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It Just Won't End PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

I continue to be appalled at the American Cancer Society [ACS] embrace of quackery. This is a gentle, somewhat tentative embrace, but any seeming acceptance by authority lends validity to any form of nonsense, and medical science - which the ACS purports to represent - is poorly served in sites I have been looking into.

I have before me literature from the ACS which provided me with a phone number whereby I could obtain more information on subjects that interest me. I called that number and spoke with a very pleasant and cooperative woman who referred me to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network [NCCN] where I found www.NCCN.com, the "Consumer website of the NCCN," and a current article headed, "Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation."

I must explain. No, I'm not undergoing radiation treatment, but I'm tracking down specific references to the use of acupuncture and its Evil Twin, acupressure, in connection with the relief of cancer-related therapy. One very current reference popped up immediately. It reads, in part:

Acupressure wristbands might help cancer patients experience almost a 25 percent less nausea during radiation treatments, a new study says... Those with wristbands experienced a 24 percent decrease in nausea, regardless of which set of information they were given before the experiment. The group without wristbands reported just a 5 percent lessening of nausea.

This survey, using only 88 subjects, was totally unblinded. Those who wore the wristbands were obviously aware that they were being administered the quackery. The experiment did not equip the rest of the subjects with "dummy" bracelets, which such an experiment clearly called for. WHY? Because these people don't know how to do science. This survey is totally useless. The only question is, was it done that way to validate the claim?

It gets worse. Talk about medieval thinking! We're told:

The practice of acupuncture also draws upon the Five Element Theory, which holds that everything in the universe, including health, is governed by the natural elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.  In addition, each of the five elements has a corresponding flavor, sound, season, color, and weather condition associated with it.

Someone should inform the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that we've discovered some 113 more elements than those they listed; the five they know about are from medieval documents that have been rather improved upon since ancient times. As for "sound," I get a quacking noise...

And, I'll add, bleeding and cupping have also been replaced in medical practice, but these might be techniques the NCCN also endorses. One stupid belief at a time...

From the same source, we get descriptions of shiatsu, therapeutic touch, polarity therapy, reiki, reflexology, and bioenergy - all quack notions as stupid as acupuncture/acupressure - to round out the spectrum of nonsense considered as viable modalities. Then, as if to associate themselves with the World Health Organization [WHO] to take on international flavor, the NCCN site tells us that the WHO Inter-regional Seminar drew up a provisional list of diseases that lend themselves to acupuncture treatment. This list, they caution

...is based on clinical experience, and not necessarily on controlled clinical research. Furthermore, the inclusion of specific diseases are [sic] not meant to indicate the extent of acupuncture's efficacy in treating them.

Whose "clinical experience," we're not told. Then the site provides this list of those "diseases that lend themselves to acupuncture treatment" - I hope the loan was short-term. It is:

Acute and chronic colitis, acute and chronic gastritis, acute and chronic pharyngitis, acute bacillary dysentery, acute bronchitis, acute conjunctivitis, acute duodenal ulcer (without complications), acute rhinitis, acute sinusitis, acute tonsillitis, bronchial asthma (most effective in children and in patients without complicating diseases), cataracts (without complications), central retinitis, cervicobrachial syndrome, chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief), common cold, constipation, diarrhea, facial palsy (early stage, i.e., within three to six months), frozen shoulder, gastric hyperacidity, gastroptosis, gingivitis, headache and migraine, hiccough, intercosral neuralgia, low back pain, meniere's disease, myopia (in children), neurogenic bladder dysfunction, nocturnal enuresis, osteoarthritis, paralytic ileus, pareses (following a stroke), peripheral neuropathies, sciatica, sequelae of poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within six months), spasms of esophagus and cardia, tennis elbow, toothache (post-extraction pain), and trigeminal neuralgia.

Folks, the only ailments I don't find on here are alopecia and hangnail!

Remember, this is a site recommended by the American Cancer Society. There are 337 references to acupuncture - the majority of which are quack-managed sites - that can be accessed here...

The quacks are winning, and the medical profession stands by and watches...