Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Shading the Odds

Recent study indicates that "about 40 percent of cancers could be prevented if people stopped smoking and overeating, limited their alcohol, exercised regularly and got vaccines targeting cancer-causing infections."

Forty percent.

According to the WHO, cancer is responsible for one death in eight, more than AIDS, TB, and malaria combined.

Just cut out all the illegal, immoral, and fattening stuff, and you might not live forever, but it will probably feel like forever ...


Dan Moran said...

Three old men are sitting on a porch. One of them says, "You know, I'm 85 years old, and I'm only here because of my virtuous ways. Never smoked, never drank, never fooled around."

The second old man nods. "Yep, I'm 90, and I've been a vegetarian my whole life, worked out regularly, yoga to keep limber, the whole nine yards."

The third old man, who's clearly the oldest, sneers at them both. "Hell, boys, you haven't hardly lived. I've smoked tobacco and marijuana, hash, snorted cocaine, popped what pills came my way, drank what I damn well pleased, screwed everyone who'd stand still for it, ate cheeseburgers and steak and cake and pie until I was stuffed to bursting, and look at the shape I'm in!"

"How old are you, friend?"



Redd Foxx said once that he felt sorry for all the people who didn't smoke, or drink, or eat meat, because someday they were going to find themselves in the hospital, dying of nothing.

Irene said...

Yeah, I've never quite understood stats like that. So if we eliminated all forms of cancer, would the death rate drop? Or would it stay steady at 100%?

BJ said...

Well, if we're telling jokes:

An older couple changed their ways and began eating healthy: salads, bran muffins, etc. When they were in their 80s, they died in a car accident.

No, that's not the punch line, but it works, huh? Anyway, to continue...

St. Peter meets them at the Pearly Gates, and commends them for lives well-lived. They'd been kind, merciful, and caring, and so he was pleased to invite them in to Heaven.

First, he showed them to their room. It was a huuuge hotel room, filled with the most tasteful colours in the most opulent fabrics. And the room was bigger than any house they had ever lived in. The old man asked St. Peter, "How much is this going to cost me?"

"Nothing at all," says St. Peter. "This is Heaven. Everything is free."

Then he took them to see the golf course. Carpeted with the greenest grass, it rivaled any course on Earth. The old man asked St. Peter, "How much are the green fees?"

"Oh, we don't charge anything," said St. Peter. "This is Heaven. Everything is free."

Then he took the couple to an enormous banquet. Everywhere they looked, they saw the richest foods, the most succulent steaks, the sweetest desserts. The old man looked around, asking, "Where are the salads? The vegetable sticks? The bran muffins?"

"Oh, we don't worry about those here," said St. Peter. "This is Heaven. Everything is calorie-free and good for your soul."

Well, the old man takes off his hat and starts stomping on it, screaming. His wife, scared, try to calm him down. "What's wrong?" she asked.

He growled at her, "If it hadn't been for you and your bran muffins, I could've been here 10 years ago!"

Hadda share.

BJ said...

Oh, and to be more serious for a moment... if all cancers were eliminated, people would still die... but not as horribly. And, often, not as young.

Sorry to be serious.

Sun Bear said...

Of course, I bet they didn't make any recommendations on curtailing all the industrial sources of carcinogen-exposure, all the household cleaners that are basically nerve agents, and all the other things we're exposed to in the name of profit that are probably causing long-term damage to our bodies...or pretty short-term damage, in the case of 8-year old children dying of leukemia and rare cancers. No, we wouldn't want to hold the great Capitalist machine accountable...

That study, at least from my perspective, isn't exactly "new" news. What gets me is what they don't say, but should...

Steve Perry said...

Yep, and staying out of the sun and not living in stone houses and avoiding the cosmic rays and all, too.

Something gets us all in the end. Just the notion that you can cut that much out with diet, exercise, and the no smoking and moderate drinking was the point of the article -- that's stuff you can control. The crap in the air and water we could have done something about but we didn't. If we stopped it all tomorrow, it would take a couple eons to get back to the pre-industrial age.

And it's not just the great Capitalist Machine to blame for that. Anybody with fire and something to grease a wheel, has a hand in it, too.

Sun Bear said...

Oh yes...its a collective fault, and it would take a long time to reverse the damage, but that's not a good enough reason not to try, in my opinion.

