Sunday, 25 June 2017

Rizla and Napoleon Bonapartes missing lung cancer epidemic

A while back I bought a packet of Rizla cigarette rolling papers and noticed that they were celebrating their 200 year existence.

I thought to myself that given that the modern lung cancer epidemic occurred in France after the second world war (as it did in every other country in the world) it is quite astonishing that any one could believe that something that became popular many generations ago should precipitate a lung cancer epidemic some 150 years and many generations later. So I decided to have a closer examination of the history of Rizla and lung cancer in France.

According to the this website, one inspired Pierre Lacroix thinks of manufacturing cigarette papers as an alternative for pipes in 1532. Yes, that's right, some 418 years before the lung cancer epidemic in France that the anti-smoking industry claims was caused by cigarettes. By 1766 there is sufficient demand in France for cigarette papers that the Lacroix family set up a mill to aid manufacture of the papers. This is 200 years and many generations before the (smoking attributed) lung cancer epidemic in France happened.

In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte issues the Lacroix family a license to produce rolling papers for the Republic. Clearly hand rolled cigarettes were very popular long before the lung cancer epidemic (shown below) that we are led to believe was caused by them happens.
However, there is a problem because lung cancer is mostly a disease of old age and so if people do not live long enough to have lung cancer then we would not expect there to be much additional lung cancer ( theoretically caused by smoking ). As the chart below shows people did not live as long as we do now.

Prior to the Napoleonic wars people lived between 30 - 39 years of age, some 170 years before the lung cancer epidemic in question. So we would not expect to see a spike in lung cancer in this age group after 1950 because this would mean that it must have been something other than cigarettes that caused it (because people had been smoking for generations before).

The lung cancer epidemic in this age group correlates with the period of atomic weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985 and is not flat as we would expect if smoking had been popular in the same age group for generations before hand.

Life expectancy in France between 1800 and 1900 ranges from 40 - 49 years of age , many decades before the lung cancer epidemic in France which we are told was caused by smoking. So let us look at this age group and see if it correlates to weapons testing fallout 1945 - ~1985.

Again we see that the correlation is strong with the nuclear fallout period 1945 - ~1985 and not with smoking cigarettes , a habit that that was so popular in this age group that in 1796 Bonaparte issues a license for the sale and distribution of an important component - the cigarette papers.

From 1900 - 1950 the average life expectancy ranges from 50 - 59 years of age and again we see a lung cancer signature that is identical to the lower age groups in the atomic weapons testing fallout period.

It is also worth noting that cigarette consumption, including hand rolled cigarettes, in France has been very flat over the last 70 odd years, the chart below includes an estimate for hand rolled cigarettes.



It is plausible that the manufactured cigarettes caused the epidemic but as we can see from comparing the former the soviet union and the USA (some 30 billion subject years) this can not possibly be true.

So next time you are rolling a cigarette using Rizla (or any other fine brands of cigarette papers) ask your self this question - Is it more likely that a lung cancer epidemic was caused by something that happens at the time (atomic weapons testing fallout in  rainfall) or by something that became popular centuries before hand (roll your own cigarettes)? And don't forget to tell your friends!

Napoleon may have been responsible for causing wars in France but he was probably not responsible for the lung cancer epidemic. The lung cancer epidemic in France was more likely caused by war - the weapons that ended the second world war and the testing of those weapons in the cold war.

It has been pointed out to me that people , reading this post, could believe that there was no lung cancer prior to 1950. The IARC database that the lung cancer data comes from starts
from 1950. But as can be seen in Sweden for example , lung cancer was slowly rising up until
the atomic weapons fallout period started in 1945 where there is a clear trend break ~1950.

Friday, 28 April 2017

How atomic weapons testing can explain an apparently protective effect of radon for lung cancer risk

"Thus, residential radon does not appear to cause lung cancer but rather to protect, in an exposure-level-dependent manner, from its induction by other agents (e.g., cigarette-smoke-related carcinogens (sic)). - (Scott BR 2011)"
I have long been interested in the theory that low does exposure to radon can reduce the risk of lung cancer because I believe that nuclear fallout from atomic weapons testing can explain why this theoretical protective property exists. The study above hypothesizes that at low doses radon in the home can protect against lung cancer (via some unknown mechanism) but at higher doses can cause lung cancer as the chart, from the study, shows.
It is perfectly plausible that such an effect is real but it could also be true that what causes less radon in the home also causes more lung cancer and in this case rain is a good candidate. The fallout hypothesis predicts that there will be more lung cancer where it rains because radiation will be found in higher concentrations where there is more precipitation. And as the following charts show there is indeed more lung cancer and less radon where there is more rain.

