Who needs pap smears when you have acupuncture?

All too often I hear critics who assert that skepticism and feminism have nothing to do with each other, and I should stop pretending that skepticism is relevant to women’s issues. And then I run into articles like this one, where an acupuncturist claims only prostitutes get cervical cancer and pap smears aren’t “real preventative measures” but only serve to conjure up unrealistic fears.

Thankfully Richelle of Skeptic North has the full take down, including real facts about HPV and cervical cancer. I love this little bit of snark in particular:

I’ve had an abnormal pap test, and unlike Freak-out McMelodrama, I talked to my doctor about what it meant and why it wasn’t particularly concerning, but worth monitoring. It wasn’t a cancer scare, it was a “huh, that’s weird.” Maybe I’m just used to my body doing strange things, but I really can’t fathom using it as the impetus to quit my job and go to an unaccredited college to get a unrecognized 4 year TCMD (Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctorate) diploma for $40,000. If you’re worried about an abnormal Pap test, or just the potential to exposure to HPV and the risks of cervical cancer, talk to your family physician. And if they tell you that only prostitutes get HPV, find a new physician, and then talk to them.

But Richelle, don’t you know family physicians are just the slaves to big pharma and all medical advances are a ploy to fear monger people into popping pills?! Much better to go poke someone with needles.


  1. Nick Johnson says

    This last paragraph cracked me up. It seems like that is always the next step in a quacks argument. Blame it on pharmaceutical companies!

  2. says

    It’s almost like someone was thinking, “Hey, we managed to sow so much doubt about vaccinations that there are now increased outbreaks of deadly diseases. What other modern day preventative measures can we vilify?”

    Someone very close to me has had pre-cancerous results from a Pap smear. If it develops into cancer, her doctors will be on it. I don’t even want to think about what could happen if she didn’t get regular Pap smears.

  3. says

    Seeing this posted here has totally made my week!! Yay!

    I’m actually going to be writing a follow-up article, since I actually went for a 20 minute free consult with Dr. McMelodrama on Friday and have a whole bunch of more material on her now. I still haven’t figured out if she seriously believes what she’s saying or if she is just a ridiculous scammer…

  4. Chris Lawson says

    I winder if providers of woo find it easier to target medical procedures that people don’t like much. Pap smears are a little embarrassing and sometimes uncomfortable to painful. Vaccinations make your children cry. Cancer therapies make you feel sick while you’re on them. I don’t think it’s deliberate (that would be assuming a level of cognitive ability notably lacking in other ways) — but of all the rubbish spouted by people who know nothing of what they speak, I’m sure this makes a difference to what sticks in the public mind. (Having said that, it fails to explain anti-fluoridation nongs.)

  5. Chris Lawson says

    Speaking more broadly to your wider point, Jen, I agree that skepticism is critical to effective feminism — in fact, it’s critical for the success of any movement devoted to improving people’s lives because without skepticism you have no idea if your proposals and strategies will do any good.

  6. Ysanne says

    I guess it’s just the obvious choice…
    When some treatment makes sick people feel a lot better right after use, and is not too bad in itself, there’s no reason to make up some wacky “I don’t do this because it harms me” excuse for being a whingy and ignoring the result of rational long-term thinking.
    In contrast, when something isn’t fun and the benefits aren’t glaringly obvious straight away, it’s a dead easy way out of doing the uncomfortable but sensible thing.

  7. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    That’s the reason why so many people avoid going to the dentist until they have a toothache or a broken tooth. It hurts and there’s usually no obvious result.

  8. Azkyroth says

    Largely because 1) skepticism is associated with rationality, the trappings of which have historically been hijacked (and still are) to dismiss feminist concerns (IE, “women are just too EMOTIONAL” pablum) and this has lead to 2) a number of feminist-types swallowing the hijacking hook, line, and sinker and treating rationality as a tool of the establishment and/or an affront to Women’s Special Ways Of Knowing and/or The Ancient Egalitarian Matriarchal Faith (in other words “yes, we ARE too EMOTIONAL, and that’s BETTER”).

    It’s very, very unfortunate.

  9. Azkyroth says

    I should rephrase: this is why feminist communities often demonstrate ambivalence or antipathy toward skepticism.

