Americans aren’t using sunscreen

…thereby raising their risk of cancer.

Despite the attention of the healthcare industry on the role of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer, about 40 percent of Americans never apply sunscreen at all before going out and only 9 percent wear it everyday, the poll of 1,004 people, showed.

One of the regions with the lowest use of sunscreen was the South, where 46 percent of people said they never using sunscreen at all during the summer. The age group with the lowest rate of sunscreen use was 18- to 29-year-olds at four percent.

Men were also much more likely not to use sunscreen before going outside with 48 percent saying they do not wear it at all.

The biggest factor in the lack of sunscreen use, I suspect, is laziness. It’s a pain to put on every time one goes outside. Then there’s the fact that people don’t want to smell like the stuff all day. And, as the article cites, income gaps contribute as well. Unfortunately, that isn’t where it ends. There are also quacks who say irresponsible things like this.

First of all: realize that sunscreen blocks all UV activity to the skin. Your skin provides countless functions not least of which is the absorption and manufacture of the steroid vitamin D. Any sunblock chemicals used in moisturizers, lip balm, and make-up should be eliminated if vitamin D levels are to be properly maintained.

The ineffectiveness of sunblock chemicals has been known for over a decade. Even though it is clear that the use of sunblock does effectively prevent sunburns, the prevention of skin cancers has not been found in the research. Furthermore, it is now clear that at least some of the chemicals in sunblock cause cancer changes in the skin.

This is Richard Maurer, naturopath. I don’t think I need to go much further in explaining his quackeriness. Unfortunately, this sort of vitamin D obsession is common with the alt med crowd. They take something good and go all after it. I suspect part of the reason has to do with the ease in which they can recommend it since they are limited in just what they can prescribe, but it’s also probably partially that many big drug companies don’t have vitamin D as a major focus. If those guys aren’t pushing it, well, it must work, right? Evidenced be damned. (For the record, I’ve never read where Christopher Maloney has excessively pushed vitamin D or recommended against basic skin protection; the problem is still common with the alt med crowd, but that doesn’t mean it is universal.)

Wear sun block.

Richard Maurer is a quack

I was going over an old post when I realized I had spelled the name of a naturopathic quack incorrectly. I referred to Richard Maurer as Richard Mauler. Whoops.

Immediately after correcting his name, I did a quick search and found his blog. It’s a lot of the traditional malarkey from naturopaths: a lot of noise and a smidgen of Gish Gallop from non-experts who are out of their amateurish field. But this post stood out to me in particular.

In this case the study summary says it all.

“Vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter is linked to lower incidence of influenza A, particularly in specific subgroups of schoolchildren, according to the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial reported online in the March 10 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Of course it does. There actually is a study which draws that link. But that’s all it does. It cites its small sample size alongside the lack of testing for most compounding factors (such as antibodies) as weaknesses in the research. Anyone who concludes that there is anything more than a link between vitamin D3 and a decreased incidence in influenza A is a quack. And you all know what’s coming. But hang out, I’ll even quote the abstract from the study.

RESULTS: Influenza A occurred in 18 of 167 (10.8%) children in the vitamin D(3) group compared with 31 of 167 (18.6%) children in the placebo group [relative risk (RR), 0.58; 95% CI: 0.34, 0.99; P = 0.04]. The reduction in influenza A was more prominent in children who had not been taking other vitamin D supplements (RR: 0.36; 95% CI: 0.17, 0.79; P = 0.006) and who started nursery school after age 3 y (RR: 0.36; 95% CI: 0.17, 0.78; P = 0.005). In children with a previous diagnosis of asthma, asthma attacks as a secondary outcome occurred in 2 children receiving vitamin D(3) compared with 12 children receiving placebo (RR: 0.17; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.73; P = 0.006). CONCLUSION: This study suggests that vitamin D(3) supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, especially in specific subgroups of schoolchildren.

It’s an interesting result, but no competent doctor is going to make recommendations based upon it. That isn’t to say doctors don’t have other reasons for recommending vitamin D; this just isn’t one of them. But does that stop the quack brigade from marching in the streets? Nah. Check out the title of Maurer’s blog post.

Vitamin D, as suspected, prevents the flu.

Christopher Maloney tried pulling this same garbage when he claimed black elderberry can “block” H1N1. Given the drubbing Maloney got back then in December, it’s curious that Maurer would repeat the same sort of anti-medical trash just a few months later. Vitamin D does no such thing. Maurer is either lying or incompetent. I won’t argue against anyone who claims he’s both.

It’s this sort of stuff that helps to solidify the naturopath’s leadership among charlatans.

Quack attack: A source of pride

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper disparaging the practices of naturopathic ‘doctors’. They aren’t especially qualified. I would sooner go to a grad student than one of these guys. Of course, not everyone feels the same way. As such, a couple of people felt compelled to write their own letters. This first one is from Richard Maurer.

