Oral Cancer News

Oral sex increases men’s risk of cancer, new study finds

Source: www.deccanchronicle.com
Author: staff

An alarming new study found men who have performed oral sex on five or more partners are at risk of head and neck cancer related to HPV, according to a report by the Daily Mail.

Johns Hopkins researchers warn men may not be aware of this risk, particularly if they smoke. “Among men who did not smoke, cancer-causing oral HPV was rare among everyone who had less than five oral sex partners, although the chances of having oral HPV infection did increase with number of oral sexual partners, and with smoking,” lead author Dr Amber D’Souza, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told the Daily Mail.

For the study, data was analysed of 13,089 people part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and tested for oral HPV. That information was compared to data with federal figures on oropharyngeal cancer diagnoses. The results indicated that men had a higher risk of developing the disease compared to women.

The new study’s findings suggest it is crucial for boys to get the HPV vaccine.

While there are 100 different kinds of HPV, only few cause cancer. HPV strains 16 and 18 trigger most cervical cancer. HPV16 also causes oropharyngeal cancer.

Identifying who is at risk is will help curb the disease. “For these reasons, it would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed,” Dr D’Souza told the Daily Mail.

Further research to explore oral HPV infection in young healthy men is currently being conducted.

The study was originally published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

7 million American men carry cancer-causing HPV virus

Source: www.nytimes.com
Author: Nicholas Bakalar

The incidence of mouth and throat cancers caused by the human papilloma virus in men has now surpassed the incidence of HPV-related cervical cancers in women, researchers report.

The study, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 11 million men and 3.2 million women in the United States had oral HPV infections. Among them, 7 million men and 1.4 million women had strains that can cause cancers of the throat, tongue and other areas of the head and neck.

The risk of infection was higher for smokers, for people who have had multiple sex partners, and for men who have sex with men. Frequent oral sex also increased the risk. The rate was higher among men who also had genital HPV. (Almost half of men aged 18 to 60 have a genital HPV infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Neither age nor income made a difference in high-risk oral infection rates, but rates among non-Hispanic blacks were higher than other races and ethnicities.

HPV vaccination is recommended starting at age 11 or 12 and is effective, said the senior author, Ashish A. Deshmukh, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, and “it’s crucial that parents vaccinate boys as well as girls.”

The lead author, Kalyani Sonawane, also at the University of Florida, said that behavioral change is important, too, particularly smoking cessation. “The difference in oral HPV infection between smokers and nonsmokers is staggering,” she said.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Should women older than 18 get the HPV vaccine?

Source: www.washingtonpost.com
Author: Erin Blakemore

About half of American teenagers have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Should adult women follow suit?

Yes, says Lauri Markowitz, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medical epidemiologist who has worked with the advisory committee that makes national vaccination recommendations. “Women 18 to 26 should be vaccinated.”

There’s good reason to follow that recommendation. According to the American Cancer Society, about 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year and more than 4,000 will die of the disease. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90 percent of all cervical and anal cancers in men and women. The virus also causes vaginal, vulvar and throat cancers and genital warts.

Although the majority of HPV infections do not cause cancer — most people with an infection never show any symptoms, and infections usually go away on their own — some strains are particularly dangerous. Gardasil 9, the newest HPV vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, protects against nine such strains and, researchers say, may be able to prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancers. (Older vaccines protect against fewer strains of HPV.)

However, confusion about the way HPV vaccines protect against infection can deter some women. Gardasil 9 is approved for women up to age 26. Like other vaccines, it spurs the body’s immune system to defend itself against a virus. The FDA and CDC say the HPV vaccines are safe and extremely effective: HPV rates in women ages 14 to 19 years fell 64 percent within six years of the vaccine’s introduction in the United States in the mid-2000s and 34 percent in women ages 20 to 24.

The vaccines are most effective if administered before a woman becomes sexually active. The longer a woman has been sexually active and the more partners she has had, the more opportunities she has had to become infected with an HPV strain that overlaps with the vaccine. If she is vaccinated at an older age, the vaccine may be less effective in lowering her cancer risk, Markowitz says. The vaccine can’t clear any HPV that has taken hold; it can only prevent future infection. So essentially if you already have been exposed to one of the strains it protects against, it will be useless against that strain.

That doesn’t mean it’s useless to get vaccinated if you’re older than the recommended age of 11 or 12, Markowitz says. “Your chances of being protected are decreasing, but you will still have some protection,” she says. Although the likelihood that a sexually active woman has been infected with one of the strains the vaccine protects against increases as a woman has more partners, those who didn’t receive the vaccine at the recommended age are still urged to get vaccinated to increase the odds of protection.

Some insurance does not cover the vaccine for those older than 18 — the shots can be costly, though the manufacturer may provide assistance — but it really varies across the board.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Complex cancer decisions, no easy answers

Source: blogs.biomedcentral.com
Author: Jeffrey Liu

With the many different options now available for the treatment of cancer, it can be very difficult for both clinicians and patients to decide on the best possible treatment strategy, particularly when faced with a complicated cancer. In this blog, Dr Jeffrey C. Liu reflects on the challenges encountered in cancer decision making, particularly when presented with difficult cases.