  10. kemist says

    Oh, there’s no need for the procedure to be painful or for the results to be slow in coming for people to object to treatment.

    I have various aunts and especially one mother in law, who are absolutely convinced that every pill prescribed by an actual doctor, from antidepressant to antibiotic, is evil.

    One of them was advising me to treat an obviously severe bacterial bronchitis (and possibly pneumonia) with suppositories, ’cause, she said, she had the “same thing” (uhm, no.) and cured it without those “nasty antibiotics” which are supposed to be so bad for you. Well, sorry aunty, but I’ll go with the candida and the bit of diarrhea over septic shock or endocarditis any day.

  11. San Ban says

    Considering the HUGE benefits scientific advances and the Enlightenment have meant for women, it’s always surprising to me that self-described feminists can be so anti-science! After all, without the great advances in reproductive medicine (including abortion), we’d still be very much slaves to our biology and unable to participate much in claiming our place.

  12. says

    Not sure which one I’d rather have given that I have a fear of needles and I usually break the fingers of whoever is holding my hand during the pap smear. (I have serious trauma issues that make my pelvic exam harder than it has to be.) I do however go in for mine every year like clockwork given that cervical cancer is a b*tch and the treatment for it would be worse than enduring 90 seconds of discomfort.

  13. Godless Heathen says

    I’m glad you clarified, because the flip side of what Jen is writing is that many skeptics think feminism is irrelevant to them.

    I’d personally argue that many feminists, myself included, support science, atheism, and skepticism (well, to some extent-I couldn’t care less about big foot or UFOs)

  14. Epinephrine says

    At least one survey has shown a correlation between use of alternative medicine and feminism.

    Another study that had subjects rate nonprescription oral drugs versus herbal remedies showed that the herbal remedies were associated with empowerment.

    I have certainly run into many folks into paganism and herbal medicine who identify as feminist, and for whom the association of traditional medicine with white, male, Europeans is a factor. There are some entangled notions that could bias a subset of feminists toward CAM, and thus into conflict with skeptics.

  15. says

    I think it’s easier to convince people to try unproven remedies (I’m being generous here) when they’re desperate. That’s why there’s so much cancer and autism treatment woo. And I do think most of the practitioners know that they are scamming and possibly killing people.

    I have a friend whose son is autistic. She was convinced to pay a lot of money for a porcine embryonic stem cell treatment. Get this, the treatment was to have her son ingest the stem cells. In other words, she paid a fortune to feed her kid a ham sandwich which had no chance of containing stem cells, porcine or otherwise. And even if there actually were stem cells in there, which I don’t believe for a second, what use could you get from eating them? Now, you tell me if there’s any chance at all that the quack who sold it to her didn’t know full well what he was peddling. But of course, this woman is desperate to help her son.

  16. Azkyroth says

    I usually break the fingers of whoever is holding my hand

    This sounds like a job for an engineer. O.o

  17. Zuche says

    As I read the comments, the posted advertisement was for locating accupuncturists in your area. Before that, it was for a petition to overturn Roe vs. Wade. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were being trolled by the site’s advertising.

  18. says

    Agreed. I mean, seriously, I’d rather have someone stick a spec into my lady cave and gently brush the inside with a swab than get prodded with a bunch of needles any day of the week.

    Medicine, for the most part, isn’t pleasant, but it’s usually necessary.

  19. carolw says

    FWIW, I’d rather have my yearly scrape than a bunch of useless needles stuck in me. And I’m not even needle-phobic. I’m just anti-woo. If I’m going to get poked by needles, I’d better have a tattoo as the result. ;)

  20. Godless Heathen says

    …classification in a cultural group identifiable by their commitment to environmentalism, commitment to feminism, and interest in spirituality and personal growth psychology (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.4-2.7).

    Those were predictors of alternative health use, however, the odds ratio is 2.0. The closer to 1 that number is, the more likely it is that both groups (people who are part of those groups and people who aren’t) will use alternative medicine about equally. 2.0 is pretty close to 1, so the difference between the groups isn’t that large.

    I’m well aware of the reasons that some feminists reject medicine, but I want to point out that many do not.

