A new medical review published by Mayo Clinic makes the strongest case yet for cirumcision. Is it time to take the decision out of parents’ hands and make the procedure mandatory?
The choice of whether to circumcise one’s son—a decision both aided and hindered by a deluge of readily available information on the Internet—is an increasingly fraught one for parents. A quick Google search for “Should I circumcise my baby?” retrieves millions of articles, blogs, and academic papers all weighing in on the risks and rewards associated with the surgical removal of a newborn’s foreskin. Now, a new review published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings claims the health benefits of circumcision exceed any risks by at least 100 to 1.
The review’s outspoken lead author, Brian J. Morris, a circumcision advocate and Professor Emeritus at The University of Sydney, Australia, hopes this new data will silence the debate once and for all. It’s Morris’ provocative position that infant circumcision contributes to overall public health in the same way that vaccines do, and should be equivalent to childhood vaccinations. And as such, he says, it’s unethical for doctors not to routinely offer it to parents.
“Each have a major population level benefit, but carry a risk that affects a very small proportion of individuals who receive the intervention. There are also extremely rarely deaths from each,” he told The Daily Beast via email. Moreover, “a vaccine is highly specific, whereas the protective effects of circumcision cover a wide array of medical conditions.”
The health benefits of circumcision are numerous. According to a mountain of research, documented in Morris’ review and noted by the APA in its recently updated policy statement, the benefits of circumcision include “prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.” These statistics can be misleading, however. For instance, the actual or absolute risk of penile cancer is so small (about 1 in 100,000) that an increased risk is still hardly any risk at all.
Many doctors, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that while health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, the decision is ultimately the parents’ to make. In 2012, the AAP changed its policy statement, discarding its neutral stance to weigh in heavily on the side of circumcision.
Still, some parents and healthcare providers argue that newborn circumcision is not only painful, but also unnecessary, and medical ethicists in the U.S. and abroad continue to debate its moral permissibility. Thirty-eight European physicians formally replied to the “cultural bias” in AAP’s policy change in the journal Pediatrics, noting its “conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world.”
The loudest among the opposition are people who’ve branded themselves “intactivists.” These groups say circumcision is “genital mutilation” and argue it needlessly violates a child’s autonomy and, according to one website, can cause “serious health risks, including infection, hemorrhage, surgical mishap, and death.” (Problems like these, it should be noted, are extremely rare. For infants, complication rates are approximately 0.2% and even those are usually minor and easily managed symptoms like bleeding or infection.)
Morris said that the “intact movement” also has something to do with declining rates, and likens the debate over circumcision to the one raging over vaccines. “The anti-circers and the anti-vaxers are very similar, and often the same people,” he said.
Using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey (which doesn’t include out-of-hospital circumcisions, e.g. brit milah in the Jewish faith) with parsed data from adult circumcisions from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Morris and his colleagues find that infant circumcisions have declined from 83 percent in the 1960s to 77 percent by 2010. The findings contradict a 2013 report from The Centers for Disease Control showing a slight increase in circumcisions over the last decade. In fact, Morris finds rates had decreased six percentage points during that time.
Both Morris and the CDC cite changing demographics and cost cutting as the reasons behind declining circumcision rates. Since Hispanic children are less likely to be circumcised, the climbing birth rate within the Hispanic population is largely responsible for the West’s significantly lower circumcision rates. Additionally, circumcision rates are 24 percent lower in the 18 states where Medicaid doesn’t pay for elective circumcisions.
Morris’s analysis further notes that half of uncircumcised boys and men will require treatment for a medical condition associated with his retained foreskin. Still, while noting the positive health effects of circumcision, could the comparison of the uncircumcised to the unvaccinated be alarmist, and a stretch? Morris doesn’t think so.
“Just as vaccination, failure to circumcise will put your son at serious risk of adverse medical conditions and he could indeed die from some of them,” he said. “What’s more he will harm others, from sexually transmitted infections which include oncogenic HPV types that cause cervical cancer, a potentially lethal cancer.”
Morris’ impassioned stance, while perhaps medically sound, may alienate the very parents he hopes to persuade. Despite headlines to the contrary, and geographical pockets of dissent, national vaccine coverage meets target levels at or above 91 percent. In other words, vaccines are widely accepted. It’s not so for circumcisions. And, as Morris concedes, the hands of millions of moms and dads who choose to forgo the scalpel can’t be forced.
“Whereas parents can be coerced into vaccination by denying access to childcare for their son, there are fewer inducements to do the right thing and have him circumcised,” he said.
Still, he acknowledges parental choice, and hopes that this risk benefit analysis along with the AAP’s affirmative policy statement will have a positive effect on future rates.
“Denial of infant male circumcision is denial of his rights to good health, something that all responsible parents should consider carefully,” he said.
Wellness experts love to warn against all of the sugar and syrups and calorie-packed creamers added to coffee. So you may be surprised by one ingredient some are now getting behind: butter.
