The Mighty OZ!

I sat in the dentist chair like so many times before as the dental assistant told me it was time for my annual X-rays.  She lay a heavy lead apron across my chest, as was usual, but then she reached into a drawer, pulled out a small lead-lined “cod piece” and gently appareled my neck.

“What the hell is this thing?” I asked.

“It’s a thyroid collar.” she said.

“A what?”

“A thyroid collar”

“Why?”

“Doctor Oz.” she said.

“Doctor Oz?”

“Yes, Oz!”

She further explained that most of the women patients demanded thyroid protection during routine X-rays after watching an episode of Dr. Oz where the good doctor extolled the dangers of radiation from dental X-rays after mentioning that thyroid cancer is “the fastest-growing cancer in women.” He warned the audience that folks receiving more than five (5) X-rays a year raise their risk of developing thyroid cancer by a factor of four.  To add to the uninitiated fun, Oz invited Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, a gynecological cancer specialist, to the show who said she wouldn’t be X-rayed if the only reason was to check her teeth.  Perhaps Dr. Runowicz knows another reason for dental X-rays.  Interesting that a “gynecological” cancer specialist is commenting on teeth and thyroid glands.

This all leads to the question, “How did Dr. Oz become ‘Bullwinkle the Moose’ of all medical professions and specialties from ablation to Zinsser Disease?”  It all started with the woman who plagued us with psychological know-it-all Dr. Phil McGraw, Oprah Winfrey.  Oprah started out as a pleasant and fun talk show host, but as often happens with celebrity, she actually began believing she could save the world.  At any rate, here we are, stuck with two seemingly well-meaning professionals spouting dangerous information for all the supermarket tabloid-reading public to absorb.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Turkish-American, is, or was, a good thoracic-surgeon (think Hawkeye Pierce of M*A*S*H fame) and sports an impressive resume: Bachelors degree by Harvard, dual Masters degree by the University of Penn and a Doctorate awarded by Columbia, but what the general public doesn’t understand is that thoracic surgery is such a dedicated, narrow field of study, such men and women have neither the time nor the inclination to stray from that field of study if they are to stay at the “top of their game.”  So, for the mighty Oz to spew medical information on everything from skin care to herbal medicine is akin to a circus spectacle suitable for, well, the former Oprah Winfrey Show.  You’re better off getting your medical advice from where “baby boomers” learned about sex– on the street.

A few physicians are mounting a war against Dr. Oz’s misinformation, like David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, at the blog Science-Based Medicine, Val Jones, MD, at GetBetterHealth.com, and the American College of Physicians member, Dr. Peter A. Lipson.  It’s the battle of the clinicians versus medical terrorism and it’s doubtful these doctors can overcome the power and mystique of Hollywood.  Whether you believe Dr. Oz is distributing bad information, is just wrong or even dangerous, Dr. Lipson states it best– Dr. Oz’s advice is too simplistic and over-reaching.  Dr. Lipson writes “Everyone knows that good eating and exercise are good. Having someone repeat it over and over, and telling you it is a sure thing to prevent heart attacks is idiocy.”

Regarding Dr. Oz’s facts and figures on X-rays and thyroid cancer?  The website “xrayrisk.com” calculates the risk of someone receiving four (4) X-rays each year for forty years as 0.004157 %, or 1 in 24056.  That’s over 80 X-rays!  Your chance of drowning is 1 in one thousand, which means 24 people will drown first before developing thyroid cancer.  Or you might contract something from the Know-It-Oz’s kids as his wife refuses to allow their children to be immunized.

As to dental X-rays, most tooth decay cannot be found without the aid of X-rays, which could lead to a smile that is, dare I say, not Hollywood worthy, Dr. Runowicz?  Although my dentist bowed to the pressure of Dr. Oz, my family doctor posted cartoon posters on his examination room doors stating, “Thank you for not mentioning Dr. Oz.”  If they wish to leave his practice because he doesn’t recommend the voodoo practices of talk show medicine, perhaps they can schedule something with the Mighty Oz.

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