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What We’re Reading

[Ed. Note:  If it interested us it will interest you!  That's the thinking of our epidemiologist mind in creating a new feature entitled "What We're Reading". The concept is to share with our readers some of the best articles we come across each month or give readers more opportunities to learn about topics we were not able to report on.  We hope you will benefit from this new addition and send of some of your own "best articles" to share with readers.  Send your suggestions and links to]

Are Opioids Behind a Cluster of Unusual Amnesia Cases?
Appeared in The Atlantic Online January 30, 2017

Doctors in Massachusetts have found a surprising link between 14 cases of amnesia and opioid use. Going beyond the usual memory loss associated with use of the drug, the patients showed acute, complete and bilateral ischemia of the hippocampus, a brain region critically involved in memory. That this condition is very rare and usually isolated is why experts are still stumped as to what would cause such a profound and specific effect.

Cancer Epidemiology Today: “Not Strengthening the Value Proposition”and “Science is an Iterative Process”
Both appeared in HemOnc Today January 25, 2017

An interesting debate has unfolded in the pages of HemOnc Today. In his editorial for the month titled “Not Strengthening the Value Proposition”, Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, started asking some tough questions about the basic motivations behind studies in cancer epidemiology. Raghavan set his critical sights on what he considers to be an excess of pointless and redundant studies identifying only mild associations. He specifically cites a study by Amanda I. Phipps, MPH, PhD and colleagues linking prediagnostic consumption of alcohol to modestly improved outcomes in colorectal cancer. In the same issue, you can find a direct response from Phipps titled “Science is an Iterative Process”, defending her own studies and arguing that what may appear to be duplicative research is actually the iterative scientific process functioning as it should.

Editorial:       Response:

  Archived Articles

Three minutes with Hans Rosling will change your mind about the world
Appeared in the December 15th edition of Nature
A fascinating profile of Swedish physician and epidemiologist Hans Rosling, whose work has influenced a number of important people including Al Gore, Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and even Fidel Castro. The profile tracks his unorthodox career path from early successes in the field battling an incurable disease known as konzo in Mozambique and Cuba, to his later efforts to improve global health by focusing on poverty and his current mission to dispel science myths and misinformation through fact-based education.

How To Debate Vaccine Skeptics - And Win
"If you tell people that these are contagious diseases and that there are serious benefits to getting vaccines, you can get improvements in people with negative attitudes toward vaccines." (From

Experts See Mass Killings as a Kind of Contagion
The potential for cultural contagion, many experts say, demands a public health response, one focused as much on early detection and preventive measures as on politically charged campaigns for firearm restrictions.  (From NY Times)

A Breast Cancer Surgeon Who Keeps Challenging the Status Quo
Dr. Esserman, 58, is one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that breast cancer screening brings with it overdiagnosis and overtreatment.   (From NY Times)

The Connection Between Cleaner Air and Longer Lives
Numerous studies have found that the Clean Air Act has substantially improved air quality and averted tens of thousands of premature deaths from heart and respiratory disease.  Here I offer new estimates of the gains in life expectancy due to the improvement in air quality since 1970.   (From NY Times)

Vanishing Canada: Why we're all losers in Ottawa's war on data
A months long Maclean's investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government's "austerity" program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012) - as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data - has led to a systemic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data gather capability we do have severely compromised as a result.   (From

A New, Life-or-Death Approach to Funding Heart Research
The result will be the financing of fewer, but deeper, studies, to focus resources on efforts with real world impact and life or death implications.   (From NY Times)

Study Shows Spread of Cigarettes in China
Chinese men now smoke one third of all the world's cigarettes, and a third of all young men in China are doomed to eventually die from the habit, scientists in China and Britain have concluded.   (From NY Times)

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