The concept was popularized by Bulletproof Executive founder Dave Asprey, and it took off among Paleo eaters. Integrative physicians like Jeffrey Gladd, MD, now tout its benefits, and healthy celebs like New York chef Seamus Mullen swear by it.
“It’s rich and creamy and tastes delicious and gives you tremendous energy for quite a long time. I’ll go pretty much all day on it,” Mullen says.
It’s not just about the butter. Asprey was initially inspired by yak butter tea, a traditional Tibetan drink, and he set out to create an optimized version. His recipe includes his own “upgraded” coffee beans harvested to reduce the occurrence of mycotoxins (that’s another very long story), unsalted grass-fed butter like Kerrygold (or ghee), and MCT oil, which is extracted from coconut oil to isolate the fatty acids, called medium chain triglycerides. You blend it all together (hello, Nutribullet) into a frothy, latte-like consistency.
Tons of Bulletproof-style variations now exist. Many people use their own coffee or coconut oil instead of MCT, since it’s easier to find and much cheaper. Gwyneth Paltrow chef Ariane Resnick doesn’t drink coffee, so she adds the oil and butter to her morning smoothie.
Those who drink it in lieu of a traditional breakfast (yes, it counts as a meal) tend to report serious improvements in energy, focus, and satiety. “When I’ve made it [the drink] with the MCT oil, it was like a kick in the pants in terms of energy,” says the health coach-founder of Stupid Easy Paleo, Stephanie Gaudreau, who usually makes hers with coconut oil. “It’s like rocket fuel!” Dr. Gladd has said it gets him through to lunch without hunger pangs and keeps him focused and sharp at work.
- People who do a moderate amount of exercise live the longest
- Those who do none at all, or too much, have shorter lifespans
- Experts recommend running for two to three hours per week
Most people feel very virtuous, even slightly smug, after going for a jog.
But new research suggests too much jogging could actually lead to early death.
U.S researchers found that the people who live for the longest are those who do a moderate amount of exercise.
This amounts to two to three hours of running a week, Health Day reports.
However, the research showed that people who do a lot of running, and those who do none, both have shorter lifespans.
The researchers are unsure why this is but say it does not seem to be related to heart health.
The researchers, from the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Lehigh Valley Health Network, in Pennsylvania, studied more than 3,800 runners.
The participants were both men and women and had an average age of 46.
Nearly 70 per cent of the participants said they ran more than 20 miles a week.
The researchers took into account what medication the people were taking and also whether they had high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of smoking.
They found that none of these factors could be used to explain why the people who ran the furthest had shorter lifespans.
However, he does advise that people who do a lot of running should keep abreast of research into links between lifespan and excessive running.
People who take no exercise, and those who do too much, have shorter lifespans but experts don’t know why
‘What we still don’t understand is defining the optimal dose of running for health and longevity,’ he told Health Day.
Dr James O’Keefe, who reviewed the research, believes the findings could be caused by ‘wear and tear’ on the bodies of people who do a lot of running.
He advises people to aim for about two and a half hours of slow to moderate paced running a week.
He added: ‘If you want to run a marathon, run one and cross it off your bucket list.’
Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team led by the University of California, Davis, has now examined this riddle systematically. Their answer is published April 1 in the online journalNature Communications.
The scientists found that biting flies, including horseflies and tsetse flies, are the evolutionary driver for zebra’s stripes. Experimental work had previously shown that such flies tend to avoid black-and-white striped surfaces, but many other hypotheses for zebra stripes have been proposed since Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin debated the problem 120 years ago.
- A form of camouflage
- Disrupting predatory attack by visually confusing carnivores
- A mechanism of heat management
- Having a social function
- Avoiding ectoparasite attack, such as from biting flies
The team mapped the geographic distributions of the seven different species of zebras, horses and asses, and of their subspecies, noting the thickness, locations, and intensity of their stripes on several parts of their bodies. Their next step was to compare these animals’ geographic ranges with different variables, including woodland areas, ranges of large predators, temperature, and the geographic distribution of glossinid (tsetse flies) and tabanid (horseflies) biting flies. They then examined where the striped animals and these variables overlapped.
After analyzing the five hypotheses, the scientists ruled out all but one: avoiding blood-sucking flies.
“I was amazed by our results,” said lead author Tim Caro, a UC Davis professor of wildlife biology. “Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies.”
While the distribution of tsetse flies in Africa is well known, the researchers did not have maps of tabanids (horseflies, deer flies). Instead, they mapped locations of the best breeding conditions for tabanids, creating an environmental proxy for their distributions. They found that striping is highly associated with several consecutive months of ideal conditions for tabanid reproduction.
Why would zebras evolve to have stripes whereas other hooved mammals did not? The study found that, unlike other African hooved mammals living in the same areas as zebras, zebra hair is shorter than the mouthpart length of biting flies, so zebras may be particularly susceptible to annoyance by biting flies.