  21. Dana Gower says

    First, I enjoy your writing and have said so in the past. You seem like an intelligent and interesting person and are obviously well respected among your peers.
    Second, I have hesitated to comment on your site in the past because it feels like being invited to a party and then making comments about your guests.
    It does seem, though, that, while priding themselves on being objective thinkers, your readers (and you)have a blind spot when it comes to vaccines and anyone who has concerns about them.
    Third, this is not a defense of acupuncture, homeopathy or any other home remedy, or a blanket condemnation of vaccines.
    I do think there is a flippant attitude, with people priding themselves of being superior to the “anti-vaxers” who raise concerns.


    Fourth, I was a district science fair winner when I was in the sixth grade, but that was decades ago and my area was electronics. I’m not a scientist, but I’m not anti-science, either.

  22. Happiestsadist says


    I’m one of those totally lucky people who always find pelvic exams painful. Like, “take some drugs before and block off the rest of the day” painful. And I’ve had over two dozen body piercings.

    And I agree with you so much omg. I’d take the “now scootch forward” (why do they all say exactly that?) and the pain over being some quack’s pincushion.

  23. says

    Dana, I don’t think that anyone argues that vaccines are risk-free. Every single medical intervention has risks. The reason we do them is because the risks associated with not undertaking that intervention are worse. This does not mean that on an individual level that complications from a medical intervention aren’t life altering for the individual that experiences them.

    That being said, to make any sort of accurate assessment we need more than just temporal correlation with getting the vaccine (since women are more prone to MS and onset is usually between the ages of 20-50). It would be shocking to find that none of them had developed MS at follow up. I found some Canadian incidence data (which I would expect to be similar to US data), annually 1 out of 100,000 children will develop juvenile MS. Given that 35 million doses of the vaccine have been given out in the US (11 million full courses of treatment), statistically speaking, it’s almost a certainty that some people will receive the vaccine and then within the year develop symptoms of MS. While each individual story may be a tragedy, we would need to demonstrate causation, a plausible mechanism for injury, etc before we denounce the vaccine on a population level. If there was solid evidence that the HPV vaccine directly caused these harms, and that the risk of these harms were higher than the risks that HPV pose, then I would gladly write an article detailing these things and why you should avoid it.

  24. Epinephrine says

    Yes, the OR is 2.0, which means twice as likely.

    I wasn’t saying that there don’t exist many feminists who are skeptical, but when Azkyroth made his clarification, it made me think a little about some of my clashes, which have largely been around CAM use.

  25. Azkyroth says

    If there was solid evidence that the HPV vaccine directly caused these harms, and that the risk of these harms were higher than the risks that HPV pose, then I would gladly write an article detailing these things and why you should avoid it.


    But quantitative risk analysis is an affront to Special Mommy Instincts…

  26. stripey_cat says

    Mail won’t protect you against crushing. A nice articulated plate gauntlet should do the trick, or plenty of padding like a boxing glove.

  27. stripey_cat says

    It’s not a question of which you’d prefer: we don’t do it for fun. The point is that, while cervical smears are always unpleasant, often painful, and sometimes frightening, they are effective at reducing cancer deaths. Acupuncture isn’t.

  28. hkdharmon says

    I think it is totally unfair to bring medical efficacy into the discussion. Whether the procedure works is irrelevant. It is much more important that the patient has a warm, fuzzy feeling regarding their health care choices.

  29. says

    :) It’s usually the nurse who is holding my hand and I haven’t lived anywhere long enough in the last two years that they’ve learned not to offer to let me hold their hands.

    One nurse (after it was over) did make the comment, “And you’ve been through childbirth?!?!?!?” to me. My doctor at the time looked up from filling out the lab forms and explained that it had been an emergency c-section. Apparently said nurse hadn’t seen the lovely scar on my lower abdomen that was still pink and raised.

  30. says

    Given the choice, I’d go with “none of the above”. However, I had the pregnancy from hell (with hormones that did NOT regulate again on their own afterwards) and I know people who have been treated for cervical cancer, so I go in every year and promise myself a reward for having done it.

  31. Dana Gower says

    Thank you for a serious answer. I still believe, however, that far too much weight is given on behalf of vaccines being safe because, well, nobody has proven that they aren’t. The developers of a vaccine have no incentive to discover that their vaccines have serious side effects. The government that approved the vaccine as being safe has no incentive to discover that, no, it really isn’t.


