Search This Blog

Monday, 26 October 2015

What a load of baloney

You’re probably aware of the latest pronouncement from the World Health Organisation  (WHO). Are these people from another planet, escaped from an episode of Dr Who, perhaps?

It has been reported that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, states that consumption of processed red meat, and cured meat, is in the same carcinogenic category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco. If you read their statements they include weasel words such as ‘could cause’ and ‘may cause’ and ‘probably linked to’…

A professor said, ‘Cancer Research UK supports IARC’s decision that there’s strong enough evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer.’ And then goes on, ‘We’ve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence…’ There’s a strong belief that there’s a ‘causal link’ to bowel cancer, and possibly prostate cancer.
Bottom line - eat sensibly, and maintain a balanced diet. Common sense says don't eat burgers every day, perhaps...? One wonders if there was an epidemic of colon cancer forty years ago when almost everybody ate a cooked breakfast, including bacon, every day...

As usual, it’s the headlines that do the scaremongering. There are too many cases of bowel cancer – one is too many if you’re a sufferer – but this scaremongering isn’t sensible. Apparently, the IARC has looked at over 900 substances since 1971 and decided that all, apart from one, is at least capable of causing cancer in certain circumstances. That single exception? A chemical in yoga pants…

The IARC does not compare the level of cancer risk associated with different substances in a given category, so it does not suggest eating meat is as dangerous as smoking, though they’re in the same category! Either the IARC is not fit for purpose or the number of defined categories is too narrow. As it stands, their report seems unhelpful. Still, it keeps them in work – to bring home the bacon.

Note: Baloney means ‘nonsense’ and is derived from Bologna; in the US it is another term for Bologna sausage, which may be processed meat.

This isn’t the first scare and won’t be the last. In my book Catacomb (just published!) I refer to another similar instance relating to talcum powder, which is still inconclusive and ongoing while lining the pockets of lawyers:

Cat was glad she’d chosen this perch. She’d be no match for any of them, she felt sure, Taekwondo training or no. Training was one thing, while a life-and-death situation was quite another. She peered down...

            As the sound of the retreating carts and men diminished, Pointer said, “You’ve got a good racket going here, Zabala. Looting these tombs and selling the finds to private collectors, probably to the highest bidder. Is that it?”

            “Something like that.” Zabala gestured at the nearest catacomb. “This was a surprise find, actually, a horde of Moulay Ismail’s possessions from the seventeenth century.”

            “Luck, was it?” Basset asked.

            “Yes, in a way. A few months ago, Maclean, our surveyor, was looking for talc…”

            “The local chemist has plenty,” Basset retorted, “even after that ovarian cancer scare.”

        Cat remembered that. She’d studied it. Yet another instance of scare-mongering with inadequate data and a total lack of common sense: volume of talc sales compared to the incidence of ovarian cancer? Before 1973, talc might have contained minute traces of asbestos. Talc miners were tested for lung cancer. For years lawyers have plagued cosmetic firms with lawsuits, fighting on behalf of unfortunate sufferers, but no case has been proven conclusively. Apparently, studies in rats showed lung damage caused by talc; which wasn’t surprising since they were forced to inhale talc for six hours per day for six years; she recalled the critics of the tests called it “particle overload”. Poor bloody rats. Manufacturers ensure the relatively large, non-respirable particle size in talc powder so it can’t be inhaled into lungs. These scare stories run and run, and at one point talc was even taken off some shelves, yet there was no significant statistical proof. She hated it when the science was bad science and had more to do with hubris, greedy lawyers, inadequate statistics or commercial competition than saving lives.

            Zabala scowled. “For someone whose life is in jeopardy, you’re too flippant, Sergeant.”

            “That’s me,” Basset said, shrugging, as if she hadn’t a care in the world. “Sorry I interrupted. You were telling us about your surveyor looking for talc deposits?”

            “I was. He found a large deposit of talc, several thousands of metric tons; its seam is about fifty percent talc, fifty percent calcite. Nowhere near as big as the Nkob deposit west of Ouarzazate. Still, Cerberus has planning permission to mine the talc. Naturally, the Moroccan government gets its cut. Maclean is back in London with his report and all the boring paperwork.”

            “But instead,” Pointer interjected, “he found these tombs?”

            “No. He left behind a couple of men to begin experimental drilling. Got the shock of their lives when one of them fell through here.” He pointed up at the small hole visible in the cave gallery ceiling. “Sadly, he didn’t survive the fall. His associate contacted HQ and I scooted here to have a look – and conceal the unfortunate death.”

            “I suspect you’re quite good at that,” Pointer said.

Catacomb, published by Crooked Cat Publishing in e-book and paperback formats.



KOBO books:


AMAZON UK books:

1 comment:

Charliann Roberts said...

I'm for bacon! :) Yes, if you ask me, their latest announcement is a bunch of baloney.