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Category: science

02/12/15 03:47 - ID#59832

And yet people continue to smoke.

Despite the massively accumulating evidence.

Original article:

NYT Report:

Addiction is a psychological disease. I fail to understand why we are not treating it on a war-footing - or even the same footing as several other relatively milder contagion.

Why are cigarette companies even operating without paying for the health insurance of everyone on this planet? (well... shared equally by alcohol companies and arms and ammunition companies).

To every smoker I know. Please try and quit. At this point, I will be sorry if you die, but I sure as hell won't forgive you if you force the repercussions of your disease on your family, friends and neighbours, knowing well the certainty of this happening.

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Category: science

11/09/14 10:37 - ID#59556

"Healthy Smoker"

It cracks me up when I read studies that describe their population as "healthy smokers".

All smokers are clearly mentally sick. How is this "healthy"?

Healthy smokers, my foot.

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Category: science

07/27/12 10:46 - ID#56643

This was exactly how it was

Every single thing here about a dissertation and defense is true:

Very few papers could be so spot on.

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Last Modified: 07/27/12 10:46

Category: science

04/06/12 02:40 - ID#56324

Personalized genetic preventive medicine?

Although I am actively involved in the ongoing pursuit of the genetic determinants of cancer risk along with my colleagues, I daily feel that my time and effort to improve public health would be better spent in an elementary school classroom with a clear and simple message on tobacco use, sun protection, physical activity, and energy balance. In my opinion, we should be cautious in communicating our expectations of genetics to explain disease risk and its ultimate public health impact. We should be globally diligent in engaging national leaders to continue to direct resource and policy change to community leaders, planners, and educators to deliver broadly acting societal support for healthy lifestyles and choices; a strategy derived from the tobacco control policies with proven value (13, 14).

Wrote Patricia Thompson in 2007 in her honest and candid article on why hunting down bits and pieces of our genetics is not really going to do much to cure cancer.

But did anyone listen? I don't know.

Its easier to believe that eventually someone will come up with a magic test to pre-detect cancer 10 years before it occurs. It will probably be sold along with a magic pill which will silence all our (still to be found) cancer-causing defective genes. Oh right, and let's not forget about the super-crazy-awesomeness of aspirin and Vitamin D. You can forestall all the cancers in the world or maybe even prevent them completely. Who cares about the eminent aspirin induced holes in your stomach and intestines and the insoluble Vitamin D deposits in your kidneys.

Doesn't that sound awesome?

Optimism is well and good but there is now enough body of evidence that it might be misplaced. Sometimes, we just need to wake up and look at ourselves, the crappy eating habits, lack of personal involvement in food preparation, the impossibility of calorie-control and portion-sizing while eating out, smoking and drinking, physical inactivity, incessant harmful energy imbalance along with a heavier reliance on animal-based protein, reliance on pre-processed everything and the deep underlying lack of motivation and sometimes, resistance against any kind of behaviour change.

We want hard, incontrovertible, randomized-control-trial-level replicable proof that our absolutely awful habits are causing damage. We will keep pointing at that one old woman who chain-smoked for 90+ years and didn't end up with lung cancer to defend our habits. We will keep hoping that we will be that one old woman and not the zillion others who did end up getting sick. Heck, after a million papers have linked the tiniest amount of alcohol to all disease imaginable and pointed out its role as a powerful carcinogen, we still get on the high road about moderation and grasp at the red-wine-is-good-for-cardiovascular-health farce while wilfully discarding the cold fact that fresh fruit sources bring as many benefits, if not more. We also cite helplessness, bring out our social crutches, blame our environments and even blame the government and the scientific establishment for the odious habits we choose to hang on to and the food that we choose to eat everyday. In other words, we are in denial.

And that's the message that the establishment of cancer research wants to publish in clear unambiguous, simple terms. A pity it doesn't quite get round to it because someone just found yet another string of small gene variants that could possibly have a 0.000000000000000000000001% effect on cancer risk in a group of 10 people belonging to some esoteric ethnic group that lives deep in the suburbs of Detroit in a subgroup analyses of a study on 10, 000 people.
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Last Modified: 06/23/12 07:59

Category: science

03/30/12 01:11 - ID#56299

Cancer Survivors and poor health behaviour

In a study published last month, researchers who asked cancer survivors about their health behaviour found that survivors indulged in poorer/riskier behaviours than people who have never been diagnosed with cancer:


A total of 18,510 had detailed history on health behaviors and previous cancer history. Overall 2713 (14.7%) reported a previous cancer history. We found statistically significant results indicating that cancer survivors were less likely than those with no cancer history to:
report their overall health as “excellent” (13.6% vs. 21.5%), ...

