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My e-mail to the NCI

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 4, 2009

In my previous entry I railed against the NCI’s portrayal of acupuncture on their website. After blowing off some steam, I wrote a nice, polite, but direct e-mail to the folks at the NCI with the hopes that someone would forward it to the Director. Below I reproduce the e-mail. I will keep folks posted if I get a reply.


I am trying to reach Dr. Niederhuber, but was unable to find a direct contact e-mail address online. Please forward this message to his attention.

Dear Dr. Niederhuber,

I am writing to you to direct your attention, and to express my indignation, at the appallingly credulous portrayal of acupuncture in the NCI website’s Q&A section. The answers to the questions show complete disregard for the scientific evidence, and its verdict so far on acupuncture; that is performs no better than placebo when properly designed trials are conducted. Yet the NCI website leaves the reader with the impression that not only does acupuncture work when it comes to cancer, but that it is also endorsed/recommended by the NCI, which is quite a dangerous impression to leave your readers with.

I do not intend to take too much of your time with this e-mail, so I will direct you to my lengthier blog entry ( on this, in the hopes that you can, and will be willing to, address this unforgivable oversight and correct the language in the website to align it with the best available scientific evidence. The NCI website is one of the first stops that people dealing with cancer go to, and I believe that NCI must hold itself to the highest standards and commit to distributing science based advice, and not lend credibility to discredited CAM modalities.

Being a doctor yourself, I am sure that you’ll agree with me that there is no such thing as “alternative” medicine. If it works it is medicine, if not it is myth and superstition. I believe the NCI has an obligation to embrace real medicine and science in its dealings with the public, and it needs to proudly express its devotion to the scientific method. Unfortunately, the above mentioned, Q&A section on acupuncture does exactly the opposite by endorsing acupuncture.

Thank you very much for your time.

I would like to invite all Skepfeeds enthusiasts to use a similar version and let the NCI know that their behavior is unacceptable.

3 Responses

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  1. James Randi said, on August 5, 2009 at 6:41 AM

    (One typo: “that is performs” should be “that it performs”)

    Excellent! And thank you…

    Comment: My specific concern — from a personal point of view — is with the fatigue-and-nausea problem that goes with chemotherapy, and the NIH suggestion that acupuncture might help. It is not with the treatment of cancer itself, though that, of course, is a far, far, more critical situation, and should receive much more attention.

    Your observation that “…there is no such thing as ‘alternative’ medicine. If it works, it is medicine, if not it is myth and superstition” — is bang-on direct and powerful. No more should have to be said, but until those NIH/NCI references are removed, we must continue to complain.

    Thank you.

    James Randi.

    • Skepdude said, on August 5, 2009 at 7:04 AM

      I just lament the fact that I could not find the director’s e-mail address. So I send it to their online contact address and CCd the lady you mentioned in your entry. I intend to give it about a week, and if I don’t hear anything from them, I will print the e-mail in a letter format (after making the correction you pointed out) and mail it to his attention. Hopefully he’ll get the message one way or another.

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. […] – A follow up Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 12, 2009 I recently send an e-mail to the NCI criticizing them about their apparent support of acupuncture as a viable alternative for cancer […]

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