It is obvious why radioactive rain can cause more lung cancer but how can rain cause less radon? Well the answer is that it is believed that rainfall reduces exposure to radon.
"Radon progeny in the air can be removed by rainfall, soil moisture, and snow" (UNSCEAR
2000). source

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sweden , USA and nuclear fallout

As it recently came to light that the global fall in lung cancer rates seem to occur in pretty much every country around 1990 and even in countries that continue with very high smoking rates, like Russia for example, I thought I would revisit the start of the global lung cancer epidemic.

The cigarette hypothesis, as a cause of the global epidemic , goes that because cigarettes are believed to cause ~90% of lung cancers then it must follow that the massive rise in lung cancer after the second world war must have been caused by the massive rise in cigarette use 20 years before before the war. But I think that just because people classified as smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer than people classified as never-smokers it does not follow that cigarettes drive lung cancer rates, as is suggested by the chart on the left.

I have created charts, see below, similar to the one above for Sweden as well as the US because I just happen to know that the rise in cigarette use in Sweden took place a good 25 - 30 years after the US.  If the 20 year time lag between cigarette use and lung cancer is true then it should happen in Sweden 20 years later too. Except that it does nothing of the sort. Sweden gets it's lung cancer epidemic just after 1945  just as in the US.

Clearly both lung cancer epidemics start just after 1945 but on the second chart Sweden's cigarette 'epidemic' starts at the same time as it's lung cancer epidemic. Where as the US cigarette 'epidemic' starts decades before it's lung cancer epidemic?!?
It is possible that cigarettes could cause lung cancer in the year of purchase as in Sweden and it is possible that cigarettes could cause lung cancer decades later as in the US but what is improbable is that both are true.

View full screen

In my mind the fallout hypothesis holds a better explanation because it starts in 1945 (trinity tests) and ends around 1985 (see left) and would be a greater risk for people who smoke cigarettes. Because if say a single exposure to a rainout between 1945 and 1985 for a non-smoker carries an unbelievably small individual risk of lung cancer then those people sucking through rain splattered paper tubes will have a higher risk. But over time, billions  of people exposed en masse to rainouts over decades could cause millions of  lung cancers and the risk would be higher where it rains more, such as is seen in US counties.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Tobacco control will make you fat before they kill you

An interesting but not unsurprising chart. Pretty much every smoker in the world knows that if you quit smoking you start to get chubby and generally non-smokers tend to be a lot more chubby compared to smokers. And that's not forgetting that smokers have marginally lower blood pressure than our non-smoking friends and becoming a quitter increases your risk of high blood pressure independent of weight gain, see below.

Given that we are told that tobacco kills 6 million people world wide and that obesity and high blood pressure kills 6 million people world wide (source VGIF) . It would seem that the merchants of death in the tobacco control industry are giving the merchants of death in the tobacco industry a run for their money.

The difference being that the merchants of death in the tobacco control industry want to make you fat and ugly before they kill you and you don't get to spend a life time enjoying smoking.

It will be interesting to see if e-cig users have increased risk of weight gain and high blood pressure, time will tell. In the mean time  I am sticking to lovely cigarettes.

Source BMJ (Published 28 June 2011)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Lung cancer and rain - is there a link?

I recently discovered that a down loadable weather map for the US exists and that it could be obtained as a shape file  . This is handy because a shape file of weather patterns is just the ticket if you just happen to want to compare precipitation data with X over time and space .

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Russians cure their lung cancer epidemic by smoking cigarettes

I remember reading somewhere once that Russia had seen a massive fall in lung cancer despite continuing with very high smoker prevalence. The point being that the tobacco control industry insists that lung cancer rates have fallen , in countries such as the US, due to the the fall in smoker prevalence but in Russia there was no tobacco control industry to speak of , they carried on smoking and their lung cancer rate went down anyway.

But the article I read did not actually show any data to back up this claim so I have had a look and sure enough it's all completely true.


