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.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Tobacco control will make you fat before they kill you

An interesting but not unsurprising chart. Pretty much every smoker in the world knows that if you quit smoking you start to get chubby and generally non-smokers tend to be a lot more chubby compared to smokers. And that's not forgetting that smokers have marginally lower blood pressure than our non-smoking friends and becoming a quitter increases your risk of high blood pressure independent of weight gain, see below.

Given that we are told that tobacco kills 6 million people world wide and that obesity and high blood pressure kills 6 million people world wide (source VGIF) . It would seem that the merchants of death in the tobacco control industry are giving the merchants of death in the tobacco industry a run for their money.

The difference being that the merchants of death in the tobacco control industry want to make you fat and ugly before they kill you and you don't get to spend a life time enjoying smoking.

It will be interesting to see if e-cig users have increased risk of weight gain and high blood pressure, time will tell. In the mean time  I am sticking to lovely cigarettes.

Source BMJ (Published 28 June 2011)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Lung cancer and rain - is there a link?

I recently discovered that a down loadable weather map for the US exists and that it could be obtained as a shape file  . This is handy because a shape file of weather patterns is just the ticket if you just happen to want to compare precipitation data with X over time and space .