Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cancer is a modern illness (2)

Dr Peter Dingle, as he admits himself, is not a medically qualified doctor and has no time to research such matters. It is interesting, therefore, that his April/May newsletter has him providing health advice on cancer.

Perhaps the most dreaded of all diseases is cancer. It will kill around 1/3 of Australians. Unfortunately with our one dimensional health model we have continued to focus on the treatment rather than the prevention and as a result more people die. While cancer is largely untreatable, despite the miracle cures you hear about in the media, it is largely preventable. There is no miracle cure for cancer nor will there ever be. The rates of cancer and death from cancer continue to increase despite the billions of dollars injected into treating the illness. Only a few minor cancers are treated effectively with modern techniques yet we still keep doing it.

This is scary stuff. Cancer will kill you! It can't be treated! There will never be a cure! Doctors adopt a 'one dimensional health model'! The paragraph continues, in direct conflict with that claim:

One cancer however, is showing significant reductions in its occurrence and all future predictions show it reducing even further, lung cancer. The occurrence and the rates of deaths from lung cancer are on the decline, no because of treatment but because of education and prevention.

EoR expects that Dr Dingle's devoted readers will not notice that the 'one dimensional health model' includes not just treatment, but also education and prevention. Perhaps that is why we are seeing so much advice not to smoke, to drink less, to eat a healthy diet, and to exercise?

Despite the claims by specialists that say we don’t know why we are getting so many cancers it is obvious that it relates to our diet, environment, attitude and our lifestyle and there is abundant information to show that changing these parameters can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer.

If in doubt just look at the cancer statistics of countries that have different lifestyles and diets.

Most of the cancers of today were either rare or unheard of just 100 years ago and are still rare in many countries where people live on traditional diets. Breast cancer rates for example are around 1% of the woman in populations living on traditional foods in rural Japan and China and around 13% in Australia.

So there's that 'cancer is a modern illness' meme again.

EoR isn't sure why Dr Peter Dingle singles out Japan and China. Even Australia where, apparently, cancer is a modern, incurable epidemic, has lower rates in rural areas (but poorer outcomes due to lower access to those 'one dimensional' health care services), as noted by the Cancer Australia:

People living in very remote rural areas of Australia have lower incidence rates, but higher death rates, for all cancer types when compared to the community as a whole.

Dr Peter Dingle also fails to take into account that cancer is related to ageing. Since lifespans have been increasing, the number of cancers has also, but

Numbers of cancers diagnosed each year increased by 26 per cent from 1993 to 2003. Given the ageing of the Australian population, increases in population size and the fact that the risk of most cancers increases with age, annual numbers of new cancers are predicted to keep rising. However, while the number of people diagnosed with cancer is rising due to these factors, when we adjust rates to consider our ageing population, incidence rates were about the same for all cancers combined in 2003 as they were in 1993.

And, since Dr Peter Dingle isn't able to look at any of the research, he clearly remains unaware that

More than half of all cancers diagnosed in Australia are successfully treated, and survival rates for some common cancers have increased by more than 20 per cent in the past two decades. In general, Australian survival rates for cancer are high by world standards. Five-year survival rates for the most common cancers affecting men (prostate) and women (breast) are now more than 80 per cent.

So his claim that cancer is 'largely untreatable' is patently false and that 'Only a few minor cancers are treated effectively with modern techniques' is so wrong it would be funny if people weren't actually getting health 'advice' from this man.

Breast cancer survival rates have also steadily been increasing (p.127) so his claim that 'more people die' as a result of focusing on treatment is also patently false.

Of course, 'cancer' is not an illness, as Dr Peter Dingle seems to think, but a grouping of many illnesses of different types. Causes, etiologies, and treatments are multifactorial (and far from 'one dimensional').

Given the fact that breast cancer (to take only one, smaller, grouping of cancers) is more common amongst higher socioeconomic individuals, p116, (to take only one variable) shouldn't Dr Dingle actually be arguing that women's incomes should be lowered? Or is that too 'one dimensional'?

EoR notes that TAM Australia is touting for business:

The audience of 600 highly science-literate and obviously highly enthusiastic people offers a perfect opportunity if you or anyone you know has relevant and appropriate products or services to promote.

EoR trusts that Dr Peter Dingle will take up this opportunity.


  1. "Despite the claims by specialists that say we don’t know why we are getting so many cancers it is obvious that it relates to our diet, environment, attitude and our lifestyle..."

    I always thought it was obvious that it was because of koalas. I mean, look at Japan and China - they don't have koalas and they never get cancer. Isn't that obvious to anyone else?

    I asked my local panel beater the other day why he only fixed crashed vehicles instead of teaching people how to drive and properly maintain their own cars.

    Our driving system is so one dimensional.

    I asked my accountant why he spent all his time doing other people's taxes - instead of teaching them how to avoid tax in the first place. Accountants are so one dimensional.

  2. Dr Dingle appears too busy to research genomics.
    This is opening up fast now and underpins cancer studies.
    Environment may be the key but genes are the lock (or the hand on the key...or the reverse...)


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