Thursday, January 10, 2008


I am a bit tired of debunking this stuff (see the second post here, for instance) so I will just ask one question: If vitamin D is so good for cancer etc. (dubious), what is wrong with adding the stuff to butter and margarine? -- which most countries have been doing for decades anyway

Enjoying a little sunshine may not be as bad for you as people think. Research from the scientist who alerted the world to its role in skin cancer has suggested that its health benefits may outweigh the risks. The hazards of moderate sunbathing have probably been exaggerated, according to a study that shows how sunlight’s effect of boosting vitamin D production may actually protect the body against cancer.

While ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun is the chief cause of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, the new work from the US shows that synthesis of vitamin D can compensate in other ways. The vitamin appears to protect against tumours of the breast, lung, colon and prostate, the study found. The overall effect of sunshine on cancer risk may therefore be positive.

The findings come from a team headed by Richard Setlow, of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, who played a leading role in establishing that UV radiation can damage DNA and cause melanoma. Though Dr Setlow still considers sunlight a serious health risk, and advises people to protect themselves against excessive UV exposure, his new data show that it can also have health benefits because of vitamin D.

The work could lead to new formulations for sunscreen, so that it filters out harmful UVA radiation that can trigger melanoma, while allowing through more of the UVB radiation that stimulates vitamin D production. It does not suggest that sunbeds are safe, as these rely on UVA radiation.

Though many people regard a tan as healthy, medical opinion changed in the 1950s and 1960s when sunlight’s role in skin cancer was discovered. Dr Setlow led much of the key research. Public health campaigns have since encouraged people to cover up or wear sunscreen when exposed to direct sunlight. In Britain, 8,900 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed annually and it causes 1,800 deaths.

However, some scientists have begun to question whether safety advice is too extreme. While the link to melanoma is not disputed, sunlight is also the principal source of vitamin D, which research suggests improves prognosis in many cancers. It may even help the body to fight melanoma.

In his latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Setlow calculated vitamin D synthesis at different latitudes. People living near the equator in Australia produce 3.4 times more vitamin“ D in response to sunlight than UK residents. Incidence of all skin cancers also increases towards the equator. The scientists also found that incidence rates for other cancers, such as breast, lung and prostate, increased from north to equator too. When they examined survival rates, however, they found that people exposed to more sunlight had a better prognosis. Dr Setlow said: “In previous work, we have shown that survival rates for these cancers improve when the diagnosis coincides with the season of maximum sun exposure.”

Joanna Owens, senior science information officer for Cancer Research UK, said: “A little bit of sun goes a long way. The amount of exposure you need to top up your vitamin D is always less than the amount needed to tan or burn, which increases the risk of skin cancer.”


Patients regret apnoea surgery

An important warning, I think

ALMOST two-thirds of people who undergo surgery for sleep apnoea suffer persistent side-effects and almost a quarter regret their decision to go under the knife. The findings were made by researchers at the University of Adelaide, whose study, published in this week's edition of the British Medical Journal, recommends surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea be performed only after a case review by an ethics committee.

Between 2 and 4 per cent of Australians have sleep apnoea, with middle-aged, overweight men the main sufferers, about 24 per cent of them experiencing the condition, which collapses the upper airways during sleep, sometimes stopping breathing. Treatment usually begins with weight and alcohol management and use of breathing apparatus applying continuous pressure while sleeping before surgery is considered.

Adam Elshaug, a lecturer at the University of Adelaide, reviewed reports from around the world, including his own audit of 94 patients in Adelaide. He found that up to 62per cent of 21,346 patients who had surgery reported persistent side-effects such as a dry throat, difficulty in swallowing, voice changes and disturbances of smell and taste. Up to 22 per cent regretted having surgery. "The success rates were relatively low, ranging from 13 per cent for certain procedures, up to 47 per cent for the more advanced procedures," Dr Elshaug said.

The number of patients undergoing surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea is growing, with 3585 private patients recorded nationally in 2005, up from 3242 in 2004. Sleep specialists and surgeons agree surgery should not be the first port of call for apnoea sufferers, but say it is a viable option for patients who do not benefit from other treatments.

Sam Robinson, an ear, nose and throat surgeon who works with the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, said it was "nonsense" to restrict surgery to clinical trials overseen by an ethics committee. "Modern reconstructive surgery will give a satisfactory response in 70 to 80per cent of patients, maybe up to 90per cent," Dr Robinson said.



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].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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