    That leads to no one actually doing the research to find out for sure. And then everyone can be satisfied that, yes, it really is safe after all. Except for the dead people.

  32. Chris Lawson says

    With due respect, Dana, you have not read the evidence. There is overwhelming evidence that the commonly used vaccinations have massive benefits relative to risks. This is not a matter of opinion. It is what is in the published literature. Over and over again. And it is not true that the risks of vaccines are not discussed, nor that the criticisms of the anti-vax movement are flippant.

    I would also suggest that your “not anti-science” tag is disingenuous since the site that you linked to about the dangers of HPV is full of anti-scientific statements (and frankly false ones, including headlines “Multiple Sclerosis-Like Symptoms and Paralysis Not Unusual After HPV Vaccination”) and in other stories promotes coconut oil as a cure-all, claims that mobile phones cause brain and DNA damage, that saturated fat is not associated with heart disease, that water fluoridation causes everything from heart disease to low IQ, and includes promo pieces from Casey Luskin of the DIscovery Institute explaining why Philip Johnson (the founder of DI) is right and the theory of evolution is all wrong, and Carl Wieland of Creation Ministries International explaining why Young Earth Creationism is supported by anthropological research.

    I would be able to dismiss this as bad luck in that you Googled for anti-vaccine literature and stumbled across this site without fully appraising it, but in combination with your statement that governments have no interest in determining if vaccines are effective (which is clearly nonsensical — it is fully understandable why a drug manufacturer would not want to release negative information, but why would a government want to?), I think it is safe to conclude that you are very much an anti-science conspiracy theorist even if you don’t describe yourself that way.

  33. says

    Speaking as the one who is more frequently on the other end of the speculum, I’d rather not do them if there was an alternative.

    From my point of view, playing ‘hunt the cervix’ isn’t exactly a highlight of my day. However, I’ve now got it down to a fine art and can generally get someone from call in to back on the street in around eight minutes.

    So no, I’m not doing them as part of some pharma conspiracy. If we could stop doing them entirely I’d be the pleasedest pleased person ever.

  34. Chris Lawson says

    Yep, this +++

    As a male GP in a practice with several female GPs, I only do the occasional Pap smear. The women in my practice do many every day — and it becomes a bit of a burden on busy days and I sometimes hear them complaining about how many they have to do. But we do it because we think it’s important and effective and have the evidence to back it up. As Jen has pointed out, the evidence for mammographic screening is actually not as impressive as we would like, but Pap screening reduces the chance of developing cervical cancer by around 80%.

  35. Dana Gower says

    Actually, I picked that first site on purpose. You did exactly what I expected (but that Richelle didn’t), which was attack the site, but say nothing about what it said. The second site I linked to is from U.S. News. (You didn’t mention that one.) The fact is that people who defend vaccines, no matter what, don’t really care about the claim — only that anyone questioning the safety of a vaccine is nuts. You ask why the government would want to cover up that a vaccine is unsafe. The reason is, they approved it. Can you imagine the reaction from the public if the government ever said, “You know that vaccine we approved? Turns out, it actually kills you. Sorry about that.” I disagree with your tagging me as anti-science, but I’ll cop to conspiracy theorist. The only problem is, conspiracies do sometimes turn out to be true. I could send you a couple of links if you like.

  36. Chris Lawson says

    No, Dana, you are an anti-science crackpot and a liar.

    You don’t put up a site full of lunatic anti-science crap as some kind of bait and then claim the higher ground. And you don’t get to lie by saying “people who defend vaccines, no matter what, don’t really care about the claim” since nobody here or anywhere defends vaccines “no matter what” (which is why some vaccines never gain approval — the repeated failure of HIV vaccines despite massive research investments is a case in point), and the “don’t really care” is just pure malicious projection on the part of your withered little mind.

    I didn’t read the second link after your first appalling effort, but I decided to have a look at it because it seems important to you for some reason to critique a 2.5-year-old opinion piece cribbed from another report in the same paper, by a journalist who describes her own reporting as “‘Oprah-esque’ confessions about how the latest news relates to her personally.” While it is fair game to question how well the post-marketing surveillance works for vaccines (or any drugs), this writer failed to understand how post-marketing surveillance works despite it being explained to her, and puts up a total of two anecdotal case reports with very unimpressive coincidental against the enormous weight of evidence against it.

