money from patients, claiming to be able to treat all kinds of diseases.  I will leave you to browse their (wish) list at your leisure, but I wanted to highlight a couple that are particularly unpleasant:Read More »

Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer?

Carcinoma of the prostate

“Men’s Rights Activism” (MRA) is a dirty phrase in many circles.  The MRA movement is a fairly diverse beast ranging from claims of inequality in child custody cases to accusations of full-blown, societal-scale misandry typified by higher death rates in men and lower levels of social investment.  One claim in particular that the MRAs make is that breast cancer (a cancer that predominantly, though not entirely, affects women) receives substantially more money in terms of research funding than prostate cancer, despite similar numbers of people dying from each.  First I’ll review some of the specific claims made, I’ll look at the data on funding, then we can delve into a few stats on the impacts of these two cancer types (bear with me!).  I’ve also included some more detail on whether younger men are more at risk from prostate cancer as an appendix for those who are interested.Read More »

Does the contraceptive pill affect female mate choice in humans?

In the final Reality Check episode (#208) with which I was involved, I presented a segment on whether or not the contraceptive pill influences women’s perceptions of potential partners.  I’ve been interested in this question for a few years, ever since sharing an office with evolutionary psychologists at the University of Liverpool.  Craig Roberts, whose work I cited a couple of times, was a lecturer there when I was doing my doctoral research.  Anyway, on with the show!Read More »

Is Correactology just chiropractic in a funny hat?

Correactology: it’s all about feet, apparently…

I’ve blogged about Correactology before, and that post has been pretty popular (for one of my posts, anyway…) so I thought I would revisit the topic.  Supply and demand and all that jazz…  Also, I was moved by a comment on the earlier post (reproduced in full below the fold), where a woman described a terrible experience with a Correactologist because she (a) had not been familiar with the nonsense treatment before, and (b) had nowhere to go to complain (the particular practitioner she was treated by is actually a Director of the “Canadian Association of Correactology Practitioners”).  Helping people like this is one of the reasons that I set up this blog:Read More »

A skeptical take on allergy testing

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! (photo by H. Zell)

This is the second of three segments that I presented on The Reality Check, Canada’s weekly skeptical podcast.  On episode #205, I talked about allergy testing.  Advances in medicine have completely eradicated diseases such as smallpox, and we are well on our way to doing the same for polio.  Yet more diseases are firmly under control through most of the developed world through the use of vaccines.  However, as we remove some causes of ill health, we notice that others have grown in prominence over the past few decades.  Allergies are a good example of one of these increasingly diagnosed conditions, but the general public tends to have a fairly poor understanding of what allergies are, how they come about and how they can be diagnosed.Read More »

New Ben Goldacre book on clinical trials and academic misconduct

I’ve been working on getting the blog up and running again, and I have a few posts in the pipeline.  However, this topic is one close to my heart and I wanted to post on it as soon as possible.  I have blogged about the limitations of clinical trials and the need for clinical trial registration before.  Ben Goldacre has published a new book (“Bad Pharma: How Drugs Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients“) on precisely this problem, and gave a recent TED talk that frames the issue brilliantly.  As he says “tell everyone that this is a problem, and that it hasn’t been fixed”:

Image credit: Tom Varco

Licensing and legitimacy in alternative medicine

Interprovincial naturopath wars!

I saw this sign literally yards from my home in Ottawa. So close to the border between Ontario and Quebec, there is a lot of competition for services, competition which is enhanced by the fact that there are two different tax rates in the provinces. In this case, the Ontario naturopath is arguing that the customer (and let’s face it, users of naturopathy are really more customers than patients) would be better off using a provider from a province within which naturopathy is licensed and regulated (i.e. Ontario) rather than a province where the practice is unregulated (i.e. Quebec).  Of course, this really boils down to a debate over whether or not the Emperor’s new clothes were made by a tailor who was part of the Tailors’ Guild…
Read More »

The limitations of clinical trials

[I really should have discussed this before having launched into reviews of evidence from clinical trials as it is fundamental to the issue of what constitutes “evidence”. You will notice, if you read back, that I have peppered my previous posts with links to this article where appropriate.]

I have mentioned in a number of previous posts that there is some evidence for efficacy for some fairly outlandish alternative medicine treatments. This evidence comes in the form of significant statistical tests in clinical trials. Now, clinical trials (double-blind, placebo-controlled and properly randomised) are the gold standard for evidence-based medicine but (as with all statistics) you have to know how to interpret them for them to be of any use. There are three places where care needs to be exercised in the interpretation of clinical trials:Read More »