Let’s say you’ve heard reports (from reliable medical sources like celebrity anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy) that childhood vaccines are responsible for autism.
The science you learn from Dr. Jenny et al sounds confusing. You decide to do a bit of research yourself. You even track down a convincing scientific paper that supports this theory, published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. This paper concludes that “mercury doses in thimerosal added to childhood vaccines increases the likelihood that mercury is one of the main factors leading to the large increase in the rate of autism”. Wow! Dr. Jenny is right!
Sounds pretty authoritative, unless you already know that the officious-sounding Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by an organization that Dr. David Gorski describes as “steeped in an utterly toxic brew of bad science and extreme ideology”.
In fact, their journal is not even listed among the 13,410 legitimate scientific journals indexed by PubMed, accessing the MEDLINE database of 18 million citations, abstracts and articles on life sciences and biomedical topics. Dr. Gorski describes this vaccine-autism journal article:
“The paper was so ludicrously, execrably bad in design, execution and analysis that I had a hard time believing that any self-respecting journal would publish such tripe.”
Dr. Gorski holds MD and PhD degrees, is a surgical oncologist specializing in breast cancer, and is the Managing Editor at Science-Based Medicine. He claims that articles published in the Journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons are often cited by “cranks and pseudoscientists“.
“Sometimes they even make their way into the mainstream press as though they were legitimate scientific studies. Make no mistake, though, when it comes to medical science, this organization deserves every harsh word that I am about to write because it is a major booster of anti-vaccinationism, HIV/AIDS denialism, and the now-discredited hypothesis that abortion causes breast cancer, while on its pages it regularly attacks the very concept of evidence-based medicine and peer-review.
“That it is an organization of physicians is all the more appalling.”
And speaking of those who still believe that abortion leads to breast cancer, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons leads the parade.
For example, in its article entitled The Abortion-Breast Cancer Link: How Politics Trumped Science and Informed Consent, authors blame the “silence and denial of the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association and women’s groups” for the lack of widespread acceptance of their “evidence”.
In fact, there apparently IS no credible evidence of a link between incomplete pregnancy (either induced abortion or miscarriage) and the risk of breast cancer, according to California researchers at the Department of Cancer Etiology in the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. These findings also supported those from a recent large scale study of nurses, the Nurses Health Study II. Lead investigator Dr. Katherine DeLellis Henderson, explaining the reason for the cancer etiology study, wrote in the June issue of the journal Contraception:
“Despite mounting evidence from large prospective studies of no link between induced abortion and breast cancer risk, public concern continues. Much of the data prompting this concern, however, has come from case-control studies, many of which may have been affected by bias or design flaws. These have given rise to two beliefs about women who have incomplete pregnancies:
- 1. they don’t have as much long-term protection against breast cancer as they would from full term pregnancies
- 2. their breasts are exposed to high hormone levels of early pregnancy and then don’t benefit from the terminal cell differentiation of late pregnancy, possibly making them more vulnerable to cancer-causing chemicals.”
Dr. Henderson and her colleagues, however, found no statistically significant link between any measure of incomplete pregnancy and breast cancer risk. The researchers adjusted for established risk factors including ethnicity, first degree family history of breast cancer, and age at onset of menstrual periods.
They found that having an induced abortion at first pregnancy did not increase risk of breast cancer among those women who went on to have full term pregnancies, nor in those who never went on to give birth. Also, miscarriage in a first pregnancy did not increase risk for breast cancer in either of these groups.
If you suspect that even being published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons may tend to discredit the author, you may be correct – due to the implication that the paper was so poorly written or obviously fraudulent that the author was unable to get it published in even the most lax of the many obscure foreign journals indexed by PubMed. Those who do get their papers published here find themselves in questionable company.
The journal is far right wing, racist, pro-gun, anti-climate change science and in some cases downright goofy, promoting such claims as:
- many cases of “shaken baby syndrome” are really due to “vaccine-induced” encephalitis
- there is no link between HIV and AIDS
- low doses of radiation are actually good for you
- asbestos is really not that bad for you
And how about their decidedly non-medical demands to “close America’s borders with fences, high-tech security devices and troops” to keep those nasty illegal aliens out?
Dr. Gorski describes the association’s lack of credible science that’s behind much of their ultra-conservative ideology in this possible attitude like this:
“Damn those pesky ‘conventional’ scientists, with their insistence on careful observation, hypothesis generation, and experimentation! They don’t have the insight to see that I am right!”
Anybody who has visited The Ethical Nag before knows that I am at the very best of times highly suspicious of many research articles published in bona fide medical journals.
But I am even more suspicious of medical journals that are “far right wing, racist and in some cases downright goofy.”
And speaking of goofy, who can forget the officious-sounding but totally bogus ‘medical journals’ invented by the drug company Merck to help promote their now discredited pain medication Vioxx? Renowned scientific publisher Elsevier produced six Merck-sponsored fake publications designed to look like real scientific journals, with names like The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine – all running very favourable articles about Merck drugs, including the deadly Vioxx.
I guess just about anybody can start up what looks like a genuine medical journal, give it a skookum name, and print nice things about what you like, and bad things about what you don’t.
Read more about Dr. Gorski’s profile about the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons in Science-Based Medicine.
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Wow – I hadn’t heard of either this so-called journal or the pretend Merck journals (which is worse? Impossible to say!) But I can totally see how doctors would pick up these official-sounding journals and assume they are on the level. If only all doctors were as discriminating as the doctor you quote here.
Pretend medical journals!??! Extremist lobby groups masquerading as professional medical authorities??!?!
This is depressing – how does the average physician tell the difference, unless they read about it here first?!
All these “conspiracies” (“what your doctor does not want you to know”!) are laughable. To think, however, that a bunch of guys with MD degrees are churning out what looks like bona fide medical journals – and that medical practice might actually be affected by this nonsense, is appalling.
It reminds me of an old nurses’ joke at the hospital where I work:
Q: What do you call the med student who graduates at the very bottom of the class?
It’s distressing to think that conspiracy theorists and racists disguised as normal physicians are out there disseminating this stuff under the auspices of an officious-sounding journal. Keep up the good work here – I Look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Hello, interesting stuff. Thought provoking and disturbing at the same time. Thank you!