Monday, 13 November 2017

My version of Cancer Research UKs lung cancer time line of events

On one of Cancer Research UK's (CRUK) blogs you can find a chart that shows lung cancer rates
compared to smoking prevalence over the last few decades for the UK and on the face of it it is very convincing. But there is, I would suggest, more to it than meets the eye. The chart from the blog is shown next (top) along with a similar chart that I have produced for comparison (bottom).

What seems less convincing is that female lung cancer seems to be rising when male lung cancer is falling, which according to the top chart is because "Smoking rates in women were rising until 1970 then fell more slowly than smoking in men". I would say that smoking rates among women were stable and level between 1950 and 1973 and then fell largely in parallel with men.

But what I find unfathomable is why the lung cancer statistics only start in 1970 why not go back further like on the chart below? CRUK are using lung cancer incidence rather than lung cancer deaths which I think is perfectly reasonable apart from the limitation of only starting at 1970 but death rates are available to the public on the IARC database here  and they go back to 1950. If the theoretical correlation between cigarettes and lung cancer is so strong why not show all the available data? This
seems to a case of "hide the rise" rather than "hide the decline".

What seems convincing about the top chart is that male lung cancer incidence (1970 - today) seems to be falling as a result of "Cancer-smoking link first demonstrated". The problem is that although these events probably did cause a fall in cigarette consumption (eventually), it also implies that this in turn led to a fall in lung cancer. But this can not possibly be true because we know that the lung cancer rates would fall anyway as they did in former soviet countries where cigarette consumption remains strong and stable to this day.

Here is a chart showing level cigarette consumption in the former soviet union.

Clearly the 'smoking causes lung cancer' narrative has failed to properly penetrate Russia.

If we now turn to lung cancer rates in the USSR/FSU we can see that they fall in line with western countries. We can see in Russia (population 143 million) and  Ukraine (44 million) compared with the US (324 million).

If we now add male UK lung cancer rates to the above chart if anything we see an excess of
UK male deaths during the period that saw a fall in cigarette consumption compared with other countries. It's worth noting that that it is not as implausible as it might seem that people stopping smoking during this period could have increased lung cancer deaths in males. This is because people would have been inhaling radiation from atomic weapons testing fallout at the time and we know from experiments on dogs that smoking can protect against lung cancer caused in this way.  I doubt that it is true, on this evidence alone, but it is interesting and worth a mention.

The CRUK chart misses out the following important date 1956.  In 1956 the Medical Research Council submitted a report, at the request of the UK government, to the UK government where it stated that nuclear fallout from atomic weapons testing "could" "in theory" cause lung cancer in "some people". But did not give an estimate as to how many people would get lung cancer and therefore be killed by the testing carried out by the British government and other states in the interests of conducting the cold war and achieving energy security.

The chair of the report was Sir Harold Himsworth the then head of the Medical Research Council (MRC). I have no doubt that it would have been made clear to Himsworth the importance of the atomic weapons program if he did not already know this. As he once made it clear to one Richard Doll when Doll was thinking of publishing a paper linking nuclear fallout with leukaemia and stating that 'there is no threshold [radiation] dose below which no effect is produced' in humans.
 ‘Look, I think this is so speculative, I wouldn’t publish this if I were you, it will only damage your reputation as a scientist.’ - Sir Harold Himsworth to Richard Doll.

It was Doll who is credited with linking smoking with lung cancer and therefore relevant to the "Cancer-smoking link first demonstrated" alluded in the CRUK chart. But I would guess that Himsworth had bigger fish to fry because he had to find a way to green light UK atmospheric testing and , presumably, reassure the public that testing would not cause a global lung cancer epidemic. See chart left.

The thing about the Soviets is that they did not need to get elected and did not care whether the public was concerned about weapons testing because they could always ship people off to a labour camp if they complained. If lawyers wanted to bring a class action against the government for causing millions of lung cancer deaths world wide then the lawyers could be shipped off to a labour camp too (an idea not without merit).

