Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The never-ending cellphone scare

There are lots of snooty people who have a need to believe that anything popular is contemptible so there will always be those who scour for "dirt" on mobile phones. A pity that the facts are so pesky. The guy below is still gullible in some ways but he can see stuff that is REALLY obvious

Mobile phones, deodorants and coffee are extremely unlikely to cause cancer, according to a new risk report designed to combat urban myths about what causes the disease. But Australian cancer specialist Professor Brendan Stewart put smoking, drinking alcohol and deliberate exposure to sunlight in the highest risk bracket. His report is published today in the academic journal Mutation Research Reviews, coinciding with World Cancer Day.

The aim of the myth-busting exercise was to calm public fears and prevent pointless hysteria, focusing instead on the real causes of cancer. Endless media articles had left the public confused and alarmed, said Professor Stewart from the University of NSW.

His article, titled "Banding carcinogenic risks in developed countries: A procedural basis for qualitative assessment", looks at all the available research to determine not just which chemicals or activities are most likely to cause cancer, but also which are of greatest threat to the public.

He said the most ridiculous myths were that there was asbestos in tampons and that dioxins could leach out of plastic and into water bottles, for example if those bottles were left in a warm car. Also extremely unlikely to cause cancer, despite public fears, are coffee, artificial sweeteners, deodorants, dental fillings and breast implants.

Of proven risk, and absolutely top of the list, is smoking tobacco, followed by passive smoking. "In terms of most deaths caused and the potential to save the most lives, cigarettes are number one," he said. "Cigarettes are the only consumer product which are lethal when used in accordance with the manufacturer's intention. In terms of proven risk, tobacco smoking and asbestos are equal in terms of the nature of the evidence; but in terms of numbers of people dying, tobacco is far worse."

Professor Stewart said drinking alcohol, deliberate exposure to sunlight and occupational exposure to some chemicals, including asbestos, were all proven to cause cancer. Air pollution, solarium tanning, smoking marijuana and some chemicals in processed meats are all likely to cause cancer, but this has yet to be definitely proven.

"People are incredibly confused," Professor Stewart said. "When they read stories in the media about different studies in isolation it is difficult for them to know how much concern they should attach to it. "I found a way of ordering the evidence in terms of carcinogenicity and the evidence of the circumstances of exposure. It is important to ensure that attention given to proven means of preventing cancer is not reduced by unnecessary public concern about risks that may have no impact at all."

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said the study was very useful in enabling people to put the risks they had heard about in one-off studies in perspective. "Professor Stewart has been quite clever; he has taken the likelihood of the chemical causing cancer and married that with the likelihood of exposure and developed a sliding scale to put chemicals in a high- or low-risk category. He has brought together a lot of useful data so the public are not unduly frightened by the myriad of reports."


Spinal injury progress?

A FORMER Russian circus artist, who recovered from a broken back and has since helped thousands of people suffering from spinal injuries, is keen to open a clinic in Britain. Valentin Dikul, who defied doctors' predictions that he would never walk again after he fell from a trapeze, went on to set several weightlifting records. He has since treated dozens of British patients who travelled to Russia to undergo his unconventional therapy.

"I've opened up clinics in France, Italy, Japan and most recently in Poland," said Dikul, 70, who has received offers to set up in Britain. "Over the years I've had many patients from Britain, but I can't treat all foreigners who come to me as I have limited bed capacity for people with more serious injuries. "With the right local partner, I'd be happy to open up a clinic in Britain because it would make things much easier for British patients." Dikul, who runs several clinics in Moscow, said he has 136,000 applications for treatment from 36 countries, including Britain.

His patients, including paraplegics who have been told by their doctors that they will never walk or use their hands again, are put through a gruelling regime of exercise designed by Dikul, who broke his back aged 24 when a cable on his trapeze snapped. His method seeks to encourage certain nerves and muscles to compensate for those that no longer function. As patients embark on a rigorous physical therapy programme, which lasts at least a year, their bodies are said to learn to reroute nerve impulses to healthy muscle groups, creating greater freedom of movement.

Dikul said his method is not a miracle cure that heals all his patients. But he claimed to have helped thousands of people who had been confined to wheelchairs to walk again. "Normally people with spinal cord injury are taught to adapt to their environment, how to turn on a TV or light switch with a remote control, or work at a computer with his teeth, if need be," said Dikul, a bear of a man renowned for his iron will and quick temper. "What I'm trying to do is return the patient to the highest percentage of movement possible. Not everyone who comes here will walk again, but everyone will improve."

David Heard, who runs Sportability, a British charity, welcomed the possibility of a Dikul clinic in Britain. He first met the Russian 10 years ago when he arrived in Moscow with a friend who had damaged his spinal cord in a car accident. They were so impressed by Dikul's methods, they brought three of his therapists back to Britain and opened a centre providing similar treatment. "I was pretty amazed by what I saw," recalled Heard, who later sent 30 Britons to Dikul's clinic but was forced to close his own when he ran out of funds. "It is not a method suited to everyone, and of course results vary depending on the extent of the damage, but there's no doubt that he gets results."

After both his parents died, Dikul fled his orphanage to join a Soviet circus, where he became an accomplished trapeze artist. Refusing to give up hope after his accident, he studied anatomy and developed exercises so gruelling that he would sometimes pass out from exhaustion on the floor. After six years' rigorous training he took his first unaided steps. Two decades later he was back in the circus, juggling balls weighing 7 stone, lifting two-ton trucks and bending coins with his bare hands. "I make no false promises," he said. "There's no quick cure here and in some cases we can do little. It's a painful and tough process and ultimately it all boils down to willpower. That's what cured me and that's what I tell my patients."


ADHD drugs not worth it

A leading child psychiatrist says doctors should cut back on using stimulants for ADHD after a study showed the drugs could stunt growth and had limited effect. Sydney University professor Joseph Rey, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, is urging doctors to review their patients' need for stimulants, the mainstay of treatment for hyperactivity disorders. Professor Rey said the Australian medical community should take notice of new findings from a major US study which suggested Ritalin and dexamphetamine, the drugs most commonly used to treat ADHD, were of limited use.

The study of almost 600 children revealed that while those on stimulants did better than kids on behavioural therapy or no treatment at 14 months, there was no difference between the groups after three years. It also confirmed the drugs could stunt growth.

Prof Rey said the results of the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study should change attitudes to ADHD treatment. ``While results of one study rarely justify drastic changes of practice, the findings underscore the complexity of ADHD, show that stimulant drugs are far from being a silver bullet and that there is much we do not yet know,'' Prof Rey wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. ``This does not mean that stimulants no longer have a place in the treatment of ADHD. ``However, that place has shrunk and clinicians should be circumspect when assessing the need for ongoing treatment, (for example) through medication breaks.''

Research shows up to 11 per cent of Australian children aged six to 17 have the chronic condition, which is characterised by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Stimulant drugs are used widely, with prescribing rates increasing almost tenfold over the past decade. Rates are highest in Western Australia where almost five in every 100 children are on the medication. In 2006, there were 264,000 prescriptions nationwide for the most popular stimulant, Ritalin.

Initial results from the NIMH study released in 1999 showing the short term benefits of medication were influential in driving up prescription rates. But the results of the two-year follow-up showed children in the other treatment groups - those on tailored psychosocial treatment or routine community care - had essentially ``caught up'' to those on medication taken alone or combined with behavioural therapy.

Prof Rey said this leaves long term benefits in doubt and and suggests there might be a certain amount of ``growing out'' involved with the condition. ``Much needs to be done to clarify who benefits the most from medication, at what developmental point stimulants are most useful and for how long they should be taken,'' he 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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