    Now I am not all that critical of this reporter — I think she didn’t quite understand the problem fully but she was not dogmatically one way or the other, just raising very fair questions. But for you to put this up as an example of the pro-vaccine medical establishment not taking notice of adverse vaccine effects is an outright lie because (i) the reporter spoke to medical researchers who were investigating the two cases to see if they were linked to the vaccine, and (ii) the story was prompted by an editorial in one of the world’s leading medical journals bringing attention to the problem (which is where the US News got its story from in the first place).

    You are just like the lying creationists on Panda’s Thumb who start their posts with “I am asking a genuine question about evolution” when they’re really only interested in spouting creationist crap and refusing to listen to the evidence given to them. Remember how I mentioned that the evidence for vaccination was overwhelming? How come you’re not interested in hearing about it? In fact, why haven’t you looked it up yourself? It’s all easily available, including on sites linked to in that US News story. Instead you play stupid games by deliberately pointing to ridiculous anti-science sites as bait so you can dismiss any further criticism.

  37. Dana Gower says

    I do have to admit I’m enjoying this. Sorry about that.
    When I posted my first comment, I mentioned I was hesitant because I knew the people who read this site were prone to be close-minded toward any criticism or concerns about vaccines. I was very surprised and impressed with Richelle’s response. Then came you.
    You have called me a liar, a crackpot, a conspiracy theorist and, sort of, tried to work in creationist, just because I question what is pretty much a sacred cow on this site. I was kind of slammed at work yesterday and didn’t really have a chance to reply. Let me try today.
    Let’s take gravity. I believe in gravity. (See? Not anti-science!) Why? Because it works. It is consistent. No one I know goes flying off the earth (except astronauts, but you get my meaning). When we got to the moon, gravitational pull was less there, just as had been predicted. It fit the model. Someday, some of our ideas about gravity might be modified, but I don’t think there will be any revolutionary changes. That is good science.
    Now, take vaccines. I believe, to a large extant, vaccines do what they are believed to do. The concern among those who are concerned is that they do other things, too. Like harm people.
    Now, the people who 100 percent support vaccines (and don’t give me that about nobody defends vaccines “no matter what” and then claim it is only “approved” vaccines that you defend. And you accuse me of bait and switch.) say that, yes, there can be side effects, but the overall benefits outweigh the much smaller costs.
    Here are the two problems with that. Nobody really knows the “smaller costs” because, yes, whether you want to open your eyes and simply read the (respected)reporting or not, neither the companies that make vaccines, nor the government, nor anybody else but (apparently)crackpots are trying to find out why these adverse reactions occur.
    Here’s the second problem, which will cause howls of protest. A number (not all) of the people on this site also identify themselves as atheists. (This has nothing, really, to do with my point, but stay with me.) One of the things that really drives them nuts is when people say, “The Bible is true because it says so.” So here is my second point: People say vaccines work because they work. Prove it. Not the science behind how vaccines work. Prove that one person who has ever been vaccinated didn’t come down with the symptoms or didn’t die from any disease because of it. You can’t. People who aren’t vaccinated sometimes get sick; sometimes they die. Sometimes they get sick and recover; sometimes they don’t get sick at all. Some people who are vaccinated get sick; some die. Some get sick and recover; some never get sick. Prove that one person who has ever been vaccinated did any of those things because they were vaccinated. You can’t. Yet, vaccines work because they work.
    Now then, I happen to believe it is not a bad idea for people to get vaccinated. If the vaccine itself has no harmful side effects, than it just makes sense to figure, maybe, you are improving your odds by being vaccinated. But if the vaccine’s side effects are especially harmful, or if they appear in a substantial (however that’s defined) percent of the population, then there is a problem.
    So go ahead and call me names. You’ll notice, I haven’t done that. And, by the way, I think magnetism is pretty cool, too.

  38. Azkyroth says

    I’m not sure flogging one high-impact anecdote is the best way to go about promoting evidence-based medicine.

    (My understanding is that home-birthing has a fair amount of woo infection that there are rational reasons for preferring it *for low-risk pregnancies*, for which it’s generally recognized as safe, including the desperate need of the medical establishment to get their heads out of their asses about a number of “minor” things like birthing positions.)