Contrast this with the UK where the government just simply gave money to local authorities to persuade everyone that smoking caused the pre 1950 lung cancer rise. And the public clearly was convinced by this 'causal' link - a link proven by independent scientists, working for the UK government funded Medical Research Council , headed Harold Himsworth, Dolls boss, because they, the British public did slowly start to stop smoking (this is in contrast to Russians who carried on smoking for decades longer).

Himsworths report also pointed out that there is more radiation in rain

227. "The radioactive fall-out is cleared, sooner or later, from the air by deposition. Rain contains the bulk of deposited activity and continuing measurements have been made since 1951 of the radioactivity of rain water collected from specially treated roofs. Any radioactive dust deposited on the roofs in spells of dry weather is washed off and included with the next sample of rainwater. From these measurements the amount of radioactivity deposited per square mile can be determined for each explosion." - Medical Research Council report to UK government 1956
In a letter from Himsworth to the Tobacco Manufactures' Standing Committee dated 1957, he pointed
out that "the contribution of radioactivity from cigarette was smoking was negligible compared with the amounts breathed from the atmosphere".

I have yet to find this study by Dr W Anderson that Himsworth refers to, which is a shame because it could make interesting reading.

So I have created my own time line of events for the UK lung cancer epidemic and here it is with
the CRUK version for comparison

Rather good I think.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Norwegians turn to cigarettes in despair at unexplained lung cancer epidemic

If you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for lung cancer it has a helpful chart that plots US male lung cancer rates to cigarette consumption over a period of about 100 years. The correlation is very strong and convincing (see right). However, the USA is just one of many countries that has lung cancer and cigarette consumption data. Take France or Russia for example. But for a long time I have been wanting to look at Norway because like the United States of America they get lung cancer too but have a radically differing cigarette consumption history.

The problem here is that while the male lung cancer epidemic in Norway has broadly the same signature as the USA (rises to ~1990 and then falls) and indeed the same signature as pretty much every other country in the world, it's cigarette consumption is poles apart from the US. It is so far apart that manufactured cigarettes in Norway never really became that popular and they reached peak consumption after the lung cancer epidemic starts. Cigarette consumption peaks in Norway in 2004 at 3 per person, some 78 years after the USA last had that level in 1926.

So unless you believe that cigarettes can cause a lung cancer epidemic before they are physically smoked then the only conclusion you draw from this is that these lung cancer epidemics were not caused by cigarette consumption and that the data for the USA is, clearly, pure coincidence.

In 1956 the UK Medical Research Council submitted a document to the UK government in which it stated the following:-

"In theory, however, the inhalation of radioactive material in particulate form, either as a result of fall-out from nuclear weapon explosions ... could lead to the accumulation of a high radiation dose within the lungs. Such particles would not be uniformly distributed within the lungs but would tend to aggregate on discrete small areas of the bronchi, which would thus be subjected to a high radiation dose, with the result that in the long run lung cancers might be produced in some people" 

Note that the report failed to estimate how many people "some people" is.

Here is a chart showing the lung cancer deaths of "some people" in Norway.

And here is a chart showing the deaths of  "some people" in the USA .

Last but not least, here is a chart showing the deaths of "some people" in the World.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

How atomic weapons testing can explain racial differences in US lung cancer rates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page showing the different lung cancer rates among races in the United States of America and the one for males is shown below.

It clearly shows that black males have the highest risk of lung cancer followed by white males and then Hispanics (and other groups) having the lowest risk. It is plausible that smoking has caused these cancers by some unknown mechanism and that some other unknown mechanism/s alter the risk according to ethnicity. But I think atomic weapons testing fallout provides a simpler explanation that arguably makes fewer assumptions and the explanation is location.

A few years back I plotted white male lung cancer rates against annual rain fall by US county and found a strong correlation. Radioactive fallout comes down from the atmosphere mostly in rain so we could plausibly expect to see more lung cancer where there is more rain. See chart below.

As can be seen there is indeed more lung cancer where there is more rain for white males.
And for comparison here is male smoking prevalence by US county 1996 and 2012.

