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Angela Logomasini - Cancer Trends_0

Angela Logomasini - Cancer Trends_0

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Published by: Competitive Enterprise Institute on Dec 03, 2010
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202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
Cancer Trends
 Angela Logomasini
In recent decades, many have claimed thatcancer is rising because of increased use of human-made chemicals. But if chemicals werea source of health problems, one might expectthat as chemical use increased around the world,there would be a measurable adverse effect onlife expectancy, cancer rates, or other illnesses.Yet in developed nations, where chemical usehas greatly increased, people are living longer,healthier lives.
 
According to the the World HealthOrganization, which is a division of the WorldHealth Organization, the average worldwidehuman life span has increased from 45 yearsin 1950 to about 66 in 2000, and it will mostlikely continue to increase to 77 years by 2050.
1
1. Bernard W. Stewart and Paul Kleihues
,
eds.,
World 
Cancer
 Report 
(Lyon
, France
:
World Health Organiza-tion/ 
IARC Press, 2003), 320.
According to the Centers for Disease Preventionand Control, U.S. life expectancy reached cur-rently 77.8 years in 2004.
2
Moreover, cancer trends are anything butalarming. Scientists Richard Doll and RichardPeto note in their landmark study on cancer thatrates remained nearly constant in the UnitedStates during the 20th century except for in-creases caused by smoking. Improvements inmedical technology, more accurate identifica-tion and reporting of cancer cases, and—mostimportant—increasing life expectancies that re-sult in more people in the older age groups in
2. ArialdiM.Miniño, Melonie P. Heron, SherryL.Mur-phy, and Kenneth D.Kochanek, “Deaths: Final Datafor 2004,”
National Vital Statistics Reports
55 no. 19(August 21. 2007), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/ nvsr55/nvsr55_19.pdf.
 
The Environmental SourceCompetitive Enterprise Institute www.cei.org 202-331-1010
which cancer is more likely only make it appearas if rates have increased.
3
Scientists Bruce Amesand Lois Swirsky Gold report that overall can-cer rates, excluding lung cancer, have declined16 percent since 1950. This increase in canceramong the elderly is best explained by improvedscreening.
4
 The National Cancer Institute (NCI), inits annual report on cancer, has also reportedthat rates for overall cancer are down in recentyears (see figure 1). Rates for almost all spe-cific cancers also are falling. Researchers report
3. Richard Doll and Richard Peto, “The Causes of Can-cer: Quantitative Estimates of Avoidable Risks of Cancerin the United States Today,”
 Journal of the National Can-cer Institute
66, no. 6 (1981): 1257.4. Bruce N. Ames and Lois Swirsky Gold, “Environ-mental Pollution, Pesticides, and the Prevention of Cancer: Misconceptions,”
FASEB Journal 
11, no. 13(1997): 1041–52, http://socrates.berkeley.edu/mutagen// AmesGold.pdf.
that even lung cancer is falling, as aresult of reduced smoking rates overthe past 25 years.
5
They do not men-tion environmental exposures in thediscussion of cancer trends.It is true that developed nationshave higher cancer rates than devel-oping nations and that there was anincrease in cancer incidence duringthe 20th century. The WHO reportsthat developed nations face cancerrates that are more than twice ashigh as that of developing nations.
6
 The data clearly indicate, however,that chemical use and related pol-lution are not sources of this prob-lem. Other factors better explainthese trends. In particular, canceris largely a disease related to aging,which means that along with the im-provements in life expectancy come increasedcancer rates. Also, rates will appear even largerbecause the median age of the population isgetting older. Not surprisingly, the WHO re-ports that cancer deaths and incidence grew22 percent between 1990 and 2000. Thosetrends are expected to continue regardless of chemical use because, as the WHO reports, thenumber of individuals older than 60 will tripleby 2050.In addition, developed nations experienceda dramatic increase of cancer incidences in thepast century because of an increase in smoking,
5. Phyllis A. Wingo, Lynn A. G. Ries, Gary A. Gio-vino, Daniel S. Miller, Harry M. Rosenberg, Donald R.Shopland, Michael J. Thun, and Brenda K. Edwards.“Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer,1973–1996, with a Special Section on Lung Cancer andTobacco Smoking,”
 Journal of the National Cancer Insti-tute
91, no. 8 (April 1999): 675.6. Ames and Gold,
World Cancer Report 
.
180190200210220230240
   2   0   0   1   1   9   9   9   1   9   9   7   1   9   9   5   1   9   9   3   1   9   9   1   1   9   8   9   1   9   8   7   1   9   8   5   1   9   8   3   1   9   8   1   1   9   7   9   1   9   7   7   1   9   7   5
Figure 1. U.S. Cancer Mortality Age-AdjustedCases per 100,000 Individuals
Source
: National Cancer Institute.
 
