Monday, November 16, 2009

Revenge is sweet

About 6 months ago, I commented on a medical blog that possibly - just possibly - we were overtreating for breast cancer. After all, it was possible that some tumors came and went without us even knowing about it. I suggested that we needed some negative controls for breast cancer, and that it wasn't a bad idea to let some patients opt out of masectomies and see what happens.

I was laughed off the blog. My scientific credentials and ethical values were challenged. The comments were very reactionary, not very scientific.

Six months later, and my how things have changed. The phenomenon I predicted was borne out in major studies. I heard doctors talking about it on NPR. Now, in recognition of these new findings, it looks like the recommended age for mammography may soon change from 40 to 50.

A lot of bloggers call themselves "skeptics" because they dare to mock other peoples' beliefs. But that's not what science is about. Science is about creativity and challenge, not biology-textbook dogma. It's about thinking outside of the box. From that perspective, I daresay some of these science bloggers could learn a thing or two from the people they are mocking.

4 comments:

Shawna said...

Did you read the JAMA article which started this whole debate? You should go post it on that Scienceblogs comment thread (wow you really got hammered by the commenters there!)

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/302/15/1685

What is interesting is that my parents, who are alternative/woo therapists but very smart, have been saying these exact things about breast & prostate cancer for 10 years - my mom only started thermograms (instead of mammograms) in the last couple of years, specifically because she had zero family history of breast cancer (this means only after she was 60, 20 years post-recommended screening)

therapydoc said...

You're not gonna' say that humiliated you, a little criticism, right? Samurai's are made of tougher stuff, for sure.

YZF said...

Interesting post! Nice to get vindicated, and good moral.

Samurai Scientist said...

@Shawna, thanks for the link, I will check it out! It's always good to read the primary literature.

my mom only started thermograms (instead of mammograms) in the last couple of years, specifically because she had zero family history of breast cancer

I think the genetics is still our best predictor.

@therapydoc,
You're not gonna' say that humiliated you, a little criticism, right?

Good for the soul.

@YZF,
Interesting post! Nice to get vindicated, and good moral.

Thanks! I think my fellow American sci-bloggers are getting too caught up in the culture wars.

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