Monday, 9 August 2010

The cure for cancer - famine, penury and death.

Breast cancer is a nasty thing, nobody could argue otherwise. That's why we run routine checks for that condition, because if it's caught early it's much more likely to be fixable. It means that sometimes, women will have a lump spotted before it's reached any damaging size and it can then be removed without resorting to much more serious surgery.

In East Africa, with the best will in the world, it is impossible to run such a program. You can't screen everyone when people have no transport to get to the hospitals, can't spare the time away from the fields, can't leave livestock unattended, can't cross certain territories because of tribal fighting or can't risk travel because of roaming bandits. It's worse than Manchester. So it's not too surprising to find that...

Breast cancer rates are more than four times higher in the UK than in Eastern Africa, new figures show.

Scary, huh? Live like the East Africans or your boobs will go lumpy.

Some 87.9 per 100,000 British women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, compared to just 19.3 women per 100,000 in Eastern Africa.

Note the quiet interjection of that word 'diagnosed'. It's the key to this finding. It's not talking about cancer rates, it's talking about cancer diagnoses. You can't diagnose people who don't come to the clinic.

Eastern Africa includes countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

And Somalia. Why leave that one out? Not much of a health service in Somalia at the moment. Anyway, here comes the extrapolation...

However, it warned that British lifestyles - including a high incidence of obesity, too much drinking and a lack of exercise - were contributing to high rates of breast cancer at home.

Well, at least they're not blaming this one on smoking. (Update: oh yes, they are) So what to do about the British cancer epidemic?

Women in Eastern Africa drink much less alcohol than British women and obesity is far less common. They are also much more likely to breastfeed - which lowers the rates of breast cancer even further.

They are doing none of it by choice. Obesity is bound to be far less common in places where food is far less common. Are they really advocating famine as a cure for cancer? The incidence of alcohol consumption is sure to be lower in places where much of the population is penniless. Is penury then the answer? As for breastfeeding, it would be nice to think they do it through choice, but in fact they breastfeed because there's nothing else for baby to eat. Remove all choice, all money and all food, and cure cancer!

Women - and men - in many East African countries also tend to die younger, through starvation, war, and disease. They are not being constantly checked for every possible illness as people are in the West. The longer you live, the greater chance you have of contracting any illness. Living longer doesn't give you cancer but it increases your chance of experiencing it.

Sure, being massively overweight is not good for you. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol every day is not good for you. Here, we have the choice. We can get fat or slim, we can be drunk or sober, women can breastfeed or buy formulated milk. On the whole, we are far better off than most of the people in East Africa because we live longer and rarely die of starvation or rampaging bandit gangs. We have a choice in all those things. Those people do not.

If we try to turn this society into East Africa, all sorts of cancers will decline because we won't be able to travel to the clinics to be diagnosed and we'll all die much earlier. East Africa is much warmer and sunnier than here, yet many, many people who live there want to live on this wet and grey island instead. They aren't coming for the climate.

They come because here, they can have money and food and shelter. Then they can have a choice.

Well, unless the WHO get their way. Then it'll be a real home from home, apart from the cold.


Smoking Hot said...

I'm sure women in Africa drink far less tea and coffee also.

l remember in my younger days thinking that it must have been horrifying to live in the dark ages and believe in science. Now l'm reliving the dark ages!

The number of times l've seen 'a scientist said'. Which bloody scientist?, where's his work? where's his documemented research? how did he reach his conclusions?

No need for any of that nowadays with the righteous ... just 'research has shown' (paid for by the righteous) Bah!

Anonymous said...

Define "copious amounts of alcohol".

timbone said...

Something you said about regular checks and catching it early made me think of something. This applies to all cancer. Leaflets about lung cancer tell you that because it is so fast it needs to be caught soon. Have you ever been to your GP and asked for a chest xray? They used to do them regularly before they eradicated TB. If you pay a lot of money for a private scan you can have it checked. If you ask for a chest xray without good reason though, the answer is no. You have to make something up, be dishonest, say you are coughing a lot and it hurts.

John Wayne had regular check ups, he could afford to. That's why they caught his lung cancer early, removed a lung, and he survived another umpteen years and films. Princess Margaret is another one.

Christopher Snowdon said...

The link between alcohol and breast cancer is pretty weak. A better explanation for the disparity in breast cancer is that women in East Africa have babies, and lots of them, from a young age (and they all breast feed).

Women in Britain are much more likely to have babies later or not at all. These same women also happen to drink more - as single, childless people do - hence the correlation with alcohol which is unlikely to be truly causal.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - if you wake up and it hurts, that was too much.

Leg-iron said...

Timbone - I'd just have to say I smoke, I suspect.

JuliaM said...

You'd think, when studying the figures, the absence of 'eaten by lion' as cause of death on the UK ones might have clues them in they were comparing apples and vacuum cleaners...

Dave H said...

On the Beeb this morning was the startling revelation from A Righteous Expert that countries with the highest levels of TB (such as East Africa) also have the lowest reported levels of allergic diseases.

I wonder if, during the times when Britain suffered from endemic leprosy and plague, whether the recorded incidence of, say, eczema was practically zero as well.

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