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Personal Science Week - 230831 Full Body Exams
Elective full body exams, and more links
Personal Scientists love data — the more the better. This week we discuss some of the latest full body scan companies.
Personal Science is published each Thursday for anyone who wants to practice science for personal, rather than professional reasons.
Preventative Full Body Scans
The Wall Street Journal recently concluded the Real Cost of Body Scans Goes Beyond The Price Tag, with a short overview of some of the companies offering direct-to-consumer scans that anyone can take if you pay out-of-pocket. A more in-depth review by CNET’s Jessica Rendall in Full-Body AI Scans Could Be the Future of Preventive Medicine describes Prenuvo, a $2,500 MRI full-body scan. Another AI-powered scan from Ezra costs $1,350, with the more extensive full-body “plus” scan costing $2,350. Jeffrey Kaditz’ company Q.Bio offers their $3,500 “Gemini” digital twin exam that includes an MRI and every blood and biochemical test they can think of. In Europe, the Spotify creators have unveiled their $300 Neko Health scan to do something similar.
These articles always include mandatory wise quotes from experts who caution that the “science just isn’t there” to justify these expensive scans for healthy people.
The American College of Radiology says clearly: “There is no documented evidence that total body screening is cost-efficient or effective in prolonging life.” The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) agrees, recommending against full-body scans in asymptomatic patients. The American Board of Internal Medicine and its “Choose Wisely” campaign poured over the research goes even further:
Don’t take a multivitamin, vitamin E, or beta carotene to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer
Don’t routinely perform PSA-based screening for prostate cancer.
Don’t use whole-body scans for early tumor detection in asymptomatic patients.
Don’t use expensive medications when an equally effective and lower cost medication is available.
Don’t perform screening for cervical cancer in low-risk women aged 65 years or older.
If you’re considering one of these tests, are you being unscientific? What’s a Personal Scientist supposed think?
We’re naturally skeptical of course: don’t believe in any of these tests just because “studies” or “experts” say something. But we’re also open-minded and don’t blindly reject them for the opposite reason.
One response, from Prenuvo co-founder Andrew Lacy, is the reminder that the new AI-powered technology is far more detailed than the old “black and white” images that have over-promised in the past. In other words, people who point to “studies” are often far behind the latest breakthroughs. Who is to say that the new version won’t work better than whatever failed to replicate previously?
More importantly, keep in mind that studies report averages. But you’re not an average; you’re you. Who cares if the majority of people won’t benefit — what matters is your experience.
Finally, trust yourself and your personal experience. Look at the tests and talk to people who’ve done them. Don’t blindly listen to the salesperson — and don’t dismiss the “expert” who warns against them.
I’ve not taken one of these commercial exams (yet), but I have examined results from others. Overall the results tend to be mostly … fairly boring. For one friend who sent me her results, the images revealed almost nothing that was non-obvious or actionable. If you’re super-interested in the technology, it can be fun to dig deeply into some aspect of the image, and perhaps obsess over some oddity that might turn significant over time.
There’s never evidence until there’s evidence. If you want to live at the cutting edge of science, you’ll need to be comfortable with the unknown.
More Personal Science links
If you’re new to Personal Science Week, don’t forget to check out our extensive content back catalog, most of which is still very applicable to anyone who wants to be a Personal Scientist. Here are a few we especially recommend you revisit:
Red Pen Reviews have published several new book reviews since our Personal Science Week - 07 Jul 2022 summary. Definitely a great resource for a detailed scientific take on recent and popular nutrition books, including all the classics you will have heard of if you’re interested in dieting, Alzheimers, or more.
In our Note Taking Issue of PS 20-Mar-23 we reviewed some tools, like Joplin, Obsidian, Roam, and others useful for Personal Scientists to track what we learn. This week, Journalist Casey Newton wrote in The Verge why note-taking apps don't make us smarter, rightly pointing to how rarely it seems we have time to look back on all those old references. He hopes that next generation AI tools will make that process much easier.
Are face masks about to make a comeback? And if so, what should a Personal Scientist think? You may have seen excerpts from a new Review from the Royal Society making it sound like the conclusion is “they work, period”. But The Cochrane Report authors find several obvious errors, especially the lack of protocols in the non-RCT studies, and notes that in its fine print the Royal Society actually agrees with Cochrane that the best (aka RCT) studies are inconclusive.
For interactive discussions with other Personal Science-minded people (including me), please join the Open Humans Weekly Self-Research Call, every Thursday at 10am Pacific Time. Open to everyone, and very friendly. (See Personal Science Week - 15 Sep 2022).
Meanwhile, please continue to send your feedback, including your thoughts or ideas of other topics you’d like to discuss.