A fellow physician relayed a letter by Michael Hawkins, who used inflammatory language against an entire profession. Because his letter was printed, I am compelled to respond to his inaccuracies.

It’s a good thing Maurer didn’t read the original letter I wrote. I directly called a naturopathic ‘doctor’ a charlatan and quack, said he directly lied, and also effectively called him a mountebank. Fortunately for him, my local paper is concerned about libel (though it would never be honest enough to admit that), so I only managed to say that ‘doctor’ “misrepresented facts” in the letter that did get published.

Hawkins claims that Maine is only one of several states to license naturopathic doctors. He claims that naturopathic doctors “have no relevant medical training” and even questions the title “doctor.”

Maine is one of 17 states that licenses naturopathic doctors. Licensure here depended upon passage by the Business and Economic Development Committee, the Legislature and approval by the governor.

Yes, one of 17 is also “one of several” in my book. But I wasn’t making the point that Maine is “only” one of several states; the point was never to say that naturopathy is bad because so few states give it credence. I made that point in my previous letter, and did so in a far more direct, succinct way: I said two states actively prohibit the practice of naturopathy.

No, the point was instead that the fact that several states allow prescription rights to these ‘doctors’ is a dangerous thing. I pretty much directly said that. I was bemoaning the fact that so many lives are at risk, not pointing out the lack of validity in naturopathy amongst state governments.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine have a four-year undergraduate premedical degree, followed by a four-year residency-based naturopathic medical doctorate, more than 1,500 hours of clinical training, passage of both basic science and clinical board exams. Continuing medical education is necessary annually.

His last sentence is the closest thing that matters here. He just needs to change “annually” to “daily”.

Much of the training for naturopaths come from schools which also offer several false degrees: ones for chiropractics, acupuncturists, even one which features training in the practice of “cupping” – the ‘art’ of lighting a match inside a cup to create suction, removing the match, and then placing the cup on a person’s body. It’s obvious with what sort of practices naturopathic supporters are willing to associate.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine offer a wide range of proven natural therapies and can prescribe classes of medications such as hormones, antibiotics and immunizations when necessary.

Show me the evidence. The best anyone can expect from naturopaths is non-original research which becomes predictably distorted. And those prescription rights are dangerous given the lack of training from proper programs.

But wait! There’s more! Emily Albee of Readfield has written in.

Michael Hawkins Dec. 12 letter, “Naturopathic medicine is not science, untrustworthy,” infers that those who participate in naturopathic medicine are “quacks.”

To be fair, I did want to outright say it.

Specifically, Hawkins was referring to Dr. Christopher Maloney’s opinion on alternatives for combating and treating the H1N1 virus.

More specifically, I was referring to his non-medical opinion.

My experience working in public schools and having the privilege to work with tremendous young people has taught me illness is a risk.

As opposed to my statements that illness is all fun and water slides?

Dr. Maloney’s recommendation of a daily regimen of elderberry and garlic supplements has helped me maintain an excellent level of health during a very difficult flu season. I trust his opinion because his recommendations work.

I liked Maurer’s letter for not using anecdotes. I like this one for filling my expectations.

There is evidence for jack squat. Research does not indicate black elderberry acts as a vaccine. The nutritional benefits of garlic are well-known; it contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. It also can help with infections. Beyond that, the research gets fuzzy. Naturopaths are willing to prescribe it for several different ailments without any proper evidence (and certainly no original research). They routinely go beyond what they know and delve into what they wish were true.

Recently, I suffered from extreme vertigo. Constant debilitating dizziness made for the worst six months of my life. Numerous non-naturopathic doctors and multiple antibiotic prescriptions ($45 per prescription) later, I was left with no relief or hope that this nightmare would ever be over.

There’s this constant, underlying notion that because real doctors cannot cure everything, pretend doctors must have the answers. It isn’t true.

Dr. Maloney took the time to listen and, after a thorough exam of my ears, he diagnosed chronic ear infections as the source of my vertigo. He recommended a treatment of daily garlic supplements and garlic eardrops. This naturopathic remedy is the only thing that was able to stop the perpetual dizziness.

This isn’t evidence that naturopathy is at all valid. First of all, why were the real doctors prescribing antibiotics? They must have recognized some sort of infection. Second, the fact that they were prescribing something indicates that they did not miss a diagnosis only a naturopath could have made. Third, there’s no way to know if it was actually the garlic which cleared up the infection. Fourth, there’s no way to tell from this if Albee was taking some other medication prior to the garlic ear drops which had the side effect of vertigo.

Naturopathic medicine under the care of Dr. Maloney has brought innumerable benefits to my family and me. I would argue Dr. Maloney is a rare gem in this world of corporate and policy-driven medicine.

Ah, there it is. The real doctors are just evil and American health care sucks. Thus naturopaths.

I am safer for it despite Hawkin’s opinion that naturopathy is “malarkey.”

*Hawkins’.

More directly, my opinion is actually that unevidenced medical claims are malarkey. Incidentally, that includes naturopathy.