When treating cancer, sometimes the treatment decisions are straightforward and unambiguous. For example, surgery is the treatment of choice for an early, uncomplicated tongue cancer. However, many times, the recommendation for cancer treatment is not straightforward and requires combination treatment – one or more of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

As a head and neck cancer surgeon, I work with a team to make these treatment decisions, and usually team consensus is achieved. However, when we are faced with the choice of multiple treatments that all have the same chance of cure available, it seems to result in a never ending discussion amongst our team.

Take for example an advanced tonsil cancer. These cancers can sometimes be removed first with surgery, a process which removes both the primary cancer and the lymph nodes in the neck. Then, depending on the pathology results, patients may need radiation treatment, chemoradiation or sometimes no further treatment at all. Meanwhile, chemoradiation alone, and no surgery, is an excellent option. Whether the patient receives surgery or no surgery, the chance of cure is pretty much the same. However, based on the need for additional treatment after surgery, the patient may have better, equivalent, or worse function than chemoradiation alone.

How then can a patient make a decision with imperfect data? I wish I could help my patients better with these complex decisions. Most patients will make this decision only once in their lives. With the increased emphasis on patient autonomy, there is sometimes a feeling to just “present the options and let the patient decide.”

However, when a group of smart experienced doctors who all treat the same cancer, cannot reach an agreement, how is a patient with no experience expected to make the right decision? There is not enough time to explain to patients the observations of hundreds of such decisions and their thousands of outcomes. Some patients are so overwhelmed by the decision, that they just want someone to tell them what to do. Others have so many questions and concerns that they get lost in the details and paralyzed by the process. I don’t know the right answer for such patients.

Unfortunately, there is no option but to choose a treatment strategy and move forward. We all carry the hope that one day, with more research and better understanding, such complex decisions for the treatment of cancer, will become the easy ones.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Is alcohol really good for your health? What the research reveals may surprise you

Source: www.consumerreports.org
Author: Julia Calderone

W e’ve long been told that a little wine with dinner may help prevent heart disease and perhaps offer other health benefits.

But some researchers are now questioning whether the perks of moderate drinking—one drink per day for women, two for men—really outweigh potential downsides.

We know that in older adults, too much alcohol can exacerbate high blood pressure, increase the risk of falls and fractures, and lead to strokes, memory loss, and mood disorders. And in this group, alcohol problems, such as the uncontrollable urge to drink, shot up 107 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to a study published in August in JAMA Psychiatry.

Even small amounts of alcohol can interact with medication (see chart here for a list of which ones), and contribute to cancer risk and potentially cognitive decline.

Here’s the latest research and tips on how to ensure that you’re not going overboard:

Benefits and Risks
More than 100 studies have found that a drink or two per day is linked to a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiac-related problems, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Another study published in August, one that followed more than 333,000 people for 12 years, found that light to moderate drinkers were 21 to 34 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

But no studies have yet proved directly that alcohol boosts human health. Most research in this area has looked at whether people’s reported drinking behaviors are “associated” with positive or negative health outcomes.

A growing stack of research also suggests that regular, moderate alcohol consumption may have its hazards.

A 30-year study published in June in the British Medical Journal found that men who consumed eight to 12 drinks per week had three times the odds of having an atrophied hippocampus, which is a possible sign of early Alzheimer’s disease. That’s according to the study’s author, Anya Topiwala, Ph.D., a clinical lecturer in the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

And other research has found that moderate drinking may be linked to an elevated risk of breast cancer and—especially in smokers—esophageal, mouth, and throat cancers.

Watch Your Intake
Although moderate drinking isn’t without risks, a daily glass of wine is generally fine, says George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even if you’re in your 80s or 90s.

“We don’t want to panic people,” Topiwala adds.

But if you don’t drink, she says, there’s no reason to start for your health’s sake. And if you find yourself exceeding the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Koob says, there’s no controversy: Consider cutting back.

These strategies can help:
Size up your pour. It can be almost impossible to eyeball a standard drink (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1½ ounces of distilled spirits). Some wineglasses can hold up to 22 ounces, more than the amount in four drinks. So use a measuring cup or a shot glass to get it right.

Keep tabs. Tracking how many drinks you have per day or week—perhaps with tick marks on a cocktail napkin—can help you stay within your limit.

Alternate with water. Sipping a glass of water or club soda after each alcoholic drink will help you slow down.

Talk to your doctor. If you’re concerned about your drinking, don’t be afraid to bring up the issue at your next checkup.

Note: This article also appeared in the November 2017 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Penn surgeons become world’s first to test glowing dye for cancerous lymph nodes

Source: www.phillyvoice.com
Author: Michael Tanenbaum, PhillyVoice Staff

Surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania have achieved a global first with the use of a fluorescent dye that identifies cancerous cells in lymph nodes during head and neck cancer procedures.

The study, led by otorhinolaryngologist Jason G. Newman, seeks to test the effectiveness of intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI), a technique that illuminates tumors to provide real-time surgical guidance.

More than 65,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2017, accounting for approximately 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 75 percent of these cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use, followed by human papillomavirus (HPV) as a growing source for their development.

Common areas affected by these cancers include the mouth, throat, voice box, sinuses and salivary glands, with typical treatments including a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Lymph nodes, which act as filters for the immune system, are often among the first organs affected by head and neck cancers as they spread or resurface. Initial surgeries may leave microscopic cancerous cells undetected in the lymphoid tissue, heightening the risk that a patient’s condition will return after the procedure.