“No one knew why zebras have such striking coloration,” Caro said. “But solving evolutionary conundrums increases our knowledge of the natural world and may spark greater commitment to conserving it.”
Yet in science, one solved riddle begets another: Why do biting flies avoid striped surfaces? Caro said that now that his study has provided ecological validity to the biting fly hypothesis, the evolutionary debate can move from why zebras have stripes to what prevents biting flies from seeing striped surfaces as potential prey, and why zebras are so susceptible to biting fly annoyance.
- Tim Caro, Amanda Izzo, Robert C. Reiner, Hannah Walker, Theodore Stankowich.The function of zebra stripes. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI:10.1038/ncomms4535
The fine print at the bottom of prescription drug commercials may provide ample comedic firepower — what are they hiding? — but underneath the humor lies a chilling reality: In their noble pursuit of making you healthy, prescription drugs put you at risk for a number of terrifying side effects, chief among them being antidepressants’ risk for suicide.
Where would we be without medication? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly half of the U.S. population has used at least one prescription drug within the last month, with drugs ordered or provided during physician office visits totaling 2.6 billion in 2010. Antidepressants alone, which have been derided as overprescribed, are used by more than 10 percent of the population 12 years and older. Among women in their forties and fifties, the rate jumps to 25 percent.
What Antidepressants Do
With all this in mind, it’s helpful to understand why we even take antidepressants in the first place. Most antidepressants, the big names like Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa, are classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs work via the hormone serotonin, often referred to as the “happiness hormone,” to increase the levels in your brain by stopping (inhibiting) the absorption (reuptake) through the brain’s various receptors.
SSRIs don’t cure depression. They can only treat the symptoms, which, in this case, are hormonal imbalances. They’re also imperfect. Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, an expert on the flaws of drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, points out in her book Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? that “animal studies demonstrate that in the initial administration Prozac actually causes the brain to shut down its own production of serotonin, thereby causing a paradoxical effect or opposite effect on the level of serotonin.” The brain’s chemistry naturally wants to remain balanced, she adds, and any disruption from SSRIs or other medications throws that balance off.
What results from this volatility is something like a rollercoaster effect. A person’s mood goes from consistently depressed to temporarily content to all over the place very quickly. It’s for this reason the Food and Drug Administration requires “Black box warnings” on all SSRIs, stating explicitly that they double suicide rates from two per 1,000 to four per 1,000 in children and adolescents.
Another theory claims that antidepressants aren’t directly increasing a person’s risk at all. SSRIs endow depressed people with a newfound alertness and proactivity. If someone was suicidal before taking an antidepressant, but unmotivated to act on their urge, the antidepressant only facilitated their latent desires; it didn’t create them. In both cases, a 2004 study argues that it’s within the first nine days of taking antidepressants a person is most at-risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
In pharmacology, this overall effect is known as a “paradoxical reaction.” A specific medication was intended to treat one symptom, but ended up producing it in greater magnitude. Benzodiazepines, common psychoactive drugs used to relax muscles and quiet convulsions, are prone to producing the exact opposite effects. Antibiotics as well, which have been in greater circulation in recent years, have been known to produce the “Eagle effect” — a phenomenon named after Harry Eagle, the physician who first noticed that when bacteria are exposed to antibiotics for a long enough time, their population rates not only stabilize; they increase.
Paradoxical reactions have been observed in depression sufferers and also obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers. A 1990 study showed 10- to 17-year-olds were compelled to self-harm following administration of fluoxetine (Prozac), leading to the hospitalization of four out of the 42.
And while certifiable advances have been made in the 24 years following the study, SSRIs continue to carry the warning. They have to: As long as the medication that’s designed to realign the juices in our brain that make us happy or depressed can turn against us, the threat of ending it all will always be lurking in the fine print.
The latest results from a 25-year study of diet and aging in monkeys shows a significant reduction in mortality and in age-associated diseases among those with calorie-restricted diets. The study, begun at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, is one of two ongoing, long-term U.S. efforts to examine the effects of a reduced-calorie diet on nonhuman primates.
“We think our study is important because it means the biology we have seen in lower organisms is germane to primates,” says Richard Weindruch, a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Public Health, and one of the founders of the UW study. “We continue to believe that mechanisms that combat aging in caloric restriction will offer a lead into drugs or other treatments to slow the onset of disease and death.”
Restricting the intake of calories while continuing to supply essential nutrients extends the lifespan of flies, yeast and rodents by as much as 40 percent. Scientists have long wanted to understand the mechanisms for caloric restriction. “We study caloric restriction because it has such a robust effect on aging and the incidence and timing of age related disease,” says corresponding author Rozalyn Anderson, an assistant professor of geriatrics. “Already, people are studying drugs that affect the mechanisms that are active in caloric restriction. There is enormous private-sector interest in some of these drugs.”
