This blog report is based on Dr. Mukherjee’s NY Times commentary made on July 16th. To summarize his observations, cancer prevention faces an uphill battle due to three major forces; science, politics and society.
To explain this he brings up the highly contentious issue of cell phone usage and it’s link to cancer. Scientifically, there is little proof that electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from active connections from cell phones lead to increased incidences in cancer. The type of radiation that is emitted is so weak that it has never been shown in any experiments of any kind to damage DNA (a fundamental hallmark of cancer development). However, an interphone study that was conducted that asked people to state their cell phone usage patients (low, medium or high) and then followed them for a period of time to look for cancer occurrence (brain cancer), found a link. Other studies have since found that what people perceive as their phone usage is frequently very different from reality (that is of their actual usage). So, this study is probably not very accurate. Furthermore, it is easy to ask what the incidence of cancer was before the adoption of cell phone and after. When one does that there is NO correlation at all to phone usage and cancer incidence. However, this has not stopped the WHO to place cell phone usage in the ‘possible carcinogen’ category. This may not be a mistake itself, but reminds us that despite science policy and warnings will still be made.
Another issue that focused on politics was focused on formaldehyde. This example is the exact polar opposite of the above one. Here, it is well established that formaldehyde in the laboratory caused DNA damage that leads to cancer. Furthermore, those who work in the formaldehyde industry do develop certain cancers at higher incidences (at least certain kinds of blood cancers). These studies occurred over 30 years ago and only now did the National Toxicology Program only now issued a statement calling this chemical a carcinogen. The large reason behind this was that science was finally placed before politics. Lobbying efforts by companies who make the chemical have fought long and hard to stop any major governmental organizations from labelling this chemical as such. They, of course would prefer if nothing negative is ever said about any of their many chemical/compounds/etc that make them billions of dollars. I would bet my money on the fact that most if not all of the senior lobbyist and CEO’s of these chemical companies that make formaldehyde have not worked with the raw processing of this drug and certainly don’t suffer from the carcinogenic events (if they or their families did, I assume they might not put profits before safety).
Finally, despite strong evidence from the 50’s onward, tobacco companies have been doing everything they possibly can to prevent any rules that are passed that might negatively impact sales. Historic and unprecedented/massive lawsuits against the major tobacco companies did curtail the sales of cigarettes for some time but they seem to have been on the rise again. Australia has just enacted some of the toughest laws on cigarette packaging in the world. The US has just adopted some strict guidelines that require that graphic consequences of cigarette smoking be shown on the cartons despite huge resistance by the industry. It has been shown that plain packaging and ‘gross imaging’ might just dissuade non smokers to avoid the habit causing agents. The cost to health and healthcare is too great to ignore and the link of smoking to cancer is too great to ignore!
This summarizes what was written. Science should triumph over lobbying efforts to reveal truth to Americans (and to those living in all countries), politics should not be allowed to dominate over policies regulation safety, and social norms (such as smoking) should be kep in check by aggressive policies to assist people avoid bad habits.
Thanks….Dr. C Cancer Made Simple!
- Opinion: Patrolling Cancer’s Borderlands (nytimes.com)
- Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer or Not? The Latest Answer Is No (textually.org)
- New Research Finds Cell-Phones Don’t Cause Cancer (amog.com)
- Benign Brain Tumors Not Linked to Cell Phones (livescience.com)