“By using a dye that makes cancerous cells glow, we get real-time information about which lymph nodes are potentially dangerous and which ones we can leave alone,” Newman said. “That not only helps us remove more cancer from our patients during surgery, it also improves our ability to spare healthy tissue.”

With the aid of a fluorescent dye, surgeons are able to key in on suspicious tissue without removing or damaging otherwise healthy areas. Previously adopted for other disease sites in the lungs and brain, the practice now allows Newman’s team to experiment with indocyanine green (ICG), an FDA-approved contrast agent that responds to blood flow.

Newman explained that since tumor cells retain the dye longer than most other tissues, administering the dye prior to surgery singles out the areas where cancer cells are present.

The current trial at Penn will enable researchers to determine whether ICG is the most suitable dye for head and neck cancers and provide oncologists with a deeper understanding of how cancer spreads in the lymph nodes.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Lindsey Stirling Honors Her Late Father with Moving Routine on Dancing with the Stars: ‘I Felt Like I Was Dancing with My Dad’

Author: Karen Mizoguchi
Source: People.com
Date: October 9, 2017

Lindsey Stirling has had an incredibly tragic year. The violinist is mourning the loss of her father, Stephen, who died of throat cancer. And on Monday night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars, she honored him with her routine for Most Memorable Year Week, choosing 2017.

“I am the woman I am today because of you and I love you so much,” she said on the reality dancing competition series.

To celebrate her dad’s life, Stirling and pro partner Mark Ballas — who wore her father’s hat and scarf as part of his costume — performed a touching Viennese Waltz. “I felt like I was dancing with my dad,” said Stirling, who was awarded a 26/30 by judges.

“I feel like I got to thank my dad in a way I’ve never been able to before. I was really looking forward to this dance, I was terrified to do it and I’m really happy,” she said. “When you’re dancing about something that is so important that means so much to you doing something I’ve never done before, I just wanted it to be so special. And I feel like it was.”

In January, the YouTube star announced the sad news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, writing, “My dad passed away early this morning. There is nothing to say that could express my gratitude for this amazing, selfless man.”

She added, “But I love you daddy. I’m the woman I am today because of you.”

Along with the loving message, the America’s Got Talent alum shared a childhood photo of herself and her father.

In June 2016, Stirling’s father, a religious educator and author, detailed his battle with cancer on his website.

“The pain in my throat persists. (That pain is likely the residual result of radiation and chemotherapy. In other words, I now suffer from the cure, now that the disease has fled.  Ironic.),” he wrote about his illness, which he was diagnosed for in late 2015.

The father of five wrote his final Facebook post. “As I prepare to write the next chapter of my life, I am not afraid. God be with you ’til we meet again,” he said.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

The Journey of a “Doctor” Who Joined the Cult of Alternative Medicine and Then Broke Out of It

Source: flipboard.com
Author: Akshat Rathi
Date: September 30, 2017

One Friday afternoon in May 2014, Britt Hermes was scheduled to treat one of her cancer patients with an injection of Ukrain. This wasn’t especially unusual; people often came to Hermes, a naturopath in Arizona, for the treatment. That day, though, an expected shipment of the drug hadn’t arrived, and Hermes’s patients weren’t happy. They had been promised that Ukrain given on a strict schedule would help them when nothing else was working. So she asked her boss what was going on.

“In response, he made an off-hand remark: ‘Oh don’t worry. Most likely the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] confiscated it. It’ll just arrive late,’” Hermes recalls today. When she asked him what he meant, he fumbled. “He realized that he may have said something he shouldn’t have.”

Complementary medicine therapies drawn from traditional practices, ranging from massage and vitamin supplements to acupuncture and meditation, are today becoming broadly incorporated into mainstream medicine as more scientific studies validate their efficacy. But naturopathy, a belief system built on the concept that “nature knows best” when it comes to healing, takes it a step further. Practitioners use a host of pseudoscientific techniques including energy healing and homeopathy that can be not only ineffective, but dangerous. Instead of thinking about the techniques as adjunct therapies to proven modern medicine, many naturopaths will reject the pharmaceuticals and other treatments that we know save lives.

Over her seven years of training and practice, Hermes had had doubts about naturopathy, but she had always found ways to dismiss them. This time, however, her boss’s comment worried her: Was she doing something illegal? Could she be in trouble?

Hermes went home and began to Google. She first looked up Ukrain, and uncovered reports of studies showing the drug to be ineffective at best, and worse, potentially the cause of nasty side effects like tumor bleeding and liver toxicity. She read on and realized Ukrain hadn’t passed the clinical trials required for FDA approval. She looked up some of the other therapies frequently used by naturopaths—ozone treatment, injections of hydrogen peroxide, bloody radiation therapy—and realized that none of them were FDA-approved.

“The whole house of cards came crashing down”

“The whole house of cards came crashing down for me,” she recalls. “On Monday, once I had figured out the different pieces of the story, I was in a lawyer’s office getting representation.”