Still, the effects of caloric restriction on primates have been debated. An influential 2012 report on 120 monkeys being studied at the National Institute of Aging (NIA) reported no differences in survival for caloric restriction animals and a trend toward improved health that did not reach statistical significance.
The discrepancy may be a result of how the feeding was implemented in control animals in the NIA study, say the Wisconsin researchers. Ricki Colman, a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Primate Center, who presently co-leads the project, suggests that NIA’s control monkeys were actually calorie-restricted. “In Wisconsin, we started with adults. We knew how much food they wanted to eat, and we based our experimental diet on a 30 percent reduction in calories from that point.” In contrast, the NIA monkeys were fed according to a standardized food intake chart designed by the National Academy of Science.
Through their own experience in monkey research, and by reference to an online database recording the weight of thousands of research monkeys, the Wisconsin researchers concluded that the NIA controls were actually on caloric restriction as well, says Colman. “At all the time points that have been published by NIA, their control monkeys weigh less than ours, and in most cases, significantly so.”
Weindruch also points to some results from the NIA that seem to contradict the “no significant result” analysis. Twenty monkeys entered the NIA study as mature adults, 10 in the test group and 10 in the control group, and five of these (four test monkeys and one control monkey) lived at least 40 years. “Heretofore, there was never a monkey that we are aware of that was reported to live beyond 40 years,” Weindruch says. “Hence, the conclusion that caloric restriction is ineffective in their study does not make sense to me and my colleagues.”
Furthermore, he says, it could be that the small caloric restriction in the NIA control animals had its own benefits, suggesting that a reduction of as little as 10 percent could meaningfully retard aging.
Each of these studies cost millions of dollars and took decades to perform, and they are unlikely to be repeated, says Anderson — so all involved are trying to extract the maximum science from them. “We are now working with the NIA scientists to perform a comprehensive analysis of all of our data, taking into consideration the differences in study design, genetics, time of origin and composition of the diet. It’s possible that insights we could not get from the individual studies will emerge from this aggregate data.”
Caloric restriction became something of a fad two decades ago, when a few individuals set out to cut their calories by 30 percent to slow the diseases of aging, but the Wisconsin and NIA studies have a much broader focus. “We are not studying it so people can go out and do it, but to delve into the underlying causes of age-related disease susceptibility,” says Anderson. “It’s a research tool, not a lifestyle recommendation, but some people get caught up: ‘What if I did caloric restriction?'”
Many of the benefits of caloric restriction are linked to regulation of energy, Anderson says. “It affects how fuel is utilized. Caloric restriction essentially causes a reprogramming of the metabolism. In all species where it has been shown to delay aging and the diseases of aging, it affects the regulation of energy and the ability of cells and the organism to respond to changes in the environment as they age.”
Chief among the metabolic deficits is diabetes, which can be seen as “an inability to properly respond to nutrients,” Anderson says. Diabetes damages fat, muscles, blood vessels and even brain functioning, and the growing epidemic of diabetes is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States.
The Wisconsin scientists began to see diabetes among the control animals while they were still in the prime of life, within six months after beginning their study. The contrast with the restricted animals could not have been more dramatic, Colman says. “Until two years ago, we did not have evidence of diabetes in any caloric-restriction animal, but we had a significant numbers of diabetes, or pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, in the control animals.”
Very few people can tolerate a 30 percent reduction in calories, yet Weindruch insists the Wisconsin study carries an optimistic message. “The basic biology of caloric restriction in rodents, worms, flies and yeast seems to carry over to primates, so we have a real opportunity to dissect that mechanism, look at how we can work with that basic biology, and benefit all those human primates who are so closely related to our rhesus monkeys.”
A shocking exposé on corruption within World Health Organization ranks, relating to scientific causality of harm from electromagnetic radiation (EMR)
Monday, February 3, 2014 was a very strange day in London. Only the weather was predictable. A cold rain fell as a dais of scientists faced a room full of reporters in the Royal Society Library’s Special Events Room on Carlton House Terrace. With its pillared roots going back to the 1600s, the Royal Society Library had welcomed scientists from all over the world for centuries.
On this day, two scientists distinguished themselves as authors of the thick, glossy tome that was almost the biggest presence in the press briefing. Co-authors Prof. Bernard Stewart, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales and Christopher Wild, PhD, Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) esteemedInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) prepared to tell the world we are on the verge of a cancer tsunami. World Cancer Report 2014was nearly six years in the making. IARC is the cancer agency of the WHO, and a core part of their mission is to disseminate information on cancer. They gather information, frequently classify the risk level of various substances, and share that news with the world. This day the news was daunting.
Cancer rates are growing at such a rapid pace that we cannot treat our way out of this global health crisis. We must focus on prevention on a massive scale, Drs. Wild and Stewart announced to the gathering of just over 25 reporters. The human and economic catastrophe awaiting the world, with healthcare costs spiraling out of control, was described in great detail in the massive report these two men had just completed. The 650-page book, the first World Cancer Report since 2008, painted a dim picture for the world.
