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PULSE SNAKE OIL, ANYONE? NEW BOOK DETAILS HISTORY OF MEDICAL QUACKERY.

We've all seen those old westerns that feature a traveling salesman promoting snake oil to cure whatever ails you. And we laugh.

We're smarter now. We know that it was most likely a high alcohol content in these cure-alls that made people instantly feel better. However, some medical devices offered to an unsuspecting public had horrifying results.

In the new book ``Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud From the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices'' (Santa Monica Press; $19.95), museum curator Bob McCoy documents some of the most preposterous devices from the Prostate Gland Warmer to the Psychograph, and includes Dr. Albert Geyser's Tricho machine for removing unwanted hair through X-ray depilation. The latter caused women to have hardened and wrinkled skin, receded gums, tumors and cancer.

McCoy includes many of the hilarious advertisements from the early 1900s with explanations and observations, and also shows how quacks altered photos to their advantage.

And for readers who think medical quackery is a thing of the past, the author includes a sampling of late-night TV commercials advertising fat burners and magnetic pain relievers, including the Stimulator, which featured Evel Knievel as the spokesperson. It didn't help menstrual problems or carpal tunnel syndrome, but McCoy writes that more than 800,000 Stimulators were sold before the FDA could shut down the company.

It's a good read, and it might just make you rethink snoring devices, thigh reducers and energizing tea ...

- Barbara De Witt

JUST LOOK AT YOURSELF: May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so take a minute to check your awareness of the disease that's affecting more than a million people every year. To make it easy, the Cetaphil Cleansers and Moisturizers company is offering a free body-check card with a five-step self-examination you can do while applying body lotion, and a place to list your self-exam reports. To order, write to Galderma Laboratories, Department CBCC - Cetaphil, 14501 N. Freeway, Fort Worth, TX 76177.

- B.D.

KEEP BUGS AT BAY: Don't you just love the barbecues and patio parties where the host forgets to burn citronella candles? While you're feasting on food from the barbie, mosquitoes are feasting on you - unless you doused yourself with bug repellent instead of cologne.

After feeling like the entree at too many summer soirees, Minneapolis- based jewelry designer Jill Johnson did some research. She discovered insects are drawn to the face and shoulders, attracted to the carbon dioxide emitted from breathing. They also like the ankles. So she invented a sterling silver aroma-diffusing jewelry collection called Bugs-B-Wear to repel summertime insects. The collection of earrings, anklets, necklaces and pins is filled with a blend of citronella, mint and lemongrass. Each piece of jewelry, priced from $18 to $28, comes with a vial of repellent and a dropper for refilling. When the repellent is gone, you can use the dropper to fill the jewelry with your favorite fragrance, or buy additional refills, priced at $5 each. To order, call (877) 877-7879 or go to the www.bugsbwear.com.

- B.D.

WOMEN'S CENTER: Near the lobby of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center is a resource center with everything from brochures and videotapes about health issues to information on community help lines and hospital services. A new addition to the Providence Health Resource Center is the Women's Corner, which has educational materials focusing on women's health concerns. From 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, the center will hold an open house to introduce the new materials. The medical center is located at 501 S. Buena Vista St. in Burbank. To attend the open house or for more information, call (800) 422-8820.

- Daily News

CAPTION(S):

6 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2) Author Bob McCoy holds a Radioclast electrode to Stephanie King's forehead while she holds an electrode in her hand. Purpose: diagnosis by electricity. At right, radium was used as a cure for just about everything.

(3 -- 4) no caption (``Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud From the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices'')

(5 -- 6) no caption (Bugs-B-Wear jewelry)
COPYRIGHT 2001 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 28, 2001
Words:667
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