Something that concerns me, though, is the growing trend out there in the world towards singling people out who are perceived to have unhealthy habits, and treating them in a substandard fashion. Not all the science being used is good, sound science (see Junkfoodscience on Blogspot). Some of it is decidedly bad. And its all being lumped together by most people, including the media, insurance companies, corporate health managers, even a lot of health care professionals.

Smoking is dangerous and costly, and people are going to end up paying for that habit, literally. Okay...that's one way to handle it. Another would be to move tobacco farmers into growing hemp, which has forty-or-fifty-some different commercial applications. We'd have to change a law, and offer incentives to those farmers, and maybe pass a law prohibiting the importation of tobacco from other countries. But growing hemp would be beneficial to our economy, maybe even reduce dependence on some imported products. It wouldn't require singling out a bunch of people, either, and treating them discriminatorially. There's a fine line there sometime, and I don't trust business and government not to cross it...

Steve Perry said...

Bear --

Not to get into the notion of profiling, but if you are a hundred pounds past obesity you will be an exceedingly rare person if you don't have some medical problems connected to it.

You can be, like my father, a man who smoked into his eighties, without it killing him, but if you choose to smoke knowing all the things it is apt to do you -- and it tells you right on the pack what those are -- then it's on you. If secondhand smoke does half of what it's supposed to do, you can understand why lighting up in a room full of non-smokers might bother them. Don't be telling me about junk science and cigarettes, that dog won't hunt. You want to light up and you have to go out into the cold to do it? That's the price you pay.

If you drink too much, it will kill your liver, your bladder, your brain. If you drink three or four beers and climb into your car to drive, you'll endanger the rest of us on the road. If you text while driving, you are much more likely to get in to an accident with somebody minding his own business.

Morbid obesity and cigarette smoking and alcoholism aren't just perceived as unhealthy habits, they *are* unhealthy habits, and anybody trying to offer otherwise is selling something or trying real hard to rationalize it.

You can get sympathy if you are addicted to any of these. But you can't justify it as personal liberty or medically. I know better.

Sun Bear said...

You are the one who connected the dots and found cigarettes. Perhaps I didn't state things clearly enough. I have a son with two lung diseases. My parents have NEVER been allowed to light so much as a single cigarette in my home. That is why I would prefer to simply remove tobacco from the equation. Which I think I did clearly indicate. I just differ on method from a lot of people. Heaven forbid we make the tobacco companies move from tobacco to hemp.

Alcohol bad? Oh yeah. I lost my favorite Uncle to cirrhosis. My wife the same. And I work in the Portland VA hospital ICU, so I likely know more about liver damage than you. But is it just a bunch of weak-minded individuals who decided to drink themselves to death, or is it our nation's fondness for settling issues with bombs and soldiers and war, and casting a bunch of broken casualties aside, once they're no longer needed?

I was speaking about my concern over discrimination and the loss of freedom, individual's rights. I, for one, don't much care for a nanny government. At some point, it can stop being just a "nanny", and become a "jailer". I'm not pro-cigarettes, pro-alcohol. I'd probably restrict them more than you...but differently.

Yeah. My wife is overweight. She has an inherited thyroid disorder. There's not a damn thing she can do about it, but that doesn't stop people from treating her badly in a hundred little ways. And this is one area where there is a lot of junk science, but don't trouble yourself about it, don't educate yourself. You know better.

Steve Perry said...

Bear --

I took my PA-C practical exam in a VA hospital, thirty-five years ago, and spent five years working in a Family Practice Clinic, first as an LPN, then as the second licensed PA in the state. I expect I have as much education about matters medical as most folks who drop round here.

I have two grandsons who are on the autistic spectrum and one who is Down Syndrome. Nobody know for sure the causes, but I tend to agree with the notion that genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger. I know about the crap in our air and water and food.

And I've posted about folks who have thyroid and hormone disorders leading to obesity -- my daughter being one of them.

That said, 96-97% of people who are morbidly obese don't have hormone disorders. That's not junk science, and it is easily verified.

I brought up cigarettes and alcoholism and obesity because those are the three most obvious -- and targeted to be singled-out -- examples of, for want of a better term, "health profiling." (And you mentioned "smoking" before I did, so you opened that door.)

