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EvMed Blog

June 21, 2016
This week is the 2nd annual meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. The presentations we'll see, and the conversations we’ll have, were instigated 25 years ago as George Williams and I discussed and grappled with how evolution could be useful for medicine, and what to call the enterprise. After several hours of discussion, well, it was actually an argument, he convinced me that a grand title was fitting, and Darwinian medicine was the more accurate designation (1). Over the decades, however, evolutionary medicine has become the standard term, and I have consistently encountered questions about what it is, how it works, and why it matters. Here are my current answers to those fundamental questions.
May 18, 2016
Cancer is bad. For sure. About 2 in 5 of us will develop cancer in our lifetimes and 1 in 5 of us will die of cancer. So there is no question that cancer is bad. But is cancer all bad? Are there cases where susceptibility to cancer is associated with things that we would consider good?
February 26, 2016
“Do you feel tired?” asks the silver fox in his outdoor jacket, wind in his hair. He then suggests that you may suffer from low testosterone, which apparently is a serious condition that could be impacting “millions of men.” Evidently the solution, he suggests, is just a prescription drug away. Next time you hear an advertisement like this, there are several things to keep in mind. First: the American medical association has called for a ban on direct to consumer advertising from pharmaceutical companies. Second: the list of explanations for feeling tired or experiencing mood changes is long, and testosterone levels are typically pretty low on the list. But third and most importantly, is questioning what is considered “low” testosterone, why does it matter, and how is it assessed?
February 12, 2016
In December 2013, in the village of Meliandou, Guinea, a dangerous pathogen jumped from a bat into a little boy. He may have been playing among the trees where bats roost, coming into contact with bat guano; the details are uncertain. But several days later, as the pathogen replicated exponentially in his body, the two year old became lethargic, devastated by fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. His mother, older sister, and grandmother cuddled with and cared for the sick toddler. Within days all four of these family members were dead, and the pathogen that had infected them was soon spreading through villages and cities in West Africa.
February 11, 2016
There are more than 7000 rare diseases, also called orphan diseases. How does one decide the threshold for considering a disease to be rare? It depends. One study found more than 296 definitions of “rare disease.” In Europe, a disease is typically considered rare if it affects fewer than 1 in 2000 people, but the most widely used definitions place rare diseases as those that affect 4 or 5 out of 10,000 people. But in today's world of population growth and virtual communities, in many ways rare diseases are becoming common.
February 4, 2016
The greatest advance in entire history of medicine was recognition that bodies are machines assembled entirely from material substances. Now, however, the metaphor of body as machine is an obstacle to progress. To understand the body as a body, we need to blow the metaphor away. Why will be clear only if we first acknowledge its origins and benefits.

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