Acupuncture no longer recommended for back pain

NICE (the organisation that provides guidance to doctors in the UK) recently updated their recommendations regarding lower back pain. In the updated guidance, they say that exercise, in all its forms (for example, stretching, strengthening, aerobic or yoga), is the most important step in managing back pain.

Previously, NICE also recommended acupuncture or massage, but this has now been altered. Massage can still be used alongside exercise, but the guidelines no longer recommend acupuncture, as “evidence shows it is not better than sham treatment”. Continue reading

Recent advances in cancer therapy

First off, sorry for the lack of writing in the last few weeks; I’ve been in the middle of a job hunt, so my time has been limited by that. In the time I have taken off however, there have been some major news stories about cancer.

The week of the 15th February brought some pretty sensational headlines. These were about a trial of a new immunotherapy, which both The Times and the Independent proclaimed “a cure”, and The Guardian labelled as “unprecedented”.

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Trust in science

As with every other week, the last 10 days has brought a slew of tabloid stories, linking various things with causing or curing cancer:

GOOD: antacids, Chinese herbal remedy, berries and teaanthrax, frying food

BAD: being tall, tonsils, artificial football pitches, The RAF, oral sex

As always, these stories are largely nonsense, suitable only for the bin. Unfortunately, they are reported credulously and are widely read, and this saturation of health-related articles has several negative consequences.

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Smoking vs Vaping

VapingVaping has become remarkably popular in the UK over the last few years. Estimates now suggest that over 2.5 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes and that number is rising. However, as a recent conversation with my wonderful sister-in-law showed me, people are divided over whether this is a good thing or not.

Smoking is one of the most damaging habits we can choose to take up, being the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK (as I described in a previous blog). We have known for years that people “smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke”; standard cigarettes burn tobacco, generating over 7,000 different chemicals, at least 72 of which are known to cause cancer. Continue reading

Should children eat rice cakes?

920px-Puffed_Rice_CakesI’ve seen this story pop up on my newsfeed a few times recently, so I thought I’d have a look and see if there is much to it.

It is an article about some new guidelines in Sweden regarding arsenic in rice products. They state that due to high levels of arsenic, some rice products can be harmful to children, and that many of them should be rationed, or even avoided altogether.

In case you don’t want to read the rest of this blog post, I’ll give you my take on it first. Continue reading