Reporters gathered at the press briefing heard the numbers and the implications were clear. 14,000,000 new cancer cases are being diagnosed worldwide each year, with that numberexpected to almost double over the next two decades to 22,000,000 new cases per year. Even the richest countries will struggle to cope with the spiraling costs of treating and caring for cancer patients. Of course the greatest burden will be borne by the lower income countries where numbers of new cases are expected to be the highest, and they are poorly equipped for the epidemic that is descending upon them. Over 60% of the global burden threatens Africa, Asia and Central and South America, where 70% of cancer deaths occur.
These were big numbers being delivered by the biggest name at IARC, Dr. Christopher Wild, the cancer agency’s director. A press release was issued worldwide, as well as to the roomful of reporters. “Despite exciting advances, the report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” Dr. Wild announced. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.” Big numbers, big news, delivered by a very big name.
Yet the largest presence in the room that rainy day in early February was unannounced and unexpected. It was not a physician, nor a reporter, nor even a human being. Looming over the presumptively-esteemed scientists delivering the presumptively-comprehensive 650-page cancer report was an immense mammal whose thick skin hung in ripples of wrinkles descending to hoofed feet. There were four of them, instead of the two that steadied both Drs. Stewart and Wild.
Imagining the machinations that surely went on behind the scenes as decisions were made regarding what should be included in a major report focusing on the prevention of cancer amidst burgeoning numbers, one might have wondered if two feet were enough for Drs. Stewart and Wild. After all, it appears they had one foot each in profound truth, and one foot in denial. That is an unsteady posture indeed. A cynic might even say the esteemed scientists had one foot in truth and one foot in active concealment, a legal term describing when a party, in this case representatives of IARC and WHO, conceals information which they have a duty to disclose. Though the duty in this case may not have been legal, a case could surely be made for a moral obligation that was left unfulfilled. What did Dr. Christopher Wild of IARC and Dr. Bernard Stewart, a professor at University of New South Wales, fail to disclose?
While the elephant awaits introduction, standing tall and steady squarely in the middle of a room that could barely contain the uninvited guest, let us examine the very fine work Drs. Wild and Stewart did reference.
First, let’s start with the premise of the World Cancer Report 2014. Prevention is the only way out of this mess, and these two men know it. So what news could they and their team of experts share that we don’t already know about with respect to prevention of cancer? Drs. Wild and Stewart spoke to a hushed crowd. The reporters for The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC and all other major media outlets were busy scribbling down the wisdom the co-authors were imparting, namely, that alcohol, obesity, physical inactivity, and tobacco were all preventable causes of cancers.
One man was hushed, initially, for a reason other than jotting notes to be sent back to a news desk. That man was not a reporter, but rather a representative of a charity in the UK that had prevention as its primary goal. He had hurried to the London press conference at the request of his friendEileen O’Connor, Director of the UK’s Radiation Research Trust (RRT), a non-profit she and several others founded after Eileen found herself caught up in a cancer cluster in her tiny town of Wishaw in The Midlands section of England. A cellular telecommunications mast had loomed over the tiny hamlet for seven years before Eileen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and once in the hospital, she started bumping into neighbors who were also there for chemotherapy. A campaign that led to the halls of Parliament was started, and along the way the Radiation Research Trust was formed.
Unable to make the press conference herself, Eileen turned to RRT’s trusted advisor who shared her deep concern about the growing radiation throughout the United Kingdom and all of Europe. The two had shared many long talks and Eileen had recently passed on the latest, brilliant epidemiological studies by Sweden’s Dr. Lennart Hardell showing increases in cancer in keeping with the rising number of cell phone users. The Advisor had arrived at the press conference sure that he would hear profound concern about the increasing “electrosmog” – as the rising tide of microwave radiation from cell phones, masts, towers, Wi-Fi, and smart meters is often referred to. Certainly the World Cancer Report 2014 listed this form of non-ionizing radiation as an area where greater exposure prevention would be urged.
The man had eagerly listened to the entire briefing by the esteemed co-authors. He had expected crystal clear insight from the two men who were entrusted with guiding the world on cancer prevention strategies in the face of an onslaught of rising numbers of new cancers. The risk factors contributing to the cancer crisis had been enunciated, one after another: tobacco, alcohol, obesity, physical inactivity . . . As reporters scribbled notes, the man suddenly felt alone in a room full of people. He had listened in vain for the words he had fully anticipated: RF radiation. Microwave radiation. Wireless gadgets from crib to grave. Nothing about it at all. Absolutely nothing.
