The Snake Oil Bulletin: Your Week In New Age Quack-Quack Woo

Greetings, pals! I see you've returned for another edition of the Snake Oil Bulletin, your weekly round-up of the worst -- just the absolute worst -- in poppycock to promulgate throughout this vast interweb of ours. Let's waste no time by diving headlong into the world of cancer quackery.

People Seriously Think Cancer is a Fungus

Earlier this week, your Wonkette introduced you to a certain cotton-headed ninnymuggins named Michele Fiore, a Republican Assemblywoman from Nevada so learned in the ways of medicine and alchemy science that she can't even spell her own name right.

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Fiore has some very interesting ideas on your cancer, and is blowing the lid off the biggest cover-up in medical history: that cancer is a fungus and you can cure it with baking soda. No it's true! Or at least that's what a couple of loons on the internet have told her, and they seem pretty trustworthy. Their site has a big rotating gif that says TRUTH and everything.

Before this lovely gun holster catalogue model brought the issue to national attention, your correspondent hadn't really heard of the cancer-fungus scam before. Cancer scams are as old as cancer itself, but this particular myth seems to be a fairly new fabrication designed to leach people's money away from actual medicine, and seemingly its (dumbest) champion is Italian doctor Tullio Simoncini, seen here explaining all the super-scientific evidence that cancer is a fungus, namely that it is white and...oh. That's it apparently.

What? You were expecting more? I warned you this was stupid.

We would remind il dottore buono that snow is also white, as are sugar, enamel, and paint, the latter of which we suspect the gentleman was huffing when he thunk up this theory.

Dr. Simoncini has a website outlining his theoryhypothesis freakin' shot in the dark. It isn't much of a website but it exists, in much the way Geocities once existed. The good doctor argues that cancer is the result of the candida fungus, which incidentally is what that crazy P-E-N-I-S ladythought caused AIDS. Candida is quite the busy mushroom. Per Doctor Simoncini:

Candida causes fungal infections and tumors in man. It is always Candida because all other fungi are family of Candida.

The fungi that threaten people may differ by about 2 to 5 percent. Fungi must have the same genetic structure in order to be able to attack the human kind. The variants depend on the difference in human tissues. But it is always a Candida fungus that causes tumors in humans.

Fungal infections have been known for years. The Candida fungus is always found in patients. This type of fungus is found in about 97 to 98% of cases. All research points to the presence of the Candida fungus. What matters is the correct interpretation.

There are a couple key lines in that excerpt that we hope are just mistranslations in Babelfish. For one, if the fungi differ by 2 to 5 percent, then that means they aren't all candida fungus because duh. Second, candida fungus is apparently ALWAYS found in patients, though we note he doesn't say cancer patients, but rather all patients ever. Lastly, there isn't a single link to a medical journal, paper, or even a HuffPost new age woo article. Hell, even a blogspot would show that he did some research beyond "I said so QED."

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Is there any evidence to back up Simoncini's claims? Short answer: no. Long answer: no. In fact, if those "research scientists" are to be believed, there is a chance that ingesting large amounts of Simoncini's proposed cure, sodium bicarbonate, can kill you, which is a pretty effective cure for cancer in the same way an A-bomb is an effective fly swatter.

If you want any more evidence that this theory is nothing more than crock, know that it is endorsed by that bastion of rigorous peer review, Natural, the finest collective bowel movement of anti-vaccine, anti-science, and anti-brain-using nonsense on the net. Speaking of anti-vaxxers...

Anti-Vaxxers Have Always Been Bull-Fucking Lunatics

Have you had your fill of anti-vaccine nonsense in the news lately? Your Wonkette reported earlier this week on an anti-vaxxer who somehow got elected to the Spokane Regional Board of Health. This particular gentleman was quite a hero, speaking for the beleaguered tinfoil hat crowd (his words), who just want the right to knowingly expose other people to infectious diseases. Hopefully Spokane voters kept their receipt so they can take him back and get a refund.

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Particularly amusing about this loggerhead was that the beliefs he was spouting were not particularly new. While the modern anti-vaccine movement started when Andrew Wakefield lied and then got caught lying but it was too late because he'd already lied, people have been scared of vaccines since vaccines began.

In a truly excellent article, Patrick Cain of Global News breaks down the anti-vaccine movement from its nascent years in the four humours era. Choice excerpts include the warnings of one doctor who didn't much trust this cowpox vaccine, what with it being from a cow, and cows being contagious or something:

Jamaica-based doctor Benjamin Moseley saw it as a serious danger.

“Can any person say what may be the consequences of introducing a bestial humour into the human frame, after a long lapse of years?” he wrote in 1800.

“Who knows, also, that the human character may undergo strange mutations from quadruped sympathy?…

“Owing to vaccination the British ladies might wander in the fields to receive the embraces of the bull.”

Vaccines will lead you to fuck cows. Ladies, we know what it's like when it's late at night, and the chemicals from that flu shot are pulsating through your tingling body. It feels like only one thing will sate your wanton lusts: the warm, sensual, cloven-hooved embrace of Bull Love. Just play rodeo safely. Work out a code-moo ahead of time.

Not only did people want to bonk cows, they apparently turned into them:

Ferdinand Smith Stuart, a follower of Moseley, published his own pamphlet describing a more alarming case:

“ … a child at Peckham, who, after being inoculated with the cow-pox, had its former natural disposition absolutely changed to the brutal; so that it ran upon all fours like a beast, bellowing like a cow, and butting with its head like a bull!”

