No Cure for Cancer

On The USA Science and Engineering Festival, Joe Schwarcz writes that in the media’s “drive to capture public attention, science sometimes takes a back seat.” He offers an accurate headline for one study: “Large daily dose of blueberry powder may reduce the growth of a rare type of artificially induced breast cancer in a special variety of immune suppressed mouse.” But only claims made relevant to the individual will sell newspapers—not to mention cereals and snack bars cooked up with the latest isolate. More than money, exaggerated headlines can cost us a false sense of hope. But we should still eat our fruits and vegetables. Orac examines the credulity of cure-seekers on Respectful Insolence, saying “we humans like control”—and when disease takes away our sense of control, “we instinctively seek ways of being more in control, or at least of feeling as though we are in control.” This may be one reason for the enduring appeal of quackery—it offers simple explanations and certain outcomes that an honest oncologist just can’t provide. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers dismisses the claim that woo killed Steve Jobs. PZ writes, “an early flirtation with ‘alternative’ medicine might have contributed somewhat to lowering the odds of survival, but that what killed him is cancer. And cancer is a bastard.”

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