Brits wary over cancer advice

Brits wary over cancer advice

As Ben Goldacre once said,

“[T]he Daily Mail does have an ongoing ontological program to divide all inanimate objects into ones that will either cause or cure cancer.”

The result? ┬áBrits are now “‘wary over cancer advice'”.

The YouGov survey of 2,400 people for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found more than half thought scientists were always changing their minds.

More than a quarter said health advice changed constantly and the best approach was to ignore it completely.

Here’s looking at you, Daily Mail.

Seriously, readers of British newspapers can be forgiven for not having a clue about cancer advice. The WCRF has to compete on a daily basis with stories about cancer-causing and cancer-preventing chocolate, red wine, red meat, lipstick, and on and on and on.

But it isn’t all that complicated. As the WCRF put it,

“The fact is that WCRF and other cancer charities agree on the best ways of reducing cancer risk and this advice has stayed broadly the same for quite a long time.

“A decade ago, we were recommending that people eat a plant-based diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight and this is still the case today.”

The best way to cure hayfever is to shove a light up your nose

The best way to cure hayfever is to shove a light up your nose

From the Daily Mail, which never met a non-pharmaceutical cure that it didn’t like, we learn about the Medinose.

Shoving two small red LEDs up one’s nostrils for 4 minutes, 3x daily will cure hayfever and at the same time, make you more visible to cars. It’s a twofer!

There is only one published trial on anything like the Medinose; the trial was conducted to evaluate a device called the Bionase, which looks darn similar. Way back in 1997, 50 people shoved LEDs up their nostrils. They also had video cameras up there too. But not at the same time. The results?

Self reported efficacy for the device was high, and could be correlated with the results of a nasal examination. But the blinding was poor: the placebo consisted of sham red light, which is to say, no light at all. So the patients that looked like Rudolph knew that they were getting the treatment, and the patients that didn’t look like Rudolph knew that they weren’t. Given people’s propensity to self report positive results, the high score wasn’t a surprise (74% said it worked for them…).

The nasal examination was conducted by one of the authors of the paper, and confirmed the subjective reporting (that 70% had improvements). He wasn’t told which patients had the real and which the placebo treatment.

So far, so fair enough, although the rubbish attempt at blinding does give one pause. But exactly how is this supposed to work? Vaguely, we are told that red LED light has various biochemical, histologic and functional effects; posssibly, superoxide dismutase activity is stimulated, which lowers the activity of reactive oxygen species. Its just a hop and a skip from that to stopping allergic rhinitis.

Here we are, over a decade later, so let’s survey the field.

And…. Looks like there isn’t much to see.

Given the lack of any followup studies in the literature, the fact that the research was done to validate a pre-existing device, and the lack of a firm biochemical reason for such a device to work, suggests to me it would be better to stick to the pills or to immunotherapy.

I’ll give this a barely plausible rating. The onus is on the manufacturer to prove that their device does what it is supposed to do. Let’s be honest, LEDs and endoscopes up the nostrils are not going to cause much harm. A better study on this thing would be a cheap date. Relying on a small study from over a decade ago? That isn’t even trying.

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