His disappointment was palpable. The world knows tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and physical inactivity are contributors to disease, yet the only risk mentioned by Drs. Wild and Stewart that had been deeply associated with cancer in the public’s consciousness was smoking. And that news of tobacco’s carcinogenic effects was 70 years old, with warning labels first showing up on tobacco products in the US the same year The Beatles released their psychedelic rock album Revolver, and bell-bottoms were in vogue — for the first time. Some five decades later public policy throughout much of the U.S. and part of Europe had banned smoking in public places. Was smoking – along with alcohol, physical inactivity, and obesity, the latter two not even on the radar as suspected carcinogenic conditions, truly accounting for 14,000,000 new cases of cancer a year with that number predicted to grow to 22,000,000 new cases per annum over the next two decades?
The RRT Advisor quelled his disappointment and listened even more closely, a sliver of hope remaining that Drs. Wild and Stewart were saving the worst for last. After all, what other technology had taken over the planet with such explosive force, with seven billion cell phones in use on a planet with more cell phones than people, $2 trillion in annual revenues, and accounting for 5.8 percent of the global GDP. [Razorsight 2012] What else could be contributing so heavily to 14,000,000 new cancers around the globe annually?
When it came to the subject of radiation, there was mention of the sun, but this was nothing new, either. Still there were no precautionary warnings regarding RF (microwave) radiation that powers mobile phones, Wi-Fi, smart meters, laptops and mobile mast or cell towers. Not a single mention. How could that be?
This was when the Advisor’s incredulity allowed him to see what apparently all the reporters missed. And what they missed was apparent not only by their lack of intellectual curiosity in pinning down Drs. Wild and Stewart, but also in their superficial reporting which was to come out in the days and weeks following the press conference. It was during the lack-luster question and answer phase that Eileen O’Connor’s trusted and highly disappointed Advisor truly noticed the presence no one else in the room appeared to be aware of. It was the giant Pachyderm – the proverbial Elephant in the Room, and the Advisor, well-bred man that he is, could hold his tongue no longer.
The Advisor announced to the panel of scientists that he was there on behalf of the UK’s Radiation Research Trust. He squarely addressed the presence of the enormous and rare species standing silently, and to all others invisibly, next to him. “We seem to have an Elephant in the Room,” the Advisor offered.
He then stated the known: IARC, the International Agency on Research for Cancer – the very sub-group of the World Health Organization that sponsored the report, had classified RF (microwave) radiation and everything on the RF – EMF Spectrum a 2B or “possible human” carcinogen in May of 2011. He further stated that a major minority of the May 2011 IARC Working Group, based on the scientific evidence, did not want a 2B “possible human” carcinogen status for RF radiation, but rather the more serious classification of 2A, meaning a “probable human” carcinogen.
The Advisor then proceeded to state the unknown: “What was the future trajectory of this RF-EMF Spectrum classification given new science that had come along since May of 2011?” the gentleman queried. “Since Dr. Lennart Hardell, the scientist whose science was considered as part of the 2B classification, had come out in 2013 and said the classification should now be Group 1, meaning RF radiation is a known human carcinogen, might IARC upgrade the RF Spectrum to 2A, or even Group 1 – a known carcinogen?” Catching a quick breath, he continued, “In short, RF radiation causes cancer, the concern among independent scientists appears to be growing, and what does the panel see as a potential for upgrading the warning about RF radiation’s status as a carcinogen?”
Dr. Christopher Wild responded to the gentleman mounting the challenge, saying he was a part of that Working Group in May 2011 and up to this point in time there was “no new evidence which suggests there is any cause for concern.”
Prof. Bernard Stewart attempted to further defuse the Advisor’s identification of the Elephant in the Room by saying there was a “mention” of RF radiation in the report and “we are aware.” The Advisor later found “the mention” around page 140 – in a report of 650 pages.
The RRT Advisor stood his ground. He told the scientists he had been investigating the dangers around microwave radiation through Wi-Fi and mobile phones for a number of years and he has found there is clear evidence of serious health risks. Then as if raising the elephant’s trunk himself and trumpeting the truly unspoken, the Advisor reminded the panel they were in a great position to prevent many cancers, and that many people are falling ill.
An uncomfortable shift could be felt in the room. The Advisor asked one final question: “Would Drs. Wild and Stewart have a problem with people of all ages being exposed to RF radiation 24/7?” Dr. Stewart voiced his opinion in a professorial fashion, “I would have no problem at all.”
Neither the scientists nor the reporters spoke. A line in the sand had been drawn by Drs. Wild and Stewart and their massive report. The RF Spectrum is not a sufficient risk at this time to deserve a place alongside inactivity, obesity, the sun, alcohol and smoking – at least according to Drs. Wild and Stewart. It was as if the “The Great Oz” had spoken and a curtain was about to be drawn.
But wait . . . We are rapidly approaching the third anniversary of one of IARC’s most historic votes. This was the 2B “human carcinogen” classification for everything on the RF – EMF Spectrum. And it was not a close vote. It was unanimous, but for one dissenter whose identity has been kept secret by the 30 IARC scientists. What is not secret is the fact that the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Peter Inskip left the meeting early and did not return in time for the vote.