  39. Chris Lawson says


    There is a wealth of literature on the benefits vs. risks of vaccines. If you had the slightest interest, you would already have looked into it, and you would know that there are these things called randomised control trials. One day you might like to look into how they work and how they can be used to work out important things like risks and benefits of an intervention (not just vaccines). Here is a link to a review of RCTs on HPV vaccine (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/11/13/abstract). I chose this one because it is recent and it is open access (so anyone with internet access can read it in full), but there are many others. It took me all of 2 minutes to find this article using Google and the search terms “hpv vaccine rct”.

    The reason why I said you ran a bait and switch is because you already told us you linked to that god-awful article as a bait-and-switch tactic. The reason I called you a liar is because you made statements earlier consistent with your latest example: “People say vaccines work because they work” — a statement that is demonstrably untrue since nobody says that or has ever said that.

    And guess what? Creationists believe in gravity, too, not to mention magnetism. Believing in gravity does not make you pro-science.

  40. Dana Gower says

    Creationists believe in gravity? What about Elijah?
    Seriously, I think you continue to miss my point, but, actually, I think that is the point.
    Perhaps I’m doing the same thing, but your arguments seem increasingly illogical to me. You say you call me a liar because I claim that people who ideologically support vaccines say “vaccines work because the work,” which you say is “demonstrably untrue since nobody says that or has ever said that.” So, are you saying vaccines don’t work? No, you are saying the statement itself is untrue. Then you quote a study, which you say is typical, which claims people who are vaccinated fare better than those who aren’t. In other words, vaccines work because they work. You can’t parse that sentence any other way.
    Having actually read the entire study (Seriously, you read those things?) I could mention that it is simply a review of other studies that say that (with a lot of hedging — “estimate” is thrown around an awful lot) people who are vaccinated tend to do better than those who aren’t. I could mention that I, too, have at least a vague understanding of statistics, and know the one about, “If you flip a (fair) coin 100 times and it comes up heads 100 times, what is the chance that the next flip will come up heads?” Which means, basically, the difference between your two test groups doesn’t mean a whole lot.
    But the point is, I’ve already said (agreed, conceded, affirmed, etc.) that there can be value in vaccines. What I said was that I don’t believe (and many, many others don’t either) that the risks are always properly evaluated.
    The study you linked to lists “serious adverse effects” that occurred within 15-30 days of injection that include “abnormal pregnancy outcomes, blood and lymphatic system disorder, hepatobiliary disorder, immune system disorder, cardiac and vascular disorder, gastrointestinal disorder, musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorder, nervous system disorder, psychiatric disorder, renal and urinary disorder, reproductive system and breast disorder, respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorder, skin and subcutaneous tissue disorder, neoplasm, infection and infestation, injury, poisoning and procedural complications.” It then goes on to say that the results suggest “a statistically insignificant difference in the risk of serious AEs between vaccine and control groups.” Now,think about this for a moment. You have a control group of supposedly average, more-or-less healthy women. Within 15-30 days of nothing happening to them, they begin to show symptoms of cardiac and vascular disorder, skin and subcutaneous tissue disorder, poisoning, etc., etc., etc. And you call me a liar? Something is seriously, seriously wrong with these studies.
    And, of course, you’re still mad about my original link. Okay, maybe I’m just a little bit sorry about that. Maybe a cheap trick. But, it did indeed catch you (and not Richelle. I don’t know Richelle, but I’m hoping she is as smart as I have imagined her to be). What I was trying to point out with that post is, even though it was from a rather interesting site, it linked to stories that appeared on other, apparently entirely reputable, sites. But you saw coconut oil and were ready to dismiss the whole thing.
    I strongly, strongly doubt either of us are going to say anything that will persuade the other. But I’m looking forward to your next post.
    (I’m also fond of archaeology. Does that count?)

  41. chrislawson says

    No more from me, Dana. When you write the crap you just wrote, including “you saw coconut oil and were ready to dismiss the whole thing” (you know, no mention of the dozens of other anti-scientific screeds I pointed to on that site), then you are not only a liar, but a liar who enjoys the attention it creates. The situation reminds me of the story about wrestling suidae in slop.

