In the January post, I argued that although random mutations may indeed cause cancer, the research reported at that time failed to account for the possibility that environmental factors were contributing to (purportedly) random mutations.
Once again this truncated and simplified narrative that cancer is just a random phenomenon is being spun in The Wall Street Journal to explain (away) cancer rates, this time in children:
Ron Winslow (Nov 19, 2015). New Light Shed on Cancer Mystery. The Wall Street Journal, A5. (print version referenced. Online version available here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/study-could-result-in-new-strategies-for-treating-juvenile-cancer-1447885577
A detailed analysis of the DNA of more than 1,100 children is shedding light on one of medicine’s most perplexing mysteries: Why do kids get cancer? Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis found that hereditary genetic mutations account for 8.5% of childhood malignancies, a higher amount than expected. Yet they found a family history of cancer in only 40% of children with such mutations.....
Pediatric cancer is a rare disease, comprising less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year. The American Cancer Society estimates that 10,380 children under age 15 will be diagnosed with the disease this year. Due to treatment advances in the past several decades, more than 80% of patients survive at least five years, the ACS said.Majia here: HOW DO THEY (e.g., Dr. Downing) KNOW THAT THESE ERRORS IN REPLICATION ARE NOT CAUSED BY ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES?
Researchers, however, have only begun to understand why children develop the disease to start with. Except in rare cases, there is little evidence linking environmental factors such as tobacco smoke to pediatric cancer, Dr. Downing said. “The majority of these cancers likely arise as a result of mistakes in DNA replication that occur at a low frequency during normal development,” he explained.
Notice how the article truncates environmental exposure to tobacco smoke, discounting all of the other environmental contributions such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and ionizing radiation in causing mutations.
Moreover, this WSJ article dismisses the potential impact of tobacco smoke on childhood cancer rates without even considering the body of research that has linked parental smoking with childhood cancer rates. For example:
T Sorahan1, RJ Lancashire, MA HuIt6n, I Peck1 and AM Stewart (1997). Childhood cancer and parental use of tobacco: deaths from 1953 to 1955. British Journal of Cancer 75(1) 135-138. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2222709/pdf/brjcancer00178-0139.pdfMajia here: This study establishes a strong link between parental smoking and pediatric cancer.
Summary Parental smoking data have been abstracted from the interview records of the case-control study that first indicated that pregnancy radiographs are a cause of childhood cancer (Oxford Survey of Childhood Cancers, deaths from 1953 to 1955). Reported smoking habits for the parents of 1549 children who died from cancer were compared with similar information for the parents of 1549 healthy controls (matched pairs analysis). There was a statistically significant positive trend between paternal daily consumption of tobacco and the risk of childhood cancer (P < 0.001). This association could not be explained by maternal smoking, social class, paternal or maternal age at the birth of the survey child, sibship position or obstetric radiography. About 15% of all childhood cancers in this series could be attributable to paternal smoking.
Why is the Wall Street Journal reporting that tobacco smoke has no impact on childhood cancer rates?
Why is the Wall Street Journal attributing childhood cancer to random chance when a variety of environmental factors have been linked to childhood cancer rates?
M. L. McBride (1998, May-June) Childhood cancer and environmental contaminants. Can J Public Health. 1998 May-Jun;89 Suppl 1:S53-62, S58-68. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9654794This is just one of many studies establishing links between childhood cancer rates and environmental exposures.
ABSTRACT: This article reviews the available epidemiologic evidence for relationships between the development of cancer in childhood and environmental agents, specifically chemicals, ionizing radiation, low-frequency electromagnetic fields, and infectious agents. Chemical exposures include medications and other drugs, components of diet, and second-hand exposure to industrial chemicals and to environmental carcinogens. Ionizing radiation is the only well-established risk factor for childhood cancers. Suggestive associations with excess childhood cancer risk have been found with exposures to paints, petroleum products, solvents, pesticides and metals. An excess risk of brain tumours has been reported with ingestion of n-nitroso compounds, and there have been positive findings relating leukemia risk and infections. Studies of risk of childhood cancer with parental use of alcohol and with parental smoking have been generally negative, while the inconsistencies and generally low risks reported in studies of power-frequency electromagnetic fields do not support a causal relationship.
Random mutations may explain some cancer but any increase in childhood cancers has to be explained by environmental factors. Ignoring environmental factors or deliberately misrepresenting the research findings pertaining to them is PROPAGANDA of the worst kind.
Media repetition of flawed news reports raises suspicion.
Friday, January 2, 2015
For years our medical authorities have blamed cancer on hereditary and lifestyle choices, such as smoking. These factors do indeed help predict the likelihood of an individual getting cancer, particularly smoking. Smoking is an environmental cause of cancer over which we have some control.
However, most environmental causes of cancer are hard to control because they derive from genotoxins in our air, food, water, cosmetics, etc.
