Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Does reported racism cause breast cancer?

Typical epidemiological garbage. I would not be particularly surprised to find that whiny women DO get more cancer -- but even that link does not seem to have been established. Comment below by Michael Fumento

"Breast Cancer Link to Racial Discrimination" No doubt some demagogues who would have us think every problem blacks have is due to persistent racism would have no problem with that headline. But problematic the study remains. The headline comes from a study conducted at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In it, black women completed a questionnaire in 1997 that included questions on perceived discrimination in two domains: "everyday" discrimination (such as being treated as dishonest) and major experiences of unfair treatment due to race (such as job, housing, and police). From 1997 to 2003, 593 incident cases of breast cancer were found.

Although I haven't been able yet to obtain a full copy of the study, it appears there was a weak non-statistically significant association between women claiming discrimination and breast cancer. No significance means even that apparent weak association means nothing. So the authors sliced the data at the 50-year mark and - voila! - statistical significance. Among women under 50, those who reported discrimination on the job had a 32% higher rate of breast cancer than those who didn't report it. There was a 48% increase for those who reported discrimination in all three situations - housing, job, and police - relative to those who reported none.

"These findings," concluded the authors, "suggest that perceived experiences of racism are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer among U.S. black women, particularly younger women."

Now here's what they didn't tell you. First, overall breast cancer rates are much lower for black women than for white women, with 118 cases per 100,000 for blacks versus 132 per 100,000 for whites for the years 2000-2004. That doesn't exactly jibe with racism as a carcinogen.

Second, not only was there no significant association until the authors starting slicing the data, but even after the slicing the data were barely within the realm of statistical significance. In other words, the association is far weaker than it appears.

Third, there is no known biological explanation for the alleged phenomenon. The one suggested in the news stories is stress. Stress can indeed cause terrible health problems, as I have documented in countless articles. With faux media-spread syndromes, we're literally making people sick by telling they should be sick. Stress can even kill, as with heart disease. But although many have looked, nobody has yet found a link between stress and cancer.

Assuming the Howard study shows any kind of connection between perceived racism and breast cancer, "perceived" may be the key word. People who perceive things differently from other people are different from other people. There may be a link between discrimination-perceivers and non-perceivers that we ought to look for.

Meanwhile it is true that younger black women (those under 54) have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer than their white counterparts, 94 versus 91 per 100,000 for 2004. Why might that be? And why might older black women be less at risk? There are many differences between black and white women that we know of that do have biological plausibility. The most obvious is genetics. This notwithstanding a recent quote from a black doctor that - I'm not making this up - anybody who says blacks and whites are genetically different is a racist. So blacks are just darker than whites because they spend more time in the sun, right?

Meanwhile, we know that Ashkenazi Jews are especially prone to breast cancer because of specific identified genes. Therefore we must scientifically conclude that ... Mike Fumento is both a racist and an anti-Semite. Yet we know of many other differences, such as weight, diet, and smoking. Bottom line: If you're really interested in exploring differences between breast cancer rates among different groups, you should probably devote your resources to paths that actually might lead to answers rather than to headlines.


The pumpkin cure for diabetes

Early days but you never know ...

The humble pumpkin could end the need for people with diabetes to have insulin injections. Compounds found in the vegetable could potentially replace or drastically cut the daily number of injections for diabetics, a new study published yesterday in the journal Chemistry and Industry suggests. Research showed that pumpkin extract promotes regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells in diabetic rats, boosting levels of insulin-producing beta cells and insulin in the blood.

A group at East China Normal University found diabetic rats fed the extract had only 5 per cent less plasma insulin and 8 per cent fewer insulin-positive (beta) cells than healthy rats. Research leader Tao Xia said: "Pumpkin extract is potentially a very good product for pre-diabetic persons, as well as those who already have diabetes." Insulin injections would probably still be necessary but the extract would seriously reduce the amount of insulin they had to take, he added.

David Bender, sub-dean at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, told the journal: "This research is very exciting. "The main finding is that feeding pumpkin extract prevents the progressive destruction of pancreatic beta-cells ... but it is impossible to say whether pumpkin extract would promote regeneration in humans. I think the exciting thing is that this may be a source of medication that could be taken by mouth." The protective effect of pumpkin is thought to be due to antioxidants and D-chiroinositol, a molecule that mediates insulin activity.

Diabetes is estimated to affect more than 230 million people, almost 6 per cent of the world's population, according to the World Diabetes Foundation. The rats used in the study represented type I diabetes.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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