Sunday, November 27, 2005

Echoes of the Big Bang

[Richard Doll, Elisabeth Whelan and Julian Peto at an American Council for "Science" and "Health" (ACSH) function.]

Cosmologists see features of a singular event 15 billion years ago, or so, through radio astronomy. The Big Bang event created the universe and the natural laws according to which the universe functions. [You can buy this as an act of creation by the Deity, and a sign of the Deity's grandeur and power. However, "creationists" and "intelligent designers" believe the Deity returned, one or several times, to reshape the earth or life on earth.]
About before the Big Bang we can know nothing.

For environmental health advocates interested in chemicals, there are multiple big bangs which shape our intellectual world. These were indeed intelligent design, since they are the works of historical figures. For cancer, these include Bernardino Ramazzini [who first noted hormonal cancers among celibate clerical women] and Percival Pott [who noted polynuclear aromatic chemical cancers among children employed as chimney sweeps.] The cigarette study by Doll and Hill is one of those events.

The study showed that inhaled particles caused lung cancer in people. The paper revealed the mother of all cohort mortality studies. The modern history began in 1954. The publication also spawned the strategy of scientific spin doctoring by industry, frequently noted in this blog as "money tox."

BrooklynDodger has previously noted that the laboratory toxicology of cigarette smoke is unknown to most in the chemical health field. Up until two years ago, the evidence for carcinogenicity of tobacco smoke from laboratory studies was only larynx cancer in hamsters, supported by equivocal studies in mice and rats, and implantation studies in a variety of species. Based on IARC criteria, this was sufficient evidence in laboratory studies. Absent human studies, cigarette smoke would be 2B, "possibly" carcinogenic. Based on NTP criteria, a positive association in one species is not enough for "reasonably anticipated" absent human data.

So, if we were FDA reviewing cigarettes in 1953, have the laboratory results, we would likely have approved cigarettes for commerce.

In later years, Doll came to stand for the idea that only cigarettes, and maybe asbestos, caused cancer in people. This is like the ripples in space time observed from the universe's Big Bang.

The BMJ reprint is available in full text

BMJ 2004;328:1529-1533 (26 June), doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7455.1529


The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits: a preliminary report

(Reprinted from Br Med J 1954:ii;1451-5)

Richard Doll, M.D., M.R.C.P.1, A. Bradford Hill, C.B.E., F.R.S.2

1 Member of the Statistical Research Unit of the Medical Research Council, 2 Professor of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Honorary Director of the Statistical Research Unit of the Medical Research Council

The full text of this article is available in PDF format only.

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