Months later, after giving up her job, Hermes began blogging about the problems she saw in the practice of naturopathy. She was rapidly embraced by a loose community of skeptics who dedicate themselves to promoting critical thinking and evidence-based medicine; it isn’t easy to find someone with Hermes’s intimate knowledge of the inner workings of alternative medicine—and who is willing to speak candidly about the problems of the field. In 2016, just over a year after she began blogging, Hermes’s blog “Naturopathic Diaries” won the Ockham award for the best blog of the year given by The Skeptics magazine.

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: A former patient saying hello:)
I was a patient of yours. Your recommendations yielded no greater relief of my symptoms than anything else I have tried before or since. I stumbled across your blog tonight and I must say my mind is a little blown in a good way. I hold no anger or resentment—you were doing your job to the best of your ability and no one was forcing me to see you. Thank you for your brave, clear writing. I hope it sheds light on some of the crazy out there.

Hermes has given up her dream of becoming a doctor and instead has dedicated her life to saving patients and would-be doctors from falling for the naturopathy claims that she once so confidently made. But larger forces now want to silence her.

Bastyr University, where she trained to become a naturopath and whose education she has been publicly criticizing in recent years, has threatened to take her to court unless she stops publishing what the school’s lawyers allege are “willfully false and misleading comments” with “express intent of disparaging Bastyr.” Hermes has no plans to be cowed by the threats.

Over hours of conversation, I found Hermes to be a sharp thinker and an articulate speaker. But something kept bugging me: How could it have been that someone like Hermes remained ignorant for so long in an age when Google is at nearly everyone’s fingertips? And more importantly: Why is it rare to find examples of people like Hermes, people who for whatever reason may have believed something demonstrably false but are able to change their mind when confronted with evidence to the contrary? As I tried to unpack her story, I realized it offered a rare peek into how troubling beliefs are created in the information age, how they are reinforced in echo chambers, and how some people can break out.

BUYING INTO THE SYSTEM
Hermes grew up in a rich neighborhood in Ventura County, in southern California, and she partially attributes her career path to the material comfort of her early life. “A lot of people with disposable income seem to be drawn to alternative medicine,” she says. “The community I grew up in was into wellness treatments, whether acupuncture or ayurvedic spas.”

Her first direct experience with alternative medicine came when she was 16. Red spots started showing up all over her body, and in less than three weeks she went from obsessing about lipsticks and nail polish to desperately seeking a cure for psoriasis.

Her mother, who also suffered from the life-long condition, booked an appointment for Hermes with her own dermatologist. And like he did for her mother, the doctor prescribed steroids for Hermes. But she had seen what the disease had done to her mother, who suffers from bad side effects due to years of medication, such scars on her skin and a severely compromised immune system. Hermes wanted an alternative.

“He brushed me off. ‘Suck it up and get over it, kid,’ he said.”
“I asked him whether diet or such could help,” she recalls. “He brushed me off. ‘Suck it up and get over it, kid,’ he said. That was a turning point in my life.”

She didn’t get over it. Instead, she went to the library. (It was the year 2000 and accessing the internet wasn’t always easy.) “I was using a card catalogue and reading any book that mentioned psoriasis,” Hermes says. Somewhere she read that cod-liver oil would help her, and then made her dad drive around to find a place selling the stuff. “My skin got better, and I’ve never had a psoriasis breakout like that first time,” she says. “I was taking steroids too, of course, but I attributed the remission to the alternative therapies I tried.”

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: Thank you from a medical student
Over the years I have seen my parents quit jobs, choose to spend what little money they have on expensive “natural” products, and sever relationships with family over beliefs of pseudoscience. I am tired of watching people get hurt or hurt others over warm-fuzzy ideas. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for your journey. I’m certain it has been incredibly difficult. You may not be practicing medicine with patients in the way you initially thought, but your efforts are making a difference that will inevitably help the sick.

After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, Hermes decided she wanted to become a doctor—but not like the dermatologist who treated her psoriasis. That’s when she came across Bastyr University’s naturopathy course. It seemed perfect.

True believers say the first advocate of naturopathy was the Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates. The more mundane truth is that the term was popularized in the early 1900s by the Benedict Lust, who learned his techniques from the German practitioner Sebastian Kniepp. Lust came to the US to spread the use of “drugless therapies,” and he found instant success, creating a base of followers. Naturopathy flourished in the country until the 1940s, when the American Medical Association (AMA) began campaigning against medical practices lacking rigorous evidence of efficacy. The result was the near extinction of naturopathy in the US, with only five states offering licenses in 1958.

True believers say the first advocate of naturopathy was the Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates.

But since the 1970s, thanks to the “holistic health” movement, there has been a revival in interest in naturopathy according to University of Arkansas social anthropologist Hans Baer. Today, as many as 15 US states offer licenses to naturopaths (though only the state of Washington requires insurance companies to reimburse naturopathic treatment). There are also more than a half-dozen schools in North America that dole out Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degrees—including Bastyr, which has campuses in Kenmore, Washington and San Diego, California.

“When I was looking at the Bastyr website and reading phrases like ‘supported by scientific research’ and ‘drawn from peer-reviewed journals,’ the keywords I was trained to look for were there,” she says. “Bastyr described itself as the ‘Harvard of naturopathic medicine.’ I felt like I was choosing a program that was preparing me to study medicine and research natural therapies and be part of the broader medical field.”

