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Screening for cancer

Is screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancer nearly always ineffective and, for detecting the few cases where it does avert deaths, an overly expensive waste?

Medical scientists are rethinking their views on cancer by accepting that many cancers are benign. Sensible preventative maintenance of the human body requires inspection procedures that detect treatable, non-benign […]


I found this curious and not because the ABC aired what is a taboo subject – this was the focus of subsequent press critiques. Is labioplasty a media-inspired (airbrush) aberration? Or is it analogous to having your hair coloured or wrinkles botoxed. Is curiousity about labioplasty a reflection of underlying sexual puritanisms or of male […]

Sunday night & medical cannibalism

Western civilised countries routinely used human body parts in pharmaceutical preparations up to the end of the 18th century.  The practise was widespread. Blood, meat the lot was tried with varying success. The potions didn’t always work:

“In 1492, when Pope Innocent VIII was on his deathbed, his doctors bled three boys and had the […]

Radon & lung cancer

This is the first of several posts that I will make on lung cancer. They are related to my work on cigarette smoking.

I am interested in the fact that the incidence of lung cancer was very low prior to cigarette smoking but that, these days, around 10-15% of lung cancers seem to be unrelated […]

ADHD & treatments using drugs

Your children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? In the long-term they will be no better off using dangerous drugs like Ritalin or Concerta than behavioral therapies according to a study of 600 ADHD sufferers in the UK.

ADHD medications are widely prescribed in Australia – for some reason rates of prescription are 5X the […]

The PBS & mesothelioma drug treatment

The Age runs its normal pre-election, anti-Liberal Party line – this time Mr Howard (with all those budget surpluses) won’t interfere to ensure the PBS spend money to provide the drug Alimta, on a subsidised basis under a PBS listing, to unfortunate sufferers of mesothelioma. An editorial repeats these charges.

Drug firms seek to […]

A nation in pain

This article in The Age reports on an explosion of addictive painkiller use in the US. It fails to mention that a significant degree of this abuse is due to prescription and illegally-diverted prescription use by those addicted to these drugs. Oxycodone is the drug most responsible for the increased use of painkillers – it […]

Facts on smoking – incidence & health issues

This post contained some data errors. I have reposed the whole thing with corrections here.

Financial incentives to induce healthy behavior

An insidious externality in our comprehensive health cover system is that poor health risks, even if induced by negligent individual behavior, are borne as costs by the community rather than those who create them. This is moral hazard. Consumers have inadequate incentives to look after their health since their health costs are partly borne by […]


I am interested in the idea of placebos and of specific social beliefs – such as religion – which operate as placebos. But the most interesting modern placebos are associated with medicine. Despite the obvious huge advances of modern medicine, like most people, I am skeptical of its claimed powers. So too is psychiatrist Patrick […]

What makes us fat?

The standard answer, consistent with the first law of thermodynamics, is that we intake too many calories as food or we expend insufficient calories because of our sedentary lifestyle. We either eat too much or are slobs. There’s evidence that these factors alone however cannot explain it all – see here. New Scientist sets out […]

Vaccines for nicotine addiction & lung cancer

An interesting range of vaccines are being developed to deal with nicotine addiction. They prevent nicotine from activating pleasure centers in the brain.

If you are a smoker but don’t get to use this vaccine all is not lost. Scientists are also developing a vaccine for preventing smoking-induced lung cancer. So far experiments have been […]

Passive smoking causes harm

Most people know that smoking is the largest preventable cause of death in the world today. Smoking is the only legal product which kills people when it is consumed as intended. A recent report claims smoking kills half the people who regularly smoke.Defenders of smoking and opponents of smoking bans however claim that, if smokers […]