We'd call bull on that story but then we would also be a hack writer.

Still other anti-vaxxers were just straight up eugenicists, and hated the fact that smallpox was no longer the effective killer of the lower classes that it once was:

Others, such as doctor John Birch, bemoaned losing the useful eugenics a disease that targets the poor could provide.

“Birch believed that vaccination was unnatural and damaging, because if it did work (which he doubted) it could undermine the valuable role that smallpox played in killing off the children of the lowest classes, as ‘a merciful provision on the part of Providence to lessen the burden of a poor man’s family,’” British medical historian Gareth Williams wrote.

This last sentiment is most in line with the current pro-disease movement, who are really big on giving other people's kids measles and ignoring the fact that measles still kills African children. It's not like they matter much: they're not even gluten-free!

What your Volpe found most reassuring about the article is the re-emergence of our old friends the homeopaths, who even back in Ye Olden Times were wrong about just about everything. A prominent homeopath was a major voice behind the anti-vaccine movement of 1919, claiming that vaccines were filled with horse, pig, and corpse grease. There's not much evidence of his claim, though we suspect the name "Corpse Grease" is what eventually led to the first death metal band because that phrase is fucking brutal.

Fortunately back in the day the scientists generally prevailed. Cartoonists viciously lampooned the anti-vaxxers, and their ideas were largely forgotten until the next generation sprouted their ugly heads, not unlike a candida fungus. Hopefully today's movement will eventually lose steam of its own accord, though there's no telling how many kids and cancer patients they'll take with them in the process.

Woman Dies from Snake Oil Cancer Treatment

This next story we present relatively free of jokes because it isn't funny.

Jess Ainscough, aka the Wellness Warrior, passed away this week after battling malignant cancer since 2008. Jess was a long-time proponent of "alternative" disease treatments, and was in the course of one such treatment that we have covered before when her body finally succumbed to the effects of the cancer.

Ainscough was in her early twenties when she was diagnosed with a rare, particularly virulent tumor called an epithelioid sarcoma which had implanted in her left shoulder and toward the end of her life caused intense bleeding on an almost daily basis. She was faced with the very real possibility that she would have to have her arm and shoulder amputated in order to stop the sarcoma from destroying her entire body, and we do not blame Ms. Ainscough for her reluctance to undergo the procedure in the least. Doctors presented her with a treatment of isolated limb perfusion, a procedure which seemed to work after what sounds like an incredibly painful treatment of heavy, targeted chemotherapy. We say it seemed to work, but cancer has a nasty habit of recurring, and Jess was once again faced with the possibility that she would have to lose an arm or lose her life.

In what was no doubt one of her most desperate moments, Jess turned to "alternative" cancer treatments, and if her personal stories are true she tried just about all of them. Jess established a media empire built around a proliferation of pseudoscientific treatments, such as eating clay as a "detox," and hawking supplements as an alternative to actual medicine. While we would criticize Ainscough for profiting off people's fears, we do not for a second believe she did so maliciously. We truly believe Jess Ainscough was a scared, desperate woman who needed to believe there was something, anything out there that could cure her. She was a true believer if ever we saw one, but unfortunately the people in whom she placed her trust were charlatans.

The primary charlatan who cheated Jess of a life was the (long-diseased) Max Gerson of the Gerson therapy, which your Volpe has covered before in a more ha-ha funny kind of way. Gerson therapy revolves around the belief that daily coffee enemas can treat just about any kind of condition under the sun, as summed up by this perfectly sane lady in the comment section from last week's Snake Oil Bulletin:

The fact that cancer, hearing loss, cataracts, weight gain, and basic aging have no real medical connection to one another leads us to be more than a little skeptical of Carmen's claims that coffee enemas can treat all five. Carmen is a frequent commenter on other woo blogs including (that place really is a one-stop shop for crazy, isn't it?) where she also pushes her coffee enemas to, we have no doubt, quite lucrative results.

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Gerson therapy is a scam. There is no evidence that it does anything more helpful than cause your poops to smell different. The problem with alternative treatments like Gerson is that it is mostly harmless, and that harmlessness leads to neglecting actual medicine. People who engage in alternative medicine scams are far more likely to neglect real medicine, as was the case with Jess Ainscough. We do not begrudge her decision to avoid a life-changing amputation, but there is no real telling what other treatments could have been available for her, nor do we have any idea how many people with far more treatable cancers listened to the advice Jess put out based on her single anecdotal case and died because they refused actual medical treatment. Medical scams do kill people, and not just in obvious ways like bleach baths for autistic children. Negligence kills too.

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Stories like Ainscough's are the reason it is so critical to fight misinformation and pseudoscience. Real people's lives depend on scientific rigor finding actual cures for actual conditions. When a con artist sells a grief-stricken person a magnetic armband or a coffee enema kit, claiming that it can cure what ails them, the very real possibility looms that the victim of the con artist will die because they place their faith in the woo. There is no victory in what happened to Jess Ainscough dying of the same pseudoscience she promoted. There is only tragedy.

Your Volpe is going to try and detox after this last story with some dancing kittens. For once you will see him endorse a detox treatment that actually works. Please take care of yourselves. You're too important not to.

Flotsum, Jetsum, and Hokum

Lastly, we present a recap of the latest in thaumaturgical thickness as brought to you by the internet's premier proletariat porn tumblr, your Wonkette!

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[Cancer Research UK / Cancer Fungus / Global News / Science Blogs]


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