A Difference, to Be a Difference, Must Make a Difference

Gertrude Stein once said, “A difference, to be a difference, must make a difference.” That phrase helps keep my common sense focused when a new procedure or drug is introduced. Every scientist knows that you can bend science just a bit and design a study that will show exactly what you want. That's one of the reasons there are often conflicting scientific publications. My goodness, Darrell Huff even wrote a book called How to Lie with Statistics. So when I read about how silicone gel smeared on scars can help make them go away (I've never seen this work) or how the herb arnica can decrease bruising after surgery (ditto to this one), and then I read another that says they don’t, I remember Gertrude Stein’s phrase.

Gertrude Stein once said, “A difference, to be a difference, must make a difference.” That phrase helps keep my common sense focused when a new procedure or drug is introduced. Every scientist knows that you can bend science just a bit and design a study that will show exactly what you want. That's one of the reasons there are often conflicting scientific publications. My goodness, Darrell Huff even wrote a book called How to Lie with Statistics. So when I read about how silicone gel smeared on scars can help make them go away (I've never seen this work) or how the herb arnica can decrease bruising after surgery (ditto to this one), and then I read another that says they don’t, I remember Gertrude Stein’s phrase.


So how do you decide whether something really works? Design a paired study. Have 2 identical scars, like those created with breast reductions. When you use these things on only one of them, if they really worked, only one side would be improved. But no one has ever shown a this kind of a difference with these creams.  



So, the bottom line is not what scientists can show with complex techniques and statistics, but what you see when you look in the mirror.  

Will you ever feel comfortable in your own skin? That is, if you don't make an effort to protect it? Although 64% of adults do report wearing sunscreen when outside for prolonged periods of time, it turns out that only about 10% of people surveyed actually protect themselves daily, according to a recent review.

No matter what your skin tone is, unless you live in a cave with no sunlight, daily protection with either sunscreen, sunblock or protective clothing can not only protect you from developing sunburns (ouch!) but can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, particularly the deadliest type called melanoma. In addition, for those of you wanting to keep your youthful looks, daily sunscreen has been shown to reduce the development of wrinkles. A great teacher once told me that the best way to not have wrinkles is not to get them in the first place (think of how much money you can save on useless creams that claim to diminish wrinkles).

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