Clearly, Russians are champion smokers 60.7 % of men and 21.7 % of women

I simply don't understand how anyone can look at these data and come to the conclusion that smoking prevalence drives lung cancer. Any objective analysis would conclude that what drives lung cancer in Russia probably drives lung cancer in the US too and it is not smoking rates . The theory that smoking is the main cause of lung cancer can not explain these data.

However, if we look at global lung cancer rates in the context of nuclear fallout then we find the two highly correlated. The theory that atomic weapons testing would cause lung cancer deaths as proposed by people such as John Gofman is not new but we now have decades of data to test the theory and the theory is holding up very well. And crucially nuclear fallout can explain why there was a 30 fold increase in lung cancer among people who have never smoked cigarettes  .

More on this from Frank Davis

Sunday, 19 August 2012

My chart vs CRUK chart

Source CRUK
The continuing rise of lung cancer in women reflects the high number of female smokers several decades ago when attitudes were different. Tobacco advertising hasn’t appeared on UK television since 1965, but that didn’t stop the marketing of cigarettes.- Jean King, director of tobacco control. (Cancer Research UK)

I have long been interested in this chart produced by Cancer Research UK for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I wonder why they do not show the rate of lung cancer before 1975 because the UK like many other countries have kept data from much further back in time. Mexico for example has collected data since the 1950s just like Scotland has. Sweden has excellent records going back even further. CRUK decided to use incidence data rather than mortality data and it maybe that incidence data only goes back to 1975 but I am sure that CRUK could have chosen to use mortality data if they had wanted to.

Secondly, It would seem to the casual observer that the decline in the rate of lung cancer for males could very well be caused by the decline in smoking prevelance. And that the rate for lung cancer could be at around the 100+ mark from 1948 through to 1975 for males. But as this is not shown it would be just guessing. However, the only thing that may seem to conflict with this theory is why there is no similar decline in lung cancer for females after 1975 when both sexes were either not taking up smoking or becoming quitters. I have heard it asked in the media on a number of occasions to "cancer experts" by people asking the very reasonable question "why is lung cancer still rising for women"? Every time the response goes like this "There has been a greater fall in the number of men smoking compared to women and this is why there is a rise for women" or along those lines. This is risible nonsense. The two are not connected. The reward for women not smoking is more lung cancer, therefore the theory that smoking protects women from lung cancer holds more water than the theory that smoking causes lung cancer in women. I would say the correct response to the question of why lung cancer is on the rise for women is "We don't know why lung cancer is still rising for women". There is nothing wrong in my book with saying "We don't know". So why so called "cancer experts" insist on trying to pin this rise in lung cancer for women on smoking is beyond me. What ever way you look at it, it is clear that women have been giving up smoking since 1975 just like men, the reward for men is less lung cancer but the reward for women is more lung cancer.

Thirdly, the smoking prevelance is data wieghted after 1998, again this is not CRUKs fault, if the data has been wieghted than they must be shown wieghted but it does mean two different types of measurements have been used on the same trend line.

I have long wanted to produce my own chart showing similar data to illustrate the point that the theory that smoking prevelence drives lung cancer becomes more confused when you look further back in time. My first idea was to produce a chart the same in all respects but with using mortality data going back to 1950. But I decided instead to use smoking prevelance for middle aged people aged 35 - 59 and lung cancer data for a thin slice of population ages 60 - 64 (the five years after the upper limit for smoking prevelance data). The trends are broadly speaking about the same as for a chart showing all ages.

Here it is.

Cancer stats source
The continuing rise of lung cancer in women reflects the high number of female smokers several decades ago when attitudes were different. Tobacco advertising hasn’t appeared on UK television since 1965, but that didn’t stop the marketing of cigarettes.- Jean King, director of tobacco control. (Cancer Research UK)
I simply don't understand how one can look at these trends and come to the conclusion that cigarette use drives lung cancer. How can a fall in smoking prevelance (males) up to 1975 cause a rise in lung cancer? At this time why were women not getting so much lung cancer and why did they get more of it later , why not earlier like the men? If it is true that smoking causes 95% of lung cancer then I would expect smoking prevelance and lung cancer rates to be highly correleated and to me they seem only weakly correlated. One correlation bieng that as there was a rise of lung cancer amd people gave up smoking or did not take it up in the first place. Had there not been a massive rise in lung cancer maybe more people would still be smoking.

As far as I can see cigarette consumption does not drive lung cancer rates in the UK. This does not mean that smokers are not more likely to get lung cancer it just means something else drives lung cancer rates.