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Ask Dr. Mike: Cancer in Low Income Neighborhoods, Bloodwork Before Taking Supplements & More

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Do you think Columbia University should control what Dr. Oz promotes?

Dr. Mike's gut answer is no. If anything, he should be a little more self-censored and take responsibility for what he is saying and promoting.

I saw on CNN Health that people with cancer in low income neighborhoods have worse outcomes. Other than access to healthcare, why is this?

This is a very good, yet very tough question. First of all, the problem is access to healthcare. Everyone should have access to doctors, hospitals, and treatments. This might be a better question for an epidemiologist.

Should I take blood tests before taking any supplements?

Yes, blood tests help give a better understanding of what's going on in your body, and doctors can use that information to help you determine which supplements might be of use.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 4, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

It's time for you to be a part of the show. Email or call with questions for Dr. Mike now. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call: 877-711-5211. What are you waiting for? The doctor is in.

DR MIKE: I questioned whether or not I should answer this question on air. It's about Dr. Oz. Because, you know, I want to answer the questions that are more about health and trying to help people right now but I think it's worth mentioning a couple little things about everything that Dr. Oz recently went through.

So, there was ultimately a letter was written signed by like 10 doctors asking Columbia University to remove him from his position at the University and they made some complaints about it and the biggest complaint was, believe it or not, about GMO's. Dr. Oz has come out against GMO's. He doesn't like them. He says there should at least be fair labeling and I agree with him. I agree with all that. But these doctors didn't like that. Turns out these doctors that wrote the letter had connections to Monsanto who does a lot of the GMO stuff, so there's a lot of bias in this here going back and forth. But the question—so that's all that happened. So, here's the question I got:

"Do you think Columbia University should sensor Dr. Oz? Maybe not fire him but control what he promotes?"

Hmm that's a good question. My gut answer is no I mean if–I think Dr. Oz just has to self-sensor a little bit more. I know that I have to do this myself. I have to be careful about ever being too definitive about anything I say. I always try to avoid sensational words, emotionally charged words. I do my best to just present the research, the findings and my opinion without overdoing it and I think I do that myself.

I don't need Life Extension. I don't need UT Southwest, where I came from, where I went to medical school, doing that for me. I take that on myself. That's my responsibility and I think that's a better way. And ,by the way Dr. Oz has, he has toned some of that down. And so, I guess my answer is no. I don't think Columbia University should I don't think we want to suppress any kind of free speech but I do think there's responsibility with free speech. Just because we have, in this country, the blessing and right to speak what's on our mind but there is responsibility with that. And I don't know.

Just because I can say something in a certain context it might not be the best thing to say and that's something as maturing adults we all have to understand and kind of sensor ourselves a little bit. So that's my answer, no. I think Columbia University should leave him right where he is. I think he should go on and do his show. As a medical doctor and scientist, personally, I would like less sensational words and stuff like that and that's not Dr. Oz, that's the whole industry.

Yeah. So no. I don't think they should sensor him or control any of that. I think he has the right to support the things he wants to support. I think there's a responsibility in how we present that information, however. Okay. So, that wasn't so bad. Okay. I was a little worried about that one. I don't know why.

Alright next question:

"I saw on CNN health that people with cancer from low-income neighborhoods have worse outcomes."

I saw this, too. I saw this on CNN. This actually got around. This story got some traction. It wasn't even just CNN Health. I saw it on Fox News Health. I think it was also on ABC. At least on the online the sources I have. So, this story got some traction. So, let me go back to the question:

"I saw on CNN Health that people with cancer from low-income neighborhoods have worse outcomes. Other than access to care, why is this?"

Oh, boy. This is a harder question than the Dr. Oz one. Well, first of all, that's the key question is access to healthcare, right? I mean the best way to study this would be to take low-income people with cancer and high-income people with cancer and make access and the care they receive completely even and then test outcomes at that point. Now, in the real world, we know that doesn't happen. There are access issues for people with no insurance or low-level insurance. There are different types of care, quality, follow up.

All of that plays a role, I think, in why some of the outcomes are worse in lower income people. It's not right. I'm going to tell you that right now it's not right and it's not fair. I do believe we all have the right to have the same quality access to the best medicines, both conventional and alternative.

And to the best doctors. I mean, I think that's a basic human right. If we've made these advances that help us to live healthier; that help us to have better outcomes from all these diseases like cancer, heart disease, whatever, I think that's only fair and only right that we provide that to people. I know it's not always easy, right?

And I know that in the real world that doesn't always translate that way but why is it? So, I think access is one reason and I think that's a big reason and I'm going to say this and I want you to understand that I'm saying this with all sensitivity. Compliance and follow-up is an issue too. You know, I work in a county hospital and when you're working 3 or 4 jobs and you have kids to take care of and you're in a single home, in many cases it's tough. It's tough to stick with the medical regime.

It's a lot easier when you don't have all those other responsibilities and I'm not saying higher-income people don't have responsibilities I'm not saying that but

I saw this first hand. You know, low-income families are working really hard. This idea that they're not, I don't know where that's coming from. No. Low-income families are working hard. They're scraping by and sometimes the head of that household neglects themselves a little bit because they're working so much and they're trying to bring home the money and food and shelter that sometimes follow up and compliance to the medical regime is not quite where it needs to be. So, I think access is one thing. I think compliance and follow-up is another thing.

And it's a shame but that's the reality of it and I saw that in the Dallas County Hospital system. I mean, I don't know. I'd have to look. I think this is a great question for some epidemiologist who really studies this kind of stuff. I'm just giving you my opinion but it's something we need to do a better job of and we need to correct. If we have a certain population that is not doing well with any sort of disease, we have to ask why is that and how can we improve that because that's not fair.

Okay. Let me go on to my next question here. Those were tough questions. Dr. Oz and cancer questions, low-income households. Those are tough.

Alright let me see if I can—this one is a little bit easier.

"Should I take blood tests before I consider purchasing any supplements? Thanks, Tim."

Tim, well, yes, but, listen. Blood tests form the basis of prevention. You know, if I know what's going on in your body in terms of inflammation, in terms of basic micronutrients, in terms of protein profiles, hormones--all that kind of stuff, it just gives me more information to help you. Now, there are certain blood tests that you absolutely should take before you do a supplement like hormones. If you want to do over the counter DHEA, I need to know what your DHEA level is and I need to know what your other hormones look like so I know where there are imbalances to make sure I'm not going to cause more imbalances.

So, hormones would be one group of supplements or prescription drugs that you definitely need to know your baseline and then you've got to follow up. But that's not necessarily the case. I mean, you can do CoQ10 and fish oil--stuff like that--without knowing what your baseline levels are on those nutrients and that's fine but I would encourage you to get those blood tests done.

Again, it just gives me a lot more information to personalize my suggestions for you and I think that's really a key thing today, right? Personalized medicine. My whole book was about that: personalized supplement regimens, The Supplement Pyramid. Yes. So ,get the test done. I think that's important too.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD.

I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.