However, our health authorities want us to concentrate only on those environmental factors we do have control over and they attempt to deflect our attention from ubiquitous and growing levels of genotoxins in our environment.
The Wall Street Journal illustrates this type of subterfuge in an article describing a study that blamed "stochastic mutations" for the majority of cancer cases while describing those stochastic mutations as purely random:
Whalen, Jeanne (2015, January 1) Besides Lifestyle and Inherited Genes, Cancer Risk Also Tied to Bad Luck: Researchers Point to Mutations That Crop Up When Cells Divide Over Lifetime. The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/besides-lifestyle-and-genetics-cancer-risk-also-tied-to-bad-luck-1420139400The researchers have represented stochastic mutations as purely RANDOM, but that is NOT TRUE.
Poor lifestyle choices and inherited genes are known to raise a person’s risk of developing cancer. But new research concludes that the majority of our risk across cancer types is due to another factor: bad luck when our cells divide.
The analysis, published in the journal Science, says genetic mutations that randomly crop up as our stem cells divide are “the major contributors to cancer overall, often more important than either hereditary or external environmental factors.”
The researchers, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, analyzed published scientific papers to identify the number of stem cells, and the rate of stem-cell division, among 31 tissue types, though not for breast and prostate tissue, which they excluded from the analysis. Then they compared the total number of lifetime stem-cell divisions in each tissue against a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer in that tissue in the U.S.
The correlation between these parameters suggests that two-thirds of the difference in cancer risk among various tissue types can be blamed on random, or “stochastic,” mutations in DNA occurring during stem-cell division, and only one-third on hereditary or environmental factors like smoking, the researchers conclude. “Thus, the stochastic effects of DNA replication appear to be the major contributor to cancer in humans,” they wrote.
Indeed, exposure to IONIZING RADIATION is a MAJOR cause of stochastic mutations, among other genotoxins, as illustrated by this account produced by the US EPA:
EPA Stochastic Health Effects http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html
Stochastic effects are associated with long-term, low-level (chronic) exposure to radiation. ("Stochastic" refers to the likelihood that something will happen.) Increased levels of exposure make these health effects more likely to occur, but do not influence the type or severity of the effect.
Cancer is considered by most people the primary health effect from radiation exposure. Simply put, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. Ordinarily, natural processes control the rate at which cells grow and replace themselves. They also control the body's processes for repairing or replacing damaged tissue. Damage occurring at the cellular or molecular level, can disrupt the control processes, permitting the uncontrolled growth of cells cancer This is why ionizing radiation's ability to break chemical bonds in atoms and molecules makes it such a potent carcinogen.
Other stochastic effects also occur. Radiation can cause changes in DNA, the "blueprints" that ensure cell repair and replacement produces a perfect copy of the original cell. Changes in DNA are called mutations.
Sometimes the body fails to repair these mutations or even creates mutations during repair. The mutations can be teratogenic or genetic. Teratogenic mutations are caused by exposure of the fetus in the uterus and affect only the individual who was exposed. Genetic mutations are passed on to offspring.
Non-Stochastic Health EffectsMajia here: The EPA account clearly explains that radiation CAUSES stochastic effects, as do other mutagens. Yet, the Wall Street Journal account would have us believe that cancer is caused only by RANDOM health effects.
Non-stochastic effects appear in cases of exposure to high levels of radiation, and become more severe as the exposure increases. Short-term, high-level exposure is referred to as 'acute' exposure.
However, in truth radiation and other ENVIRONMENTAL GENOTOXINS cause, or perhaps I should say, increase probability of [stochastic] mutations.
I need to investigate the original study to see who funded the study and how they represented their results. That said, there is no doubt in my mind that the Wall Street Journal article is a propaganda piece.
Individual monitoring data and EPA Radnet data demonstrate that radiation levels in the US have increased since Fukushima. Our environment is becoming much more radioactive and genotoxic because of our disregard for protecting biological life.
Our so called leaders would prefer to obscure our understanding rather than confront the human-engineered toxins and polluters that threaten our genomic integrity.
READERS of The Wall Street Journal article came to the same conclusion I did, as demonstrated by this comment:
The conclusion; that mutations are the result of statistical chance,
All events in the universe are caused, and therefore, not a matter
This is the fundamental presumption of all science.
People who do not eat meat have less chance of ALL CANCERS.
This simple fact invalidates the statistical argument for the
cause of mutations being "chance."
The concept of "chance" or "probability" is primitive and goes
back to the days when scientists who did not the cause of an
event, ascribed the cause to "Chance," in effect, admitting their
This is terrible science. Just because an equation includes a large stochastic variable does not mean it's "bad luck". It simply means the other variables don't do a great job of predicting the outcome and that more investigation needs to be done to find factors with higher correlations.
I cannot believe Johns Hopkins would publish such an abomination. Perhaps the authors no longer desire research funds?
I cannot believe Johns Hopkins would publish such an abomination. Perhaps the authors no longer desire research funds?