07
Jan
10

Are they trying to drive us crazy?!

An item on Google News this morning is hanging in there presumably because it’s getting a robust number of hits. It’s a science item reported by ABC News and others that suggests that mice engineered to get Alzheimer’s disease showed some slowing of cognitive loss and even improvement of function when exposed to cell phone-level EMR.

In mice prone to an animal form of Alzheimer’s disease, long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation typical of cell phones slowed and reversed the course of the illness, according to Gary Arendash of the University of South Florida in Tampa and colleagues.

This piece of news is being met with a lot of skepticism. The researchers acknowledge that the findings need to be verified. Still, one credible critic said: “This is nonsense.” Perhaps the best advice comes from Dr. Roger Brumback of Creighton University who said: “extreme caution is necessary until this outcome has been confirmed independently in other laboratories.”

In other words, don’t strap a cell phone to your head to stave-off Alzheimer’s. After all, the debate continues about whether or not cell phone radiation increases the risk of brain tumors. There are some issuing warnings of the risk of brain cancer from cell phones while others maintain the evidence isn’t there.

Now add to this another finding reported a few weeks ago that suggests that people who have cancer have a reduced chance of developing Alzheimer’s while those who have Alzheimer’s have a reduced risk of cancer!

What?! Talk about a good-news, bad-news situation. Gimme a break! The two most feared diseases that afflict us later in life may trade off  in some diabolical sort of way! Well, this too is a statistical association without a clue about possible causal mechanisms. We’re just left to wrestle with a Catch-22 piece of science.

So what’s my point? It’s that more than ever we are being exposed to scraps of scientific information that didn’t reach our attention in decades past. The information ends up on the internet and TV because it’s sensational or maybe because it’s just plain ironic. And we are called upon increasingly to judge what is thrown at us. We can’t always call in an “expert.”

I’ve said several times that cancer and other life-science issue fit well with the title of the Meryl Streep movie now in theaters: “It’s Complicated.” Science is a human endeavor. When we get a righteous fact out of research flashing lights and ringing bells don’t go off like some game show. Trust in what we mortals observe has to be built up over time with confirming observations and applications in the world that work reliably. It’s inconvenient, but that’s the way it is. We have to step up our game for critically evaluating what often seem like spectacular claims, and we should always adopt something of a wait-and-see attitude.

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2 Responses to “Are they trying to drive us crazy?!”


  1. June 25, 2013 at 6:58 am

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