  42. Dana Gower says

    I had to look up suidae. Good word.
    I’m sorry your gone, but not surprised. I’m more surprised nobody jumped in to call me a troll, although I assure you I’m not trolling.
    I read this site regularly. There are smart people here. Many seem to be involved in the sciences. That is why I finally decided I’d give it a try and say, hey you guys, doesn’t any of this concern you even a little bit? At least you hung in there for awhile, while everyone else just sat back with their popcorn and watched.
    I actually spent time thinking about the study you linked to last night, and it worries more now than when I first read it. You have a meta-study that looks at a bunch of smaller studies, and what it finds is, in the control group, women are being assaulted by everything from cardiovascular events to poisoning. Now, I realize this is everything that happened to every woman from a fairly large pool during the study period. But you are also talking about a window of 15-30 days (which, I assume, varies because they are combining separate studies). Think of all the women you know as friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. What this study seems to say is: You take all these women together; you randomly select a period of two weeks to a month; you do absolutely nothing to them (the control group); and then you watch them drop like flies. If this is true, we have a medical problem in this country much more serious than just concerns about vaccines.
    I would guess there are a substantial number of women who read this site regularly. Surely, there should be some on here that are concerned about these results.
    (I admit, I hated dissecting things in lab class, but I had a really cute lab partner.)

  43. Dana Gower says

    Chris Lawson thinks I’m an anti-science crackpot, but I’m trying my best not to be.
    I was staying with HPV vaccines because that was sort of what this was all about. There’s an article (Not a crackpot — honest!) about autism (I know, this is where everyone ducks and says, oh no, not again…) that I think is really reasonable. I was just curious on your take.


  44. Dana Gower says

    See, not at all flippant.


    DR. DAVID AMARAL: So I think it’s pretty clear that, in general, vaccines are not the culprit. If you look at children that receive the standard childhood vaccines. If anything those children are at are at slightly less risk of having autism than children that aren’t immunized. It’s not to say, however, that there is a small subset of children who may be particularly vulnerable to vaccines if the child was ill, if the child had a precondition, like a mitochondrial defect. Vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it’s — it is incredibly important still to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities in a small subset of children might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations.

    DR. MARTHA HERBERT: I think it’s possible that you could have a genetic subgroup. You also might have an immune subgroup. There are a variety of subgroups. But the problem with the population studies is they don’t they aren’t necessarily designed to have the statistical power to find subgroups like that if the subgroups are small.

    DR. DAVID AMARAL: I think more importantly what the whole vaccine issue has done is has opened our eyes again to the idea that the immune system is an important component of autism.

    DR. MARTHA HERBERT: The brain and the immune system and the gut are intimately related. The cells in those systems have common features. They work together seamlessly, and when you disregulate one, you disregulate all the others. And systems biology is a way of looking at how we work as an integrated whole. I think that’s 21st century biology. Is the brain miswired, or is it misregulated? And I’ve come to think the brain is misregulated. And there are several reasons for that. Short-term, dramatic changes in the functional level of people with autism. One of them is the improvements you see with fever. A child who gets a fever will start to make eye contact, be interactive, will relate. A child who would have been really out of touch will become connected, and then it will go away.

    DR. DAVID AMARAL: You know, vaccines are only one of the things that we do to ourselves. But there are myriad other kinds of– toxic chemicals that we’re putting into the environment.
    I don’t think there’s enough research on environmental factors. Frankly, I think it’s very expensive. It’s difficult research to do. Because again, you start trying to develop a list of how many new things there are in the environment now, from 30 years ago. And it’ll be a very long list.

    DR. MARTHA HERBERT: When we were having this explosion of our chemical revolution, we didn’t have any way of knowing the subtle impacts on cellular function. We thought if it doesn’t kill you, it’s probably okay. But now we’re learning that it can alter your regulation way before it kills you.

    So why is it people in general are willing to accept that, just maybe, environmental factors might have an affect on autism, but never vaccines, which inject “environmental factors” into the body? Think carefully.
    Autism is a “hot button” issue, which is why I didn’t initially choose to inject it into the discussion of HPV vaccines. It was only after being called an anti-science crackpot that I figured, why not.
    But my initial point remains: There are people who are willing to talk rationally about vaccines. And then there are people who like to cuss and call names.
    I’d still like to hear from Richelle. She might strongly disagree with me, but she’s polite.

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