Does pizza protect against cancer?
The 29th annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony was held recently at Harvard University. The awards honour achievements that ‘make people laugh and then think’ by celebrating unusual research, honouring imagination and creating interest in Medicine, Science and Technology.
This year, the winner of the Medicine Ig Nobel was Silvano Gallus and his team from Italy and the Netherlands. This builds on their previous work that found several ingredients of pizza have a favourable influence on the risk of cardiovascular disease. They studied the association between pizza and cancer and found consumption may have a protective effect but, unfortunately for those of us in the Gold Coast, only if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy.
There were many other deserving winners, of which I would like to share only two more. The Anatomy prize went to a team from France for their article ‘Thermal asymmetry of the human scrotum’. The study design was a retrospective analysis of scrotal temperatures in a sample of clothed and naked and sitting and standing postal workers. In a nod to Australian fauna, the Ig Nobel award for Physics went to a large team of international collaborators who worked tirelessly to answer the question: Why do wombats make cubed poo?
This week a patient presented for a second opinion to our practice because his tongue had temporarily turned blue the week before while driving home. On further questioning, so had his saliva, but all other body parts had been spared. A few hours later, his life returned to its usual Caucasian monochrome. Because of omnipresent smartphones I was able to confirm that his tongue had indeed turned blue –not the textbook hue of cyanosis but rather inimitable smurf blue.
A century and a half ago, Sherlock Holmes explained that, ‘when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ All of which made me reflect what a wonderful specialty General Practice is. Just like the recipients of the Ig Nobel awards, we encounter the unusual and interesting, we laugh with some patients and then we think. And the patient with the blue tongue? We excluded smurfitis, so was left with the most likely truth – an extremely rare reaction to the contrast agent administered by our Radiology colleagues.
Dr Carl de Wet
Clinical Lead, Gold Coast Primary Health Network