Chemical Risk202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
which causes several types of cancer in additionto lung cancer. The WHO says that tobacco isthe main known cause of cancer, producing upto 30 percent of all cancers in developed na-tions.
7
A large portion of cancer rate increasesin developed nations occurred during the previ-ous century because of increases in the rate of smoking earlier that century.For example, Brad Rodu and Philip Cole,researchers from the University of AlabamaSchools of Medicine and Public Health, reportthat in the United States smoking is responsiblefor making what was once a rare occurrence—lung cancer—one of the most common can-cers today. Rodu and Cole note, however, that“when the mortality from all smoking-relatedcancers is excluded, the decline in other cancerfrom 1950 to 1998 was 31 percent (from 109to 75 deaths per 100,000 person years).”
8
Theycontinue, “A typical commentary blamed ‘in-creasing cancer rates’ on ‘exposure to industrialchemicals and run-away modern technologieswhose explosive growth had clearly outpacedthe ability of society to control them.’” Buttheir research finds: “There is no denying theexistence of environmental problems, but thepresent data show that they produced no strik-ing increase in cancer mortality.
9
To get a better idea about specific cancertrends, one must consider how cancer ratesare reported. Age-adjusted cancer data offera clearer understanding about risk and actualtrends than do non-age-adjusted data. Age ad-justing involves controlling for the fact that thenumber of older people in a population may
7. Ibid., 22.8. Brad Rodu and Philip Cole, “The Fifty-Year Declineof Cancer in America,”
 Journal of Clinical Oncology
19,no. 1 (2001): 240–41.9. Ibid.,
239
41
.
be increasing or decreasing. Because cancer is adisease that occurs at older ages, the number of cancer cases will increase when a larger shareof the population is older, though the risk perindividual might be declining or remaining con-stant. Hence, when researchers adjust for suchchanges in the population, they get a better ideaof whether cancer risks are increasing or declin-ing. In addition, as a population grows larger,so does the number of cancers. So even if cancerrisks to the individual are declining, absolutenumber of cancers for the population could beincreasing. Hence, risk is better measured bycounting the number of cancers per 100,000individuals.The NCI produces an annual report oncancer trends, published in the
 Journal of theNational Cancer Institute
, which offers some of the best analysis in the world. A special reportin the
European Journal of Cancer
offers a sim-ilarly impressive analysis on cancers around theworld, using data adjusted for age and popula-tion size.
10
Both sources offer valuable analy-sis and explanations of the data that—whenabsent—can facilitate attempts to mislead thepublic and policymakers about what the datareveal about cancer risks.The
European Journal of Cancer
article notesthat rates for cancer are increasing overall be-cause of various circumstances around the worldthat are not easily lumped into a single category.None of these circumstances include exposureto trace levels of chemicals. Yet in some places,both mortality and incidence are declining, par-ticularly in industrial nations where chemicalsare used widely.
11
Likewise, the NCI reports:
10. D. M. Parkin, F. I. Bray, and S. S. Devesa, “CancerBurden in the Year 2000: The Global Picture,”
European Journal of Cancer
37, supplement 8 (2001): S4–66.11. Ibid.

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