To be sure what she was getting into was legit, Hermes even visited naturopaths.“It felt like a regular doctor’s office. There was a receptionist and a waiting room. Naturopaths were wearing white coats and had stethoscopes around their necks,” Hermes says. “The visual cues were there. They looked like doctors to me.”

HOW TO BECOME A DOCTOR
Naturopathy appeals to many because it seems to offer more than medical doctors alone. “Naturopathic physicians now claim to be primary care physicians proficient in the practice of both ‘conventional’ and ‘natural’ medicine,” Kimball Atwood, an anesthesiologist and assistant professor at Tufts University, wrote in 2003. Experts who’ve looked at naturopathy’s claims closely have found mostly deficiencies. “Their training…amounts to a small fraction of that of medical doctors who practice primary care,” Atwood wrote. “An examination of their literature, moreover, reveals that it is replete with pseudoscientific, ineffective, unethical, and potentially dangerous practices.” But these deficiencies are not easy to find for an undergrad looking to sources and people that would only confirm her biases.

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: HELP!!! Just started Naturopathic School at Bastyr

I thought Bastyr would have more science-based natural medicine but I’m finding that it is not the case. The professor also discussed how Bastyr had an astrologist who would help with medicine. By this point in class, I’m terrified that I made the wrong decision.

When Hermes started at Bastyr University, it seemed like other medical schools she had read about. There were classes in anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. Students dissected cadavers and got clinical practice, spending time with Bastyr naturopaths treating actual patients.

“When I enrolled, I thought ‘alternative medicine’ was mostly lifestyle, like diet and exercise—a practice that tries to mitigate the use of drugs,” Hermes says. “I wasn’t aware of all these different systems of medicine.”

Homeopathy has been shown to be at best a placebo.

Take homeopathy, for instance, which works on two principles. First, “like cures like.” So, for example, since chopped onions make you cry, it follows that if you want to treat hay fever, which also produces runny eyes, you should drink onion juice. Second, “dilution increases potency.” So the onion juice should be diluted to such an extent there isn’t a single molecule of it left in the solution—in other words, until the point where even if for some reason it did work, there’d be no way for scientists to determine that it was in fact a potent therapy. (There is no proof onion juice can treat the symptoms of hay fever.) Suffice it to say that these ideas go completely against any established scientific principle; homeopathy has been shown to be at best a placebo.

“I definitely had moments where I felt cognitive dissonance,” Hermes says. “In homeopathy class, for instance, what was being taught seemed to defy scientific principles. But at the same time, I felt, in order to be the best medical practitioner I could be, it was important to remain open-minded.”

To some extent, Hermes’ worries were alleviated by the training Bastyr was giving her in clinical practice. In the university’s outpatient clinic, Hermes was able to spend time on patient-care shifts, and she liked the approach the facility promoted. “A lot of the care we offered at the Bastyr clinic had counselling to it, because you spend a lot of time talking to the patient and really getting to know them by asking about minutiae in their lives: how many hours they sleep at night or what their stress level is like,” Hermes recalls. She enjoyed spending time with patients, and fell in love with the experience of working through their problems. That’s an aspect of this flavor of naturopathy from which the western model of medicine could stand to take a lesson. Experts have, in recent years, begun to push for a health care model that offers patients plenty of time with their providers, and asks doctors to consider a patient’s whole life—sleep, stress, diet, work, relationships—not just the one symptom that triggered a visit.

Still the doubts came back to haunt her. In physical medicine, for instance, she was exposed to “energy healing,” a belief system among naturopaths that says simple touching can manipulate biological pathways. Like homeopathy, there are no known scientific principles that support energy healing. (Bastyr University shared studies that conclude research in energy healing is limited.)

Halfway through her time in Bastyr, Hermes realized that maybe she had made a mistake. She started to think traditional medical training would have been a much better choice. But she was already $80,000 in debt. Worse, if she wanted to go to a proper medical school, she would have to study for and pass the MCAT exam, which wasn’t needed to get into Bastyr.

“I made a decision to become as much a physician as possible”

“The idea of starting over was too daunting. So I made a decision to become as much a physician as possible” within the naturopath system, Hermes says. “I did that by consulting medical sources instead of naturopathic sources. Instead of having a herbal medicine book on my desk, I had the drug formulary book. I was working hard to convince myself that I was practicing safely and effectively.” She became a licensed naturopath under her maiden name, Britt Deegan.

WRITING ON THE WALL
Things began to go downhill for Hermes soon after she graduated with her ND degree. The naturopathic remedies she was trained to use weren’t working on her patients. Some even had negative reactions to herbal therapies she had prescribed. But Hermes held back from acting on her doubts, until the Ukrain episode.

There are plenty of examples of naturopathic therapies going seriously wrong. Earlier this year, a California-based naturopath killed a 30-year-old woman by giving her an intravenous injection of turmeric. A report from the FDA found that the injection contained castor oil, which had a warning label that said “Caution: For manufacturing or laboratory use only.”

Then there’s the case of Ezekiel Stephan. In February 2012, David and Collet Stephan used naturopathic remedies rather than medical treatment to fight their 19-month-old’s bacterial meningitis. The infant died in March of that year. In 2016, David was sentenced to prison and Collet to house arrest for being “willfully blind” about the life-threatening risks to their son. The naturopath that the Stephans relied on wasn’t charged.

