Was perusing some data in the early hours, after a pain wracked Mrs S turned me out of my pit. Not her fault, she got hurt badly, and I have to put up with the side effects. It’s only three months until she’s skipping like a spring lamb once more. (Only!)

However, our new bookcases are now up, secured, and being filled with fiction, faction and fact. From Douglas Adams to Emile Zola and many points in between, stopping at (Amongst others) Aristotle, Juvenal, Plautus and Plato, all change at Freakonomics for Terry Pratchett to P J O’Rourke with a minor halt at Bertrand Russell and a shunt into Germaine Greer and Mary Woolstonecraft. I think there’s a Grays Anatomy in there somewhere keeping our two dozen or so dictionaries, grammar textbooks and thesauri company. Not to mention the various trade textbooks (Usual suspects; A+, Windows 7, Linux, HTML, XML etc.) Make of that what you will. Did I say we like reading? My cookbooks live separately in the kitchen.

Notwithstanding I was looking at the available UK Cancer statistics, as you do when you’ve nothing to do at four in the morning and you’re trying to bore yourself to sleep, and came across this interesting chart from the UK’s statistics web site (See screengrab below).
cancer-statistics It’s for cancers of all causes except the one excluded.

Now we’ve been bombarded with government ‘health’ advice about cancer since I was a boy. Surely some of it should have sunk in? Or is the steady increase in Cancer not entirely due to our lifestyle choices? Or are the majority down to genetics and ‘pure bad luck‘. Some say not. Some of them have an agenda. There’s more dross written on diet and health than on any other self help topic. Mostly by people who have only a sketchy understanding of how the human body actually works. Frankly me dears, most of it can best be described as ‘Guff‘. Yet there’s a whole industry based on it. Go figure.

Now I’m intrigued by this steady increase in Cancer diagnoses. As well as the continual, slow but steady increase in diagnoses of other fatal ailments. With ‘healthier’ lifestyles becoming the norm and smoking being but a pale wraith of its previous self, you could be forgiven that perhaps there is another life-claiming villain ready to leap out of the closet and shout “Boo! Har-har, it was me all along!” at everyone. And there is.

When it comes to carcinogens, the love that dare not speak its name or Elephant in the room if you like is Diesel emissions. Diesel fumes are a carcinogen (A ‘Group One’ Carcinogen no less). So says the World Health Organisation, based on reports from the IARC. That stuff coughing out of that bus, train or lorries exhaust? Can you smell Diesel? Yes? Run. Get away from the source as fast as you can but don’t breathe whatever you do. Especially if you live in a major urban conurbation. The particulates are often invisible, and they’re everywhere, along with cited evils like tobacco smoke (both first and secondhand), mustard gas, sunlight, Chinese salted fish, vinyl chloride, soot and wood dust. What sort of wood dust isn’t included in the literature. So maybe going back to nature won’t help either. However, compared to Diesel fumes they’re lightweights.

It’s funny. A few years ago, we were all being encouraged to buy Diesel cars so they could use ‘Bio-Diesel’ or whatever marketing ploy the politicians fell for. Now we find that riding a bus in rush hour traffic may be as deadly as a forty a day habit. Who knew? I’m not even a smoker and this dark little irony has kept a smug smirk on my fizzog all day long.

Oh well, I never really wanted to live forever. Oh dear, the bookcases are full and I’ve still got more books to sort. Another visit to IKEA is called for.

11 thoughts on “Errm…”

  1. Yes, cancer is more commonly a disease of the aged. However, I’m beginning to wonder whether the focus on eliminating the “usual suspects” has been ignoring other causes? Imagine if diesel particulates were found to be a prime offender. That’d put the cat among the pigeons for sure!


    1. Diesel was declared a ‘probable’ Carcinogen back in 1988. A definite carcinogen around ten years later, and ‘Group one’ carcinogen in 2015 (?) after review of a ‘Miners study’ published around 2012. There’s even talk of a 2030 (Have to go back to the literature to be sure) ban. I bet no-one’s done a long term study on cancer deaths for truck or cab drivers.


  2. Like Peter MacFarlane, who commented above, I have been wondering about the cut and pasted graph of cancer statistics in Bill’s post.

    It occurs to me that a significant factor in the increase with time could well be the increase in average length of life over the same period. IIRC average life expectancy has increased quite a bit over the 34 year period. If cancer has approximately a fixed probability per year of occurring for a person, living an extra 5 or so years would increase the probability for each individual over their lifetime (eg by around 6.5% for a life of 82 years rather than of 77 years).

    On top of that, we know that cancer is partially a disease of old age. Thus the probability of getting cancer in any year of a person’s life actually increases as they get older; this would indicate higher life expectancies means an even higher proportion of people getting cancer.

    If there is concern that cancer rates are truly increasing (perhaps down to overall levels of carcinogenic pollution nowadays, perhaps in mainly urban areas, and/or with modern diets and lifestyles), the statistical measures should have appropriate normalisation for age of occurrence and for average life expectancy.

    IMHO the technical article linked (‘bad luck’ link) includes quite a lot of detailed statistical argument but does not seem to address this particular point, either at all or in a clear way.

    Best regards


    1. That WebMD article does have links to the original study. Which I should have directly linked to the abstract of. But it was a reasonable article, so I thought what the hell.


  3. I’d always assumed that the increase in cancer rates was (a) because we’ve cured most other things and – let’s face it – the total mortality has to up to 100%, and (b) because cancer is a disease of the old and we’re all living longer now.

    btw I do not think you can claim vinyl chloride as a particulate. It’s a gas.


    1. Chinese salted fish aren’t a gas either. Neither is sunlight. However, they are carcinogenic, be they gas, particulate, organic or otherwise. I just took them from the IARC’s list.


  4. I’ve got more book cases than most people have dinning chairs. I’ve just run out of space.

    Cancer? Not having it. I haven’t got time. Although I am clutching on a piece of wood. This is probably the best option.


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