Was that a trick question?! You said you have had a diagnoses of cancer. Would you say your overall health is "excellent"?

to engage in moderate or strenuous exercise (56.5% vs. 63.3%), and to use complementary and alternative medicine (57.4% vs. 60.2%).

Wonder whether the analyses stratified people with a recent vs. distant diagnoses of cancer... need to look at the tables. Maybe the survivors were physically unable to exercise so much or maybe were on standard medication that could have had interactions with random alternative medicines had they chosen to take them. Maybe they were advised not to take OTC medicine.

Conversely, cancer survivors were more likely to be current smokers (6.3% vs. 5.5%), rate their overall health as “poor” (15.8% vs. 9.1%), and to report more weight gain over time. Among cancer survivors, differences also emerged by the type of primary cancer. For example, cervical cancer survivors (n = 370) were most likely to report being current smokers (15.7%) and regular alcohol users (71.7%) compared with other survivors. Ovarian (n = 185) and uterine (n = 262) cancer survivors most frequently reported being obese (41% and 34.4%, respectively). Cervical cancer survivors reported the largest weight gain (4.9 lbs at 5 y and 13.4 lbs at 10 y).

The study totally begs these questions:
  • Do people who are diagnosed with cancer always have poorer behaviours to start with?
  • Do cancer survivors indulge in poorer behaviours because they are fatalist?
  • Or do they just feel like they have poorer behaviours just because they got diagnosed with cancer and answer in that vein on the administered questionnaires ie. a kind of survivor bias?
  • Or did they feel obliged to assign blame for their diagnoses on past and present behaviours?
  • Or maybe the non-cancer survivors in this study didn't really feel the need to spill on their current health behaviours in so much detail as the survivors?

Who knows.

Do you remember what you ate last Monday through Friday - in detail, morning, afternoon, evening? Do you remember how you generally ate in the past decade? If you are not tracking your periods for some specific reason (or maybe have an android period-tracking application to record days and symptoms for fun), how accurately do you remember the date your last period ended? Do you remember the brands and compositions of the hormone pills you took 20 years back?

Sometimes I wonder if our questionnaires are eliciting anything useful. Or if we should trust them so much. It would be nicer to have more objective ways of tracking health behaviours and milestones.

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Last Modified: 03/30/12 01:17

Category: science

03/05/12 05:15 - ID#56174

And you can now cite tweets.

I am sorely tempted to include one in my thesis:

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Last Modified: 03/05/12 05:15

Category: science

02/24/12 01:55 - ID#56124

NSAIDS are not exactly good for you.

I keep hearing about how NSAIDs are projected as the next big thing for preventing cancer in combination with other drugs/supplements. I find it odd that it conflicts so directly with my background information from medicine and actual medical practice.

It's fine and all that we are desperate to find cures for cancer but it's also time to stop and think about what we know from the clinics. Do I think that people should start taking low dose aspirins (an NSAID) willy nilly because it might, at some vague point in the future, reduce their chances of cancer? In all good faith, I cannot support this view.

NSAIDs are no friends of your gastric lining. Doctors have known this for ages. They have the potential to induce gastric lining damage. Late last year, a study threw some light on the prospective dangers of chronic NSAID use (yes, not even abuse. I said, regular use.)

See ::READ PDF::

The study has been running for several years and women in the study fill out questionnaires and mail it back at regular intervals. The researchers looked at spans of use and followed up on these women, including who ended up with cancer and who didn't. They found that women who reported taking more NSAIDs in their daily life over several years were more likely to be diagnosed with renal cancer.

Why doesn't this surprise me? All that we know about the "good effects" of NSAIDS come from cross-sectional studies that take a snapshot of a section of population at any given time, ask them what they are eating and what disease they have. They are poor representations of what happens to our bodies over a long time. NSAIDs, among several other drugs are metabolized through our livers and kidneys - two main excretory organ networks in vertebrate living systems. Thus, long term use are more likely to impact these organs.

So short term or acute doses could damage your gastric lining. Long term use impacts your kidneys and livers. Do we still want to push this "golden drug" beyond the very rare as-and-only-when-really-really-needed basis? I think it's short-sighted at best. Sometimes, it's important to make reality-checks with medicine. In this particular situation, I don't see any of that essential precautionary measure.
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Last Modified: 08/20/12 02:19

Category: science

11/17/11 07:10 - ID#55537

United States of Obesity


Though I like the poster below for how it presents information, I think all of us need to review this really informative book on reality and myths surrounding Obesity: directly leads to the PDF.
Source: Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF)

The book has some excellent data presentation - far prettier than the poster below. A pity, its locked into PDF. I am going to see if I rip those diagrams and also put it on this post in direct contrast to the pretty poster in my original post.