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: thank you
I am going through a divorce where the number one point of contention is my spouse’s insistence on naturopathy treatment of our mostly healthy five-year-old. Prior to reading your articles it was more of a belief that putting many non-FDA supplements into his body with the occasional prescription from his pediatrician couldn’t be a good thing. The irony I have found is highly qualified pediatricians won’t or can’t comment on non-FDA drugs while the naturopath is more than happy to talk about what pediatrician prescribes plus what supplements are needed instead or in addition to.

Some therapies like meditation, which are often categorized as “alternative” or “complementary” medicine, may be helpful, and have some scientific evidence to back them up. Others are the sorts of things drawn from the canons of traditional and alternative medicine and are essentially harmless—like hydrotherapy, where patients are treated using water at different temperature and pressure, and massage therapy. But there are also many pseudoscientific treatments that lead patients into positions of great risk, including ozone therapy, which involves injecting or breathing ozone, a toxic gas made up of three atoms of oxygen (instead of the two-atom version of oxygen keeping us alive), and treating cancer with substances like baking soda, vitamin C, and other products that have been shown to have no effect.

Lumping all these types of therapies under the umbrella of naturopathy makes it difficult for patients to understand what is backed by scientific evidence and what isn’t. “Incorporating magical thinking into the realm of evidence-based medicine is both ethically questionable and professionally irresponsible,” researcher and journalist Alheli Picazo wrote about the Stephens case in 2016. In the end, most patients simply believe whatever the naturopath has to say.

Within days of finding out that Ukrain was not FDA approved, Hermes got a lawyer. She was worried that she may have been an accessory to a crime. The lawyer assured Hermes that she was safe, because she delivered Ukrain under her boss’s direction and without knowing then that the drug was unapproved. That gave her the confidence to do something about the guilt she was feeling about mistreating her patients.

“I was willing to do whatever it took to correct the wrong”

“I was willing to do whatever it took to correct the wrong,” Hermes says. She reported her boss, Michael Uzick, to the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board and to the state’s attorney general. She also began auditing the websites of other naturopaths and realized that the use of unapproved drugs and therapies was widespread. “I was really shocked,” she recalls. “But it also felt like a lightbulb went on. It suddenly became so obvious to me that I was amazed I had missed it.”

“I needed to decide whether or not I could go back into naturopathy knowing that a number of my colleagues are blatantly breaking the law and putting patients’ lives at risk,” Hermes says. She didn’t have to struggle with the question for long. The naturopathic board did nothing more than reprimand Uzick. The attorney general never took up the case, but passed it on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has not yet replied to Hermes.

Uzick, through his lawyer, says that the reprimand “did not result from any patient complaint, but from accusations made by a disgruntled practitioner who worked with Dr. Uzick and understood his treatments, and made no complaint until she abruptly left the practice.”

When she saw the case be tossed liked a hot potato from the board to the Arizona attorney general to the federal FBI, Hermes felt her moral choice couldn’t be clearer.

A NEW START
After Hermes stopped her practice in 2014, life’s other mundane, but unavoidable, problems became apparent. She had racked up a debt of more than $250,000 for her Bastyr degree, and needed a source of income to pay back the loan or risk letting interest pile on. She had also fallen in love and gotten married. When her husband was a offered a place to study for a PhD in archaeology at a university in Germany, it felt like an opportunity for a fresh start.

That’s when, in late 2014, she discovered the story of Edzard Ernst, author of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, written with science journalist Simon Singh. “I lived with the book on my bedside table for six months,” Hermes says. “It got me through a really difficult period.”

Ernst trained as a doctor and then learned homeopathy at a hospital in Germany. He would, like Hermes, turn on his profession, showing through his own peer-reviewed research how homeopathy was nothing more than a placebo. As someone who also stopped practicing alternative medicine and began speaking against it, he saw a bit of himself in Hermes. That’s why he encouraged her to blog.

“I remember putting up my first blog post and being overwhelmed with anxiety,” Hermes says. “I wanted people to read my words, but I was so afraid of what they would think. I felt exposed. I cried a lot.” After the Ukrain revelations, Hermes developed intense anxiety, and was eventually prescribed medication for the ailment. Blogging brought similar anxiety and she went back on the meds.

“I’ve found myself in grocery stores not knowing whether to buy organic bananas or regular ones,” Hermes says. “I find it upsetting that I don’t know how to navigate my life any more. It’s a product of living in a culture of misinformation for a very long time.”

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: Thanks for what you are doing!
I know the courage it has taken you to speak out about the fallacies of naturopathic medicine. I taught at a naturopathic college myself, so I know first hand that every thing you are saying is true. I have much admiration for you. Keep up the good work.

For the past few years, after realizing she had been swindled in her education, Hermes has waged a war on naturopathy. On blogs and in online publications, she has opened a window into a profession that resists external scrutiny of its training and practices.

“These schools of quackery operate like cults”

“A conversion story like hers is rare,” says David Gorski, managing editor of the non-profit, online publication Science-Based Medicine, which was among the first few places to publish Hermes’s writing. The choice of the word “conversion” is a deliberate swipe at alternative medicine, which Gorski says is more like a religion. Ernst says the schools are, in part to blame. “These schools of quackery operate like cults,” he says. “People are being brainwashed with books, by peers, through media and so forth.”