If it's written on a cigarette packet - it's probably not true.
(Fredriks law)

The reason why I chose white males is as follows. Black males are more likely to be diagnosed as having lung cancer than white males or Hispanic males . If you know that black people live in  greater numbers in the south east of the US ,  then it would be tempting to assume that this explains the higher levels of lung cancer in that region (the stroke belt). But because I chose white males then this plausible explanation for excess lung cancer deaths in the south east of the US is eliminated.

Black people are more likely to live in the parts of the US that have high rainfall and therefore will have higher exposure to atomic weapons testing radioactive fallout 1945 - 1985.


Hispanic people are more likely to live in the parts of the US that have not so much rainfall and therefore will have lower exposure to atomic weapons testing radioactive fallout 1945 - 1985.

The modern lung cancer epidemic in the US correlates with the period of atomic weapons testing fallout period of 1945 - 1985

Historical cigarette consumption United States of America

We can see from comparing lung cancer rates of Spanish men and Mexican men , any theoretically protective property of being Hispanic against lung cancer risk, clearly does not work very well for Spanish males. This is because Spanish males have a massively higher lung cancer risk compared to Mexican males despite both groups being of the same ethnicity.

Male smoking prevalence in Spain in 2001 was 39% and in Mexico in 1998 it was 51%. So location rather than smoking prevalence or ethnicity seems a stronger factor.

Historic lung cancer trends in both Mexico and Spain correlate reasonably well with the nuclear fallout period 1945 - 1985 (the fallout period is for the world).

Historical cigarette consumption in Spain

But then ...

... Mexico does not have a reputation for having many rainy days.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Rizla and Napoleon Bonapartes missing lung cancer epidemic

A while back I bought a packet of Rizla cigarette rolling papers and noticed that they were celebrating their 200 year existence.

I thought to myself that given that the modern lung cancer epidemic occurred in France after the second world war (as it did in every other country in the world) it is quite astonishing that any one could believe that something that became popular many generations ago should precipitate a lung cancer epidemic some 150 years and many generations later. So I decided to have a closer examination of the history of Rizla and lung cancer in France.

According to the this website, one inspired Pierre Lacroix thinks of manufacturing cigarette papers as an alternative for pipes in 1532. Yes, that's right, some 418 years before the lung cancer epidemic in France that the anti-smoking industry claims was caused by cigarettes. By 1766 there is sufficient demand in France for cigarette papers that the Lacroix family set up a mill to aid manufacture of the papers. This is 200 years and many generations before the (smoking attributed) lung cancer epidemic in France happened.

In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte issues the Lacroix family a license to produce rolling papers for the Republic. Clearly hand rolled cigarettes were very popular long before the lung cancer epidemic (shown below) that we are led to believe was caused by them happens.
However, there is a problem because lung cancer is mostly a disease of old age and so if people do not live long enough to have lung cancer then we would not expect there to be much additional lung cancer ( theoretically caused by smoking ). As the chart below shows people did not live as long as we do now.

Prior to the Napoleonic wars people lived between 30 - 39 years of age, some 170 years before the lung cancer epidemic in question. So we would not expect to see a spike in lung cancer in this age group after 1950 because this would mean that it must have been something other than cigarettes that caused it (because people had been smoking for generations before).

The lung cancer epidemic in this age group correlates with the period of atomic weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985 and is not flat as we would expect if smoking had been popular in the same age group for generations before hand.

Life expectancy in France between 1800 and 1900 ranges from 40 - 49 years of age , many decades before the lung cancer epidemic in France which we are told was caused by smoking. So let us look at this age group and see if it correlates to weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985.

Again we see that the correlation is strong with the nuclear fallout period 1945 - ~1985 and not with smoking cigarettes , a habit that that was so popular in this age group that in 1796 Bonaparte issues a license for the sale and distribution of an important component - the cigarette papers.

From 1900 - 1950 the average life expectancy ranges from 50 - 59 years of age and again we see a lung cancer signature that is identical to the lower age groups in the atomic weapons testing fallout period.

It is also worth noting that cigarette consumption, including hand rolled cigarettes, in France has been very flat over the last 70 odd years, the chart below includes an estimate for hand rolled cigarettes.



It is plausible that the manufactured cigarettes caused the epidemic but as we can see from comparing the former the soviet union and the USA (some 30 billion subject years) this can not possibly be true.

