The sociology of cancer epidemiology – are dissenting voters “conspiracy nuts” or is the government – industry alliance actually innocent?

How accurate are cancer stats and studies issued by government, industry and dissenters?

Should one trust the government without question?

Are voters who disagree with government and industry statements really conspiracy nuts?

Are nuclear veterans who claim they have been wronged by the omissions of government (and consequently, by industry which cites the government military data in its own defence) conspiracy nuts and actually unjust in their legal cases against government, both now and in the past?

I am I actually going to live longer than I would have because I was exposed to ionising radiation in the course of my duties as an Australian soldier? As claimed by various government paid and subsidized researchers working for the US Department of Energy Low Dose program (including contractors in Australia – Sykes et al) ? How would they know about my case?

Hard questions to answer.  I found the following review of a relevant book. Actually it is a review of a review of a relevant book.

The book being reviewed is entitled “The Secret History of the War on Cancer”
by Devra Davis

New York:Basic Books, 2007. 505 pp. ISBN: 978-0-465-01566-5

The review of the review of the book is here: , entitled “Conflicts of Integrity” by Martin Walker MA. The conflict among experts ignited or reiginited by Davis, might be summed up by Walker in the following quote: “Boyle’s review begins with an insulting dismissal of Davis as a conspiracy theorist:

Devotees of conspiracy theories and aficionados of gossip and innuendo will be drawn towards this book like wasps to a juicy piece of meat. It has many of the necessary ingredients: Big Industry cover-ups, hidden consultancies, secret documents exposed, tittle-tattle, and accusations about the conduct of famous names. It only lacks the steamy sex section, but perhaps this is being held back for a further volume.

It’s difficult to understand the use of the term ‘tittle-tattle’, the second reference to ‘gossip’ in the paragraph above. What is Boyle trying to say here; these things are all only the subjects of gossip, or that accusations of such things as ‘big industry cover ups and hidden consultancies’ are without any foundation. One thing is for sure, being clearly unconcerned about descending to personal insult, and therefore a bit of a tosser, Boyle would be amongst the first to queue for the second ‘steamy sex’ volume were it to be published.

The review ends with a description of Davis as a third-rate investigative journalist (‘Accuracy with the facts is a sine qua non in investigative journalism’), while labeling her again as a purveyor of ‘gossip and tittle-tattle’. Readers of the Lancet might have been forgiven for thinking that Boyle was referring to another Davis, an investigative journalist, and not this particular highly regarded academic in the field of cancer epidemiology.

There is more than a hint of misogyny in Boyle’s remarks, and out of the corner of one’s eye, one can see him flexing his macho scientific muscles while he disputes Davis’s subjective style of writing. In fact, Davis writes beautifully, and like many other female academics, manages to make her highly-crafted text passionate, pleasing and personally involving….” end quote. In this Walker explains how Boyle’s review is in error, in his view.

Here’s another review of the same book, published in a peer reviewed journal:

The Secret History of the War on Cancer
Reviewed by James Huff
Author information ► Copyright and License information ►

by Devra Davis

New York:Basic Books, 2007. 505 pp. ISBN: 978-0-465-01566-5, $27.95

The secret of The Secret History of the War on Cancer is prevention, an acutely recognized but long neglected solution to workplace-, environmental-, and public health–associated cancers. Davis begins by asking what we know and how much we need to know about suspected carcinogens before taking the actions necessary to reduce or eliminate exposures to known and suspected carcinogens. Hence prevention.

This assured strategy of preventing cancer versus treating cancer has been virtually ignored by national health and regulatory agencies, writes Davis, whereupon she describes the interconnections of industry, science, and government to maintain the status quo. Few of the hundreds of known carcinogens have been banned from use. Occupational exposure standards have been established for only a relatively small number of chemical carcinogens, and even here the chemical industry wields considerable and influential political power. Pioneering public health–minded individuals such as Lorenzo Tomatis and David Rall made great strides in primary prevention of diseases from chemicals, but their efforts were met with overwhelming resistance by government and industry to their relatively simple strategies for reducing cancer burdens. Davis presents in detail primary prevention tactics that could be easily implemented.

For example, Davis chronicles prevention efforts from the Surgeon General’s 1965 declaration that smoking causes cancer to the present, as well as feeble efforts to thwart tobacco smoking. She writes that the strength of the tobacco industry and the malfeasance of politicians and regulatory agencies combined to prevent public health action, thus condoning nearly 500,000 preventable deaths each year. She describes similar failures to prevent exposure to asbestos, lead, and industrial chemicals.