Bastyr is a nonprofit and private university that was founded in 1978, near Seattle. Its founders named it after John Bastyr, a naturopathy practitioner based in the city. Today, it offers undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs to its 1,000 students, but these are not accredited by the same body that accredits US medical schools. Instead, a council of naturopaths oversees the programs. Bastyr says its courses are are also accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Bastyr now wants to keep Hermes, who has become a warrior for the truth, from speaking out. It’s an uneven fight from the start: a university with deep pockets against a student with huge tuition loans to pay off. (In response to questions from Quartz, Bastyr University says there are no updates to report since its July 21 letter to Hermes.)

“It’s an occupational hazard,” says Steven Novella, founder of Science-Based Medicine. “When we expose quacks and cranks, it’s no surprise we get personally attacked.” In 2014, Novella was sued by Edward Tobinick, a doctor claiming to treat neurological diseases with a drug that wasn’t approved for it, because Novella exposed Tobinick’s unsubstantiated claims. After two years of trial and appeals, Novella won the case but is yet to receive the tens of thousands of dollars he had to spend in legal fees to defend himself.

Separately, Ernst and Singh were each legally threatened by two different organizations promoting alternative medicine. Though Singh won a landmark libel case, Ernst was forced to retire early from his job as a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, after finding himself unable to acquire the grants needed to continue research. Now it’s Hermes’ turn.

THE CONVERSION
From: REDACTED

To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: Thank you
I was about halfway through naturopathy school when I started having doubts about the profession again. I had been searching for a while to find the opinion of someone who had graduated and left the field, and when I found your blog I felt an amazingly strong sense of relief and joy to be able to read what you had written and relate to all of it. I only wish that I had read your blog before starting!

Each individual has to decide for themselves, but skeptics say these fights are always worth fighting. Each voice is unique and necessary, and each voice lost is a huge blow to the skeptic mission. On her blog, Hermes has separate resources section for patients, students, lawmakers, and journalists. She has a section where former or current naturopaths, patients, and healthcare workers who’ve experienced naturopathy can submit guest posts. “It is important for more voices to be heard,” she writes.

And the feedback she receives from readers, including medical doctors and patients looking to use naturopathy, reminds her she is doing the right thing and gives her the motivation to continue. (We’ve reproduced some of these emails, interspersed throughout this article.) Some praise her for being “brave”; others thank her for giving “the final push” needed to quit studying naturopathy; most are simply grateful for having Hermes speak when they themselves couldn’t. Her testimonies have been crucial in defeating two proposed legislations—one in North Dakota and another in California—which would have increased the power of naturopaths, from prescribing pharmaceutical drugs to practicing midwifery.

From: REDACTED
To: naturopathicdiaries@gmail.com
Subject: Hi Britt
I was in your class at Bastyr. I found attempting to practice naturopathic medicine a nebulous, daring venture. I absolutely did not feel qualified to be anyone’s physician. After such a huge investment in time, money, and energy, it took me a while to truly accept that I want to find another career path. It is nice to know there are others who feel as though their training was less than sufficient.
When Hermes was training to be a naturopath, the evidence against alternative medicine was easily available. But she was surrounded by believers and was personally invested in the success of naturopathy, so she found ways to dismiss any creeping doubts. It was only when she had a “crisis of conscience,” as Gorski describes the Ukrain episode, did she open up to contrary evidence. That was her moving from inside the cult to the top of the fence.

She found the evidence she needed to jump most easily in Trick or Treatment. “What Ernst and Singh were able to do so beautifully was provide information that felt nonjudgmental,” Hermes says. “I didn’t feel like I was being put down for having used naturopathy or having been a naturopath.”

“Everything I had read prior to Trick or Treatment about naturopathy from a critic’s perspective was written in such a way that it was impossible for me to digest the information,” she says. “As soon as I read the word ‘quack’ or ‘pseudoscience’ I couldn’t get anything from the article.”

The book’s matter-of-fact approach to debunking naturopathy influenced Hermes’s thinking on naturopathy. But her own persistence mattered too.“I certainly have a propensity for magical thinking and alternative medicine,” Hermes says. “Even now, whenever I get sick with cold, my first response is ‘I don’t want to take any medication,’” Hermes says. That’s why it helped to have a guide like Trick or Treatment on her bedside. “Every time I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be giving up naturopathy, I opened the chapter on naturopathy and stopped myself from making that decision.”

Today, Hermes says that when she writes, even if using the same material that’s readily available to anyone with internet access, she is able reach a bigger audience. “My training as a naturopath adds credibility to my claims,” she says.

Hermes is becoming a sought-after speaker at events organized by the skeptics community. Hearing a former naturopath helps other skeptics understand better how to reach their target audience. “Everyone knows someone who has tried alternative medicine,” Hermes says. “My advice to these people is don’t bombard them with information about how naturopathy doesn’t work. Instead, listen to why they believe in naturopathy, ask open-ended questions, understand their perspective, and then go from there.”

Going through her story again and again at these speaking events is painful. “I’m putting myself through torture every time I relive those memories,” Hermes says. Though she gets plenty of positive feedback, she receives a lot more hate mail. And for someone who has been through a great deal of change in her life, existential questions are a daily problem.

