Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | November 3, 2009

Suzanne Somers "Total Body Cancer" Debunked: The Cliff Notes Version

I love reading Respectful Insolence. Orac does a wonderfully meticulous job of tearing down all kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense. Go and read — sometime when you have some extra time on your hands. The more time, the better; although he is good, he does tend to ramble a bit.

His current project is a review of the new book nonsense by the original ditzy blonde herself, Suzanne Somers. The problem is that she is too stupid to recognize the utter depths of nonsense she has plumbed in this tome. The “Doctors who are Curing Cancer” interviewed in this book are uniformly quacks whose techniques and treatments are either ridiculously implausible or scientifically proven not to work — or both. Go and read Orac’s archives for more detail. Also be aware that he will be posting more about the book; he’s a better man than I. Then again, presumably if his brains explode he has his wife and/or laboratory cleaning personnel to clean them up after him. I have to do it myself, and brains are notoriously difficult to get out of carpet, not to mention all the little nooks and crannies of keyboards.

His most recent post is fabulous, but really long. I thought I would perform a public service by cutting to the chase and revealing what curious readers — albeit those who have too much to do to peruse Respectful Insolence in its entirety — are, well, curious about. At least I was.

Apparently in Chapter 1 of the book, Somers states that she was “misdiagnosed with total body cancer.” Knowing that there is no such thing, Orac and I wondered what it could have been. Orac, who actually went and read the thing, reveals that it was disseminated coccidiomycosis, also known as Valley Fever. Coccidiomyces doesn’t usually cause much in the way of illness in generally healthy, immunocomptetent people. On the other hand, one of the risk factors for dissemination is a suppressed immune system. Manfully resisting Leaving aside for a moment the I-told-you-so temptation (aka schadenfreude) to someone who took fistfuls of supplements supposedly intended to strengthen the immune system, what really was going on with her?

I knew that her supplement list included “bio-identical hormones” like estrogen. I also happen to know that chemically, estrogen is indeed a “steroid” hormone, however its protean effects do not include direct effects on the immune system. Ah, but it turns out that her regimen included “cortisol repletion”! Aha! She was indeed taking corticosteroids (unprescribed and unmonitored by a competent physician; funny about that)! And those can indeed depress the immune system.

The real problem with pseudoscience is that people’s bodies neither know nor care what the person inhabiting them believes. Suzanne Somers’ belief that she was “cortisol deficient” didn’t make her so. She ate cortisone. Her body responded by making less of it, and by damping down its native immunity, thus allowing a usually indolent fungus to spread throughout her body.

Dumbass.

There you go: 550 words, give or take, compared with Orac’s almost-9,000 word screed. Granted he covered far more material than I — and I strongly encourage you to go read it — but the more I think about it, the more I believe I have summarized Suzanne Somers effectively and accurately. In fact, I shall repeat it for emphasis:

Dumbass.

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