No, I don't want a government nanny. But I also don't want to have to pay, via my taxes, for the biker who doesn't want to wear a helmet who winds up in ICU and long term care; nor the guy who smokes and gets lung cancer; nor do I want to be T-boned by a teenager girl texting her BFF while she drives.

Laws are supposed to protect people from each other, and your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins ...

Scott said...

It's why I dislike alcohol so much. Tobacco kills a lot more people than alcohol does, sure; but alcohol kills *other* people, innocent victims. I don't *like* secondhand smoke, and I like public No Smoking laws even when they violate my libertarian principles, but other people's smoke isn't nearly as dangerous as drunks are.

Yeah, I'd probably support Prohibition if it actually worked; alas, it does not, rather just makes things worse.

Sun Bear said...

I, too, have concerns about having to pay for all these kinds of things. What worries me is that most people, especially government/corporations (I'm far from sure that there's any difference there anymore) seems to think that the answer is to target the people. And therein lies an especially slippery slope leading to persecution and discrimination. Do you think monolithic institutions, and the general public, are sensitive enough to differentiate consistently between those "at fault" and those like your daughter and my wife, who can't help it? I doubt it. And what is an acceptable level of error? These are people, not numbers.

My son, too, is autistic, in addition to his lung diseases, and has a skin disease that nearly killed him. There are, I believe, 13 known cases now. Genetic? Environmental? Nobody knows. The push for eugenics amongst certain elements I find quite alarming, and just an extreme form of what is happening in our society. The eugenics folks would likely have had my son killed. After all, he was pretty costly, economically...

Alcohol and tobacco? Why not add a surcharge to purchases that factor in the real costs to society - medical, lost productivity, etc. I think we'd see a steep decline in use in our society, once a pack of cigarettes cost $40-$50.

Junk science? Things aren't necessarily as cut-and-dried as you think. The info is out there. Do I really need to explain this? Biased studies, funding from profit-motivated sources, the manipulation of factors in a study, and so on. Let's take the study which tells us we need "complete proteins". I'm sure you're familiar with the idea. My understanding is that study was conducted on...rats. Hmmm. If this is correct...its junk science. We are told that we live much longer now than a century or two ago, due to advances in medical treatment. What they don't volunteer is that once you factor out women and infants who died in childbirth and children who died before the age of 5, the difference is negligible. Issues with obesity are not so simple as you think.

Lastly, are obesity and substance abuse really the "problems" or symptoms of deeper issues plaguing our society? While we sometimes need to go ahead and treat symptoms, to stabilize a patient to get through a crisis, if we want lasting change...we need to address the deeper problem.

Steve Perry said...

I read Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit in the 1960's. When I worked at the clinic in the 1970's, I knew way more than any of the doctors about nutrition, which was one of my wife's hobbies. It wasn't something that was much addressed back then.

Pretty much, the problem with obesity is a reflection of our society, and while the underlying problems are many, the science part is cut and dried. If you eat too much and you don't exercise enough, you'll get fat. That's how it works. That's how it has always worked.
That's how it is always going to work --biology does not trump physics. If you burn more than you eat, you lose. If you burn less you gain. We are talking thermodynamics, and there is no way around it in this particular universe.

Why we eat more than we need, and processed crap, much of it, and exercise less do need to be addressed, it's one of civilization's discontents. It is a disease that is endemic, but you *can* treat the effect because the *immediate* cause is known.

You don't need to be a chemist to strike a match and light a fire.

I know all about yo-yo dieting and set-points and homeostasis. I know it isn't easy. But the solution is simple: Eat less. Exercise more. That's all you need to know to make it work. It doesn't come any more cut and dried than that.

There are myriad psychological reasons people don't want to do it, but save for a very few with screwed up systems, pushing away from the table and taking the dog for a long walk is the cure for the condition. People just can't -- or won't -- do it.

I don't claim to know everything, but I do know some things, and I know that rationalization is extremely powerful -- and it's used a lot by folks to justify stuff that is bad for them.

Sun Bear said...

I won't be engaging in this debate any further. I've learned what I wanted to learn. Its quite telling...what you chose to ignore and where you chose to engage.

I'd suggest you read a book called "The Obesity Myth", but what are the odds you'd actually read it? You didn't even want to look at a blog that might challenge your understanding of the topic.


Steve Perry said...