“Will it have a made a difference if I continued to do this for 25 years? Will I ever be able to convert people inside the cult?” Hermes says. “I ask these questions all the time, and I don’t yet have answers.”

 

 

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Blood test for HPV may help predict risk in cancer patients

Source: www.newswise.com
Author: University of North Carolina Health Care System

A blood test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, may help researchers forecast whether patients with throat cancer linked to the sexually transmitted virus will respond to treatment, according to preliminary findings from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

HPV can cause oropharyngeal cancer, which is a cancer of the throat behind the mouth, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. Studies have shown that patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer have better outcomes than patients whose cancer is not linked to the virus.

Preliminary findings presented at this year’s American Society for Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting suggest a genetic test for HPV16 in the blood could be useful to help assess risk for patients, and could help identify patients suitable for lower treatment doses.

“Our work on this blood test is ongoing, but we are optimistic that ‘liquid biopsy’ tests such as ours may be useful in the personalization of therapy for many patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer,” said the study’s senior author Gaorav P. Gupta, MD, PhD, UNC Lineberger member and assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.

To avoid over-treating patients and to spare them from toxic treatment side effects, UNC Lineberger’s Bhisham Chera, MD, an associate professor in the radiation oncology department, led studies testing whether favorable-risk patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer can be treated successfully with lower doses of radiation and chemotherapy. A phase II clinical trial using this de-intensified regimen have shown “excellent” cancer control, Chera said.

The researchers used a number of selection criteria to identify patients who can benefit from lower-doses: patients had to be positive for HPV, and they had to have smoked fewer than 10 pack years. Chera said this system is not perfect, however. The researchers have seen cancer recur in non-smoking patients as well as “excellent” cancer control in longtime smokers.

“This has led us to question whether we can get better prognostication with other biomarkers,” Chera said.

They developed a test that can detect HPV16 circulating in the blood, and found that circulating HPV16 DNA was detectable using the test in the majority of a group of 47 favorable-risk oropharyngeal cancer patients.

In a finding that seems counterintuitive, they discovered that very low or undetectable HPV16 pretreatment levels in their blood actually had higher risk of persistent or recurrent disease for chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In contrast, patients with high pretreatment levels of HPV16 in their blood had 100 percent disease control.

They hypothesized that, potentially, the patients with undetectable/low pre-treatment HPV16 levels in the blood may have different, more radiation/chemotherapy resistant cancers.

“Our current theory is that these patients with low or undetectable levels of HPV16 have a different genetic makeup—one that is perhaps less driven purely by HPV, and thus potentially less sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation,” Gupta said. “We are performing next generation sequencing on these patients to search for additional genetic markers that may give us a clue regarding why they have a worse prognosis.”

They also identified a subset of patients who rapidly cleared the HPV16 from their blood. Researchers hypothesize that they could use their findings to further stratify patients who may be eligible for lower intensity treatment.

“A tantalizing – and yet currently untested – hypothesis is whether this subset of ultra-low risk patients may be treated with even lower doses of chemoradiotherapy,” Gupta said.

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Can even moderate drinking increase the risk of cancer?

Source: www.theguardian.com
Author: Luisa Dillner

Alcohol may be a social lubricant but WHO and Public Health England say it can cause cancer. Last week the alcohol industry was accused of downplaying the link between alcohol and the increased risk of seven cancers: mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, breast and colon. A research paper in Drug and Alcohol Review found that “responsible drinking” information funded by the alcohol industry tends to push the message that only heavy drinking increases the risk of these cancers. But the paper says the risk starts with low levels of drinking, even though the risk itself is low. So is the recommended number of alcohol units a week – 14 – too high?

The solution
Even less than 1.5 units a day – a small glass of wine – can increase the risk of mouth, throat, oesophagus and breast cancer (in women), according to a UK government committee. While the toll of heavy drinking on the liver and pancreas is well known, the link to cancers, especially breast and colorectal, is less so. There are more than 100 epidemiology studies showing an association between breast cancer and alcohol, the risk increasing with less than one daily glass of wine. Research at Harvard found that while light to moderate drinking was not significantly associated with an increased risk for men (unless they smoked), it did increase the risk of breast cancer for women.

Edward L Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of the report, says that the increase in risk is modest. And there are some health benefits from occasional drinking that make the true risk to health harder to quantify. He points out other research that shows that one drink per day reduces the risk of diabetes for women. “So the overall effect on health for women might still be positive,” he says. “For colorectal cancer, the risk for men and women is low until you reach more than two drinks per day.”

There are also individual genetic differences in metabolising alcohol that can increase the risk of cancer. Ethanol in alcoholic drinks is broken down into acetaldehyde, which is toxic to cells, damaging DNA and proteins. Some people have genetic variations that are less effective at getting rid of acetaldehyde, and they may have a higher risk of oesophageal cancer.

Giovannucci says that overall he wouldn’t recommend drinking alcohol to improve your health. “But if one enjoys a glass or occasionally two a day as part of a healthy diet, and doesn’t smoke, I think the increased risk of cancer is small,” he says. “For those with a family history of colorectal or breast cancer, I’d suggest not drinking or not exceeding one glass per day.”

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October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|