So next time you are rolling a cigarette using Rizla (or any other fine brands of cigarette papers) ask your self this question - Is it more likely that a lung cancer epidemic was caused by something that happens at the time (atomic weapons testing fallout in  rainfall) or by something that became popular centuries before hand (roll your own cigarettes)? And don't forget to tell your friends!

Napoleon may have been responsible for causing wars in France but he was probably not responsible for the lung cancer epidemic. The lung cancer epidemic in France was more likely caused by war - the weapons that ended the second world war and the testing of those weapons in the cold war.

It has been pointed out to me that people , reading this post, could believe that there was no lung cancer prior to 1950. The IARC database that the lung cancer data comes from starts
from 1950. But as can be seen in Sweden for example , lung cancer was slowly rising up until
the atomic weapons fallout period started in 1945 where there is a clear trend break ~1950.

Friday, 28 April 2017

How atomic weapons testing can explain an apparently protective effect of radon for lung cancer risk

"Thus, residential radon does not appear to cause lung cancer but rather to protect, in an exposure-level-dependent manner, from its induction by other agents (e.g., cigarette-smoke-related carcinogens (sic)). - (Scott BR 2011)"
I have long been interested in the theory that low does exposure to radon can reduce the risk of lung cancer because I believe that nuclear fallout from atomic weapons testing can explain why this theoretical protective property exists. The study above hypothesizes that at low doses radon in the home can protect against lung cancer (via some unknown mechanism) but at higher doses can cause lung cancer as the chart, from the study, shows.
It is perfectly plausible that such an effect is real but it could also be true that what causes less radon in the home also causes more lung cancer and in this case rain is a good candidate. The fallout hypothesis predicts that there will be more lung cancer where it rains because radiation will be found in higher concentrations where there is more precipitation. And as the following charts show there is indeed more lung cancer and less radon where there is more rain.


It is obvious why radioactive rain can cause more lung cancer but how can rain cause less radon? Well the answer is that it is believed that rainfall reduces exposure to radon.
"Radon progeny in the air can be removed by rainfall, soil moisture, and snow" (UNSCEAR
2000). source

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sweden , USA and nuclear fallout

As it recently came to light that the global fall in lung cancer rates seem to occur in pretty much every country around 1990 and even in countries that continue with very high smoking rates, like Russia for example, I thought I would revisit the start of the global lung cancer epidemic.

The cigarette hypothesis, as a cause of the global epidemic , goes that because cigarettes are believed to cause ~90% of lung cancers then it must follow that the massive rise in lung cancer after the second world war must have been caused by the massive rise in cigarette use 20 years before before the war. But I think that just because people classified as smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer than people classified as never-smokers it does not follow that cigarettes drive lung cancer rates, as is suggested by the chart on the left.

I have created charts, see below, similar to the one above for Sweden as well as the US because I just happen to know that the rise in cigarette use in Sweden took place a good 25 - 30 years after the US.  If the 20 year time lag between cigarette use and lung cancer is true then it should happen in Sweden 20 years later too. Except that it does nothing of the sort. Sweden gets it's lung cancer epidemic just after 1945  just as in the US.

Clearly both lung cancer epidemics start just after 1945 but on the second chart Sweden's cigarette 'epidemic' starts at the same time as it's lung cancer epidemic. Where as the US cigarette 'epidemic' starts decades before it's lung cancer epidemic?!?
It is possible that cigarettes could cause lung cancer in the year of purchase as in Sweden and it is possible that cigarettes could cause lung cancer decades later as in the US but what is improbable is that both are true.

In my mind the fallout hypothesis holds a better explanation because it starts in 1945 (trinity tests) and ends around 1985 (see left) and would be a greater risk for people who smoke cigarettes. Because if say a single exposure to a rainout between 1945 and 1985 for a non-smoker carries an unbelievably small individual risk of lung cancer then those people sucking through rain splattered paper tubes will have a higher risk. But over time, billions  of people exposed en masse to rainouts over decades could cause millions of  lung cancers and the risk would be higher where it rains more, such as is seen in US counties.