Davis details with striking historical perspective how those with interests in maintaining the use of carcinogens in industry cast doubt on epidemiologic research. Industry considers only epidemiologic evidence as potential proof of harm, even though the evidence is always vociferously challenged; conversely, industry promotes “the absence of human studies [as] proof that there was no harm.” But animal studies are rarely considered by industry or regulatory agencies as sufficient evidence to prove harm, because in their view the similarities and extrapolation to humans are not valid. As amply illustrated by Davis, these debates have intensified over time, as have the attempts to control scientific information: “What information is permitted to get to the marketplace, who decides when to release findings about public health hazards, all these things are not determined by scientific inquiry but by the social and economic realities that constrain them.” For example, in the mid-1970s when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) used incontrovertible human evidence of benzene-induced leukemias to reduce workplace exposures to benzene, a known carcinogen since the late 1920s, industry was able to thwart these reductions because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that OSHA did not consider the benefits versus risks in their evaluation. Ten more years went by before the standards were strengthened.

Clearly, Davis writes, profit is the key issue. Reducing exposures reportedly costs the affected industries more money than they can afford or want to spend and still make profits. For example, workers cleaning vinyl chloride (VC) reaction vats developed the same rare form of liver cancer (hemangiosarcoma) as first seen in animals, and the plastics industry was ordered to reduce/eliminate exposures to VC—but was not required to initiate any changes until there was verifiable evidence of cancer in humans. Instead, industry stated that the risks were “small” and that the plastics industry would not survive. Losing this argument and using their ingenuity rather than further litigation, industry automated the process and eliminated the need to manually clean VC reaction vats, actually making the process more streamlined and safe as well as more cost-effective and concomitantly reducing the workers’ risks of cancer.

The real debates and struggles arise when animal data show unequivocal carcinogenicity, but with no studies available in humans. Davis notes the considerable evidence that animal cancer data do indeed predict carcinogenic risks to humans. Scientists such as Davis and regulators who believe in the value of bioassays for public health cite at least five reasons supporting the continuation of bioassays and using this information to protect the public from unnecessary exposures to carcinogens: there are more similarities among mammals (humans and rodents) than differences; all accepted human carcinogens are also carcinogenic in animals; there are common cancer sites between animals and humans; nearly one-third of the identified human carcinogens were discovered first in animal bioassays; and findings from independently conducted adequate bioassays on the same chemicals are consistent.

The Secret History of the War On Cancer, exhaustively researched and deftly written, illuminates more of the truth about chemicals and cancer and the relatively simple means of preventing or reducing cancer burdens. Davis emphasizes that “It’s time to admit that our efforts have often targeted the wrong enemies and used the wrong weapons.” This exposé should be required reading in toxicology courses and also be made available in high school, college, public health libraries, and libraries in general. The message is clear: To reduce cancers, one need only reduce unnecessary exposures to mutagens and carcinogens as well as to chemicals in general. end quote. Source: ” Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science, Environ Health Perspect. Feb 2008; 116(2): A90.
PMCID: PMC2235200.

It can be seen at least that Davis, contrary to Boyle’s assertion, is more than a hack journalist interested only in gossip. Unless by the word gossip, Boyle means the awareness needed to prevent the cancers caused by the actions of industry in society.

I point out that radioactive chemicals used, created and released into the biosphere by nuclear industry are acknowledged toxic carcinogens and mutagens. They are regulated. It is the regulations which allow their use. Special security laws (eg the US Atomic Energy Act) defines criminal pentalies for unauthorised disclosures about them (ie “special nuclear fuels”.)

So, is Davis a conspiracy nut? Or is Boyle in the above example? To help my consideration of the matter, I ask myself, “Has government ever hidden anything from voters merely protect the interests of the government tax base and the profits of industry?”

As an associate of the Atomic ExServicemen’s Association of Australia, I laugh loud and long at that one. Imagine for a minute how likely nuclear power would be had it been the first means by which nuclear exhaust was spread across the globe. Not likely at all. The slow motion era of nuclear war known as the operation to kill ourselves was worth at least 4 Chernobyls in Nevada and the other downwinder states in the US alone. Over a decade. Today a blanket of radioactive noble gas from nuclear installations sits over the Northern arctic region. Without the base line (the normalisation) provided by bomb fallout, voters would have zero tolerance for nuclear exhaust. And governments keep lying about the bombs, and industry cites those lies in relation to reactor exhaust. imo. Are trained servicemen, though retired, all dangers to the national rationality Mr Boyle?