For me, the real challenge is to examine if I am cherry-picking results or have done a balanced survey of the peer-reviewed literature. I am currently disinclined to accept any pigeonholed set of beliefs on the many sides of this whole obesity discussion. In many ways, I see more confounders in the equation than is comfortably explained away. If there is an epidemic that needs immediate addressing, its one of confusion and indecision.

And now my original post:

Just saw this here:

Now, that is classy presentation. Twenty years back, I would have been a 4 instead of being relegated to 2s and 0s most arbitrarily.

The real sources
I posted this because I find the data presentation in this poster very compelling. It is capable of eliciting a strong response from everyone just because it is so directly and simply presented. However, you have raised some concerns over the source of the chart. So I dug more and came up with the real sources of this compilation:
  • The portion size statistics and graphics came from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) website. They have 2 full slide sets for post and present portion sizes:
  • Set 1:
  • Set 2:
  • The BMI chart was adapted from the NHLBI's evidence report titled: "Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in Adults. The evidence report." Available at:
  • The facts for the diagram came from here:

I am also going to keep adding equivalent data presentations from non-commercial sources to this post.
Source: RAND health, an offshoot of the famous RAND Corporation, a non profit think tank whose name expands to just Research And Development
Data from Sturm, R., J. Ringel, and T. Andreyeva, "Increasing Obesity Rates and Disability Trends," Health Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 2, March/April 2004, pp. 1–7.
Source: Centers for Disease Control a.k.a. CDC
Food subsidies and the food pyramid
{Re: (e:heidi)'s observation. Last para Comment #66257}
From PCRM. Physicians Comittee for Responsible Medicine

Note that the government recommended food guide pyramid is now a plate with %s. I personally think it makes more sense and is more comprehensible even though the new food plate also has its critics. An argument is that the government shouldn't be telling us what to eat. However, people who determine the food pyramid or the plate are just scientists working for the government. This diagram raises the real parallel question for me, why are these scientists who come up with food portion recommendations not on the committees that decide on what to subsidize?!
And just for fun, from Apples From Oranges:

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Permalink: United_States_of_Obesity.html
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Last Modified: 11/20/11 08:12

Category: science

11/16/11 02:12 - ID#55525

Biological Science Journals need a reality check

I read this article today (poorly written and not very informative. Don't bother reading).

Tchantchaleishvili V, Schmitto JD. Preparing a scientific manuscript in Linux: Today's possibilities and limitations. BMC research notes. 2011 Oct;4(1):434+. Available from: .

The table at the very end summarizes the format in which top biological sciences journals prefer to receive submissions.

  • New England Journal of Medicine(34) PDF*, DOC, WPD, TXT, RTF
  • Cell(37) DOC, RTF, TXT
  • The Lancet(38) DOC
  • JAMA(39) DOC, WPD
  • The Journal of Biological Chemistry(35) PDF***
  • Circulation(40) DOC, WPD
  • ===
  • Nature(29) DOC, TEX**
  • Science(30) DOC, TEX**, RTF*
  • PloS ONE(31) DOC, TEX, RTF
  • PNAS(32) DOC, RTF, TEX
  • BMC Journals (33) DOC, RTF, TEX

[* Some restrictions apply]
[** TEX files must be accompanied by a PDF version of the same text for visual reference 19 ]
[*** Although manuscripts must be submitted in PDF format, Microsoft Word is recommended to prepare the manuscript text]

Look at the sheer proliferation of M$hit formats on that list. The 1st preference is always doc. Wherever PDF is accepted, M$hit is recommended to make that PDF.

Even if you want to change *they* will not let you.

Am I in the wrong field or what? Nevermind content, even submission guidelines are so proprietary, backwards-thinking and insular.
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Last Modified: 11/16/11 03:15

Category: science

10/22/11 01:37 - ID#55351

Best. Natural. Deodorant. Ever.

I finally found it. I don't know what took me so long. But this is amazingly effective.

Baking Soda
(1 pinch/sprinkle)


Coconut oil
(to dissolve/make a paste from the baking soda)

You can substitute the coconut oil with vaseline intensive care or perfume-free vaseline. It will work just as well. Apply liberally on odor-prone underarm areas. That's it. No more chemicals or plastic packaging waste or even dehydrating alcohol derivatives ever.

I just sprinkle some baking soda on my palm, mix with a spot of coconut oil and apply immediately after showering. It works so well that I now have trouble finding out what clothes I have worn and what clothes I haven't if I don't consciously toss them in the laundry bag. I would say it has eliminated around 99.8% odor.

Try it out, if you haven't already.
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