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.

View full screen

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.


  1. I think that it is worth pointing out THE GROWTH in lung cancers, starting around 1950. It isn't the simple incidence which is most important - it is the growth. Put that way, your hypothesis regarding nuclear fall-out becomes even stronger, since atomic bomb testing grew and grew dafter the war. There ought also to be a rise in other cancers caused more by ingestion than inhaling.


  3. In every country a smoker has a more than 10 times higher lung cancer risk than a never smoker.

    There is absolutely no doubt that smoking is by far the biggest factor for lung cancer.