For all intents and purposes, IARC came out with a unanimous vote on a hotly debated subject. Does RF (microwave) radiation cause cancer? This esteemed committee is saying it may cause cancer in humans. Nearly-unanimous speaks volumes. Who led this erudite group? Who was head of the committee when this vote heard around the world was taken? It was none other than Dr. Christopher Wild, the man seated at the dais, the co-author of the World Cancer Report 2014 – a report which failed to list RF radiation as a preventable carcinogen.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego, have published astudy that gives definitive proof that autism begins during pregnancy, while the brain is still forming, and not as the result of social or environmental factors post-childbirth.
Researchers from the University’s School of Medicine and the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science argue their findings erase all doubt that autism is somehow influenced by factors after a mother gives birth. While influencing factors may contribute to the disorder’s development in utero — such was the case of a 2013 Harvard School of Public Health study that foundair pollution may raise a child’s risk — the UCSD team state the evidence is crystal clear.
“Building a baby’s brain during pregnancy involves creating a cortex that contains six layers,” said Eric Courchesne, neurosciences professor and director of the Autism Center of Excellence at UCSD, in a statement. “We discovered focal patches of disrupted development of these cortical layers in the majority of children with autism.”
Courchesne and his colleagues analyzed 25 genes from 22 children, post-mortem. Knowing that certain genes develop at different points in time, reflected in their place within the six cortical layers, similar to the rings on a tree, the team searched for specific genes that act as markers. These included genes marking certain cell types in each cortex layer, genes implicated with autism, and control genes.
When the researchers looked for each gene marker, what they found was a startling difference in the half of children who had autism and the half that didn’t. “The most surprising finding was the similar early developmental pathology across nearly all of the autistic brains,” explained Dr. Ed Lein, co-researcher from the Allen Institute. This was especially true given the diverse mix of symptoms in the 11 autistic children “as well as the extremely complex genetics behind the disorder,” he added.
But these trends aren’t reflected in other parts of the world. Asia, Europe, and other parts of North America display far lower prevalence rates, sometimes as low as one percent, which presents U.S. researchers with a curious challenge. There are no blood tests to diagnose autism, and behavioral observation is by nature imperfect. Some say we over-diagnose, especially on the higher-functioning end. Some say America’s obsession with vaccinations is to blame. So the question remains: How do stop something if we don’t fully know what it is?
The present research may not offer any insights into that question, but it can help explain its opposite, specifically, what autism isn’t. Given the development of gene markers in still-developing cortical layers, autism is not a product of a child’s exposure to the environment after birth.
This doesn’t rule out maternal exposure during gestation or earlier, but it does go a long way toward quieting many of today’s critics. The team found many of the defected patches were in regions commonly associated with autism, such as the frontal and temporal cortex, which underlie a person’s speech and language abilities.
“The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism,” Courchesne said. If children with focal patch defects can work around their impairments and form new wiring systems while the brain is still malleable enough, doctors may be able to override the default settings made during pregnancy and, ultimately, restore the child’s brain to normal levels of functioning.
Source: Stoner R, Chow M, Boyle M, et al. Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Children with Autism. NEJM. 2014.
When Jenny arrived at her assigned birthing room, she wasn’t prepared for the clock. It was a large, digital timer, which hung over her bed and was started when the nurse walked in.
As the clock began running, she was told she had 10 hours to get to 10 centimeters. Then, for pushing her baby out in the second stage of labor, the clock would be restarted at zero and she would have “two hours till c-section.” They never asked Jenny how long she labored at home before coming to the hospital. No matter, apparently.
Sadly, Jenny is not alone. As a childbirth educator in the greater New York/Connecticut area, I hear stories like this on a regular basis.
“Because-We-Said-So” Childbirth Protocols
Just for a moment, let’s give this protocol the benefit of the doubt. It seems there is a concern about the risk of prolonged labor. “Prolonged labor” is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as labor lasting “longer than 24 hours.” Thus, this tidy, round number of 10 is recklessly arbitrary and unsubstantiated.
When obstetricians implement policies and protocols—such as keeping women on their backs or depriving them of food and water during labor (both of which have been shown to increase risk and slow labor)—one of the first questions to ask is this:
Does this serve the birthing mother and her baby?
A Call for Common Sense
It would be difficult, if not impossible, for any woman to relax under such duress, because high levels of adrenaline in the system are a counterforce to childbirth. Jenny’s instinct was right on: She instructed her husband to cover the clock with a sheet. But each time the nurse reentered the room, the sheet was yanked down.
Prolonged labor is often called “failure to progress,” and does not imply obstructed labor. Prolonged means just that: a longer, slower labor. For what it’s worth, the average labor for a first-time mom is 12 to 18 hours, according to WebMD, and that website’s definition just applies to active labor. (Early labor is often much longer.) The course of a woman’s birth is more art than science. For some, labor can be stop-and-go for days. Tiring? Perhaps. Dangerous, no.