Then, Bear, I guess I get the last word:

I know from science. Because something works with rats doesn't make it "junk" science -- it simply limits the results. If the experiment can be replicated with other species, then with humans, you have a theory with proof.

Average life expectancy is longer than it used to be. You need to learn the difference between average mortality and selected groups. And it's not just medicine, though that has made a big difference, especially in childbirth, but also nutrition and education.

If you introduce a new medicine for people, you have to run the FDA tests. They certainly aren't perfect, but they require at least some checking before a drug is allowed into the market.

With food, you don't have to do this, and you can claim anything you want. The plural of anecdote is not evidence.

Yes, there are food that are better for you than others, and yes, there are foods that can be used as medicine. The Chinese pharmacopeia is full of stuff Western medicine hasn't gotten around to exploring.

But the basics of hands-on science require experiments that can be replicated by people other than the one guy making the claim. If he's the only guy who can do it, using the same elements?

Anybody can dream up a theory of nutrition. A few years ago, my wife came home with a book on the blood-type diet. Basically said you needed to eat certain foods if you had a certain blood type -- A, eat this, B, that, O, something else. It had a lot of tech-talk in it, medical terms, but there was no proof to back up any of the claims. Wasn't there. That a doctor said it doesn't make it valid. There are doctors who believe we are visited by little green men and others who say an over-the-counter pill will make your dick grow longer.

These books come out every day because people are looking for the magic bullet. The magic bullet is diet and exercise. But you can't sell books saying that. That new ab machine for twenty bucks on the shopping channel always has the fine print: When used in conjunction with diet and a regular exercise program.

There might be a fire-breathing dragon flying around over my house right now -- I'm not looking, so it might be there, but I don't believe it, and there is no reason for me to believe it.

I looked at Sandy's blog. I didn't see anything there that challenged my knowledge of nutrition.

I know from physics, and I know that thermodynamics isn't something you can ignore. No fusion in a mayonnaise jar out in Uncle Pat's garage, and if somebody had come up with a way to let you eat more than you burn and lose weight, I expect I would have heard about it, since it would be about the biggest news ever.

You can believe what you like. But if you are going to convince people, you need more than because so-and-so said it on her blog.

Dan Moran said...

Then, Bear, I guess I get the last word

He did the same thing over on Barnes's blog. Easily offended fellow.

Ian SADLER said...

I wouldn't say Steve is easily offended, just very positional and if you can't come up a good argument to shift that position, then tough. Get more facts...

Just on cancer, and any other diseases, Pasteurs death bed confession "…The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything." should be remembered.

Everyone already has the possibility of having every disease known to man, it's just when due to mental, physiological and spiritual conditions are 'ripe', the appropriate 'fruit' will grow.

What comes first, being dis-eased, or the thought of being dis-eased.

Ever made you self 'sick' to prevent yourself from doing something you didn't want, like going to school as a child on exam day?

Anyway, there will never BE a cure for cancer, while it is more profitable to LOOK for a cure....

Steve Perry said...

Ian --

I didn't say that Steve (Sunbear) was full of crap, I said that the weight of evidence regarding obesity is on my side of the debate. I believe what I believe for good reasons. I didn't just up one day and know this, I spent some time learning it, academically and hands-on.

That I won't accept his assertions as fact -- based on a blog and books by folks who have something else to sell? Hey, I have heard heard it before and the evidence is not compelling from where I sit. That he chooses to leave the discussion because I don't agree? His choice, of course, but if I am going to throw out a wealth of knowledge gained over a lifetime of study, I need a really good reason and he hasn't provided it.

Too skinny, too fat, both are bad, and there is ample evidence done by folks who didn't have a horse in the race to show this. Saying all the studies are wrong because they don't support what you want to believe simply isn't convincing.

I don't believe that the Jews secretly run the world from their secret HQ in Switzerland, nor that Area 51 has a meat locker full of aliens, and I believe that Elvis has left the building

If you can provide evidence saying otherwise, I'm happy to look at it, but a pop science novel and somebody's opinion doesn't carry the weight for me.

Ian SADLER said...

Hi Steve,

Oops, I obviously didn't proof read too well, I was backing your argument, and suggesting he should provide a better argument.

When I said 'Steve' I meant (Perry) not (Sunbear).

Apologies again.