Time limits during childbirth aren’t serving women. They’re just another way to set the stage for a c-section—the most common major surgery in the United States.
First Do No Harm
This isn’t just about vaginal birthing for the joy and gratification of it, although that should not be discounted. Cesareans are significantly more dangerous for mother and baby.
Last year, the WHO reported: “Maternal mortality among women who undergo cesarean section is four to ten times higher than among women who deliver vaginally.” As for the baby, in a neonatal mortality review, the WHO reported: “Cesarean section and intrapartum complications were associated with neonatal death. In an urban population with good access to professional care, we found a high neonatal mortality rate, often due to preventable conditions.”
Women shouldn’t settle for providers who impose arbitrary time restrictions on them, because such practices are sending too many women off to the operating room when they were simply experiencing normal, healthy births. The U.S. cesarean rate continues to climb annually, and is currently at its highest rate, affecting 1 in 3 women and babies.
Nature isn’t failing us one third of the time. The system is failing us.
“Bitter Pill,” an article by Stephen Brill in Time last February, revealed that pharmaceutical and hospital lobbyists succeeded years ago at getting Congress to categorize hospitals as nonprofit entities while allowing them to make profits. This has created an inherent conflict of interest in the healthcare industry.
One of the hospitals featured in his article was Stamford Hospital. He reported, “Stamford Hospital managed an operating profit of $63 million…. That’s a 12.7 percent operating profit margin, which would be the envy of shareholders of high-service businesses across other sectors of the economy.” He goes on to point out that it’s not uncommon for hospital administrators to earn seven-figure annual salaries.
So you see, what presents itself as a dot-org is actually a dot-com.
Connecting the Dots
What does this have to do with childbirth? Labor and delivery is the No. 1 revenue driver for many hospitals. But, the irony! With all the cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes in the U.S., the medical industry has achieved a most impressive feat: It has taken the healthiest among us—our young, pregnant women— and convinced them they require medical intervention at every turn. The problem is, too many low-risk women seeking normal, uncomplicated births are being pressured with protocols that unequivocally increase childbirth risk, such as Pitocin to induce or “speed up” labor, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, and deprivation of the most fundamental need for survival— food and water. What next, oxygen?
It’s too bad that natural birth generates the lowest possible maternity revenue for hospitals, whereas cesareans not only generate the highest (it is “major surgery”), but are enticingly quick procedures. How unfortunate that revenue must be a part of this conversation at all.
The Tipping Point
Right around this point in any article that supports a birthing woman’s choice and freedom, there always seems to be a disclaimer where the author feels the need to acknowledge that cesareans have saved lives. Indeed, they have been the right choice for many women and babies who were facing risks greater than the surgery itself.
But there is a tipping point, where cesareans stop saving lives and start taking lives. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, a pregnant American woman today is more than twice as likely to die from pregnancyand birth-related causes as in 1987. Time magazine’s March 12, 2010, article “Too Many Women Dying in U.S. While Having Babies” cited that a woman is five times more likely to die in childbirth in the U.S. than a woman in Greece. And the Los Angeles Times reported that California has seen a tripling in maternal mortality in recent years, with c-sections identified as a “major contributor” to the trend.
Dare we admit this: Vaginal births save lives, too.
Our national cesarean rate of 1 in 3 women is a warning to us all. It’s not that providers should stop performing c-sections—it’s that they should stop pushing interventions and protocols that are known to lead to c-sections. But this is the country we live in, and because this medical model isn’t likely to change…
We must change.
We must take greater responsibility for our health, our bodies, and our babies. We have to stop buying into the “doctor’s orders” way of thinking, and remind our doctors that we’ve hired them, so it’s their job to serve us. One human being has no moral or legal right to “require” tests, protocols, procedures or surgery on another. Constitutional informed-consent laws support this. But as a culture, we voluntarily relinquish those rights because we feel intimidated and uninformed.
Women recall and recite their birth stories thousands of times throughout their lives. It’s a life experience that changes us to the core. What an injustice to leave any woman wondering if she was possibly robbed of a healthier, better birth. Whether childbirth is natural, medicated or surgical, a woman deserves to be emotionally at peace with her birth all her life.
A Final Push
When the clock overhead was at eight hours and counting, Jenny’s doctor entered the room with a spring in her step. For one woman it was the middle of her labor; for the other, the end of her workweek.
“Look,” the obstetrician began. “It’s three o’clock on Friday and I’m leaving in two hours. I’m not on call this weekend, and I don’t know which of my colleagues you’ll end up with. So, what do you say? Do you want the A Team to deliver your baby, or the B Team?”
“Doctor,” how I wish Jenny responded, “it seems you neglected to consider whether I’d like to deliver my own baby.”