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Medical science’s blind spot about the causes of cancer, especially about ionising radiation

These days, our science is often directed by funding, and funding increasingly is directed by large corporations whose incentives are to increase profit. This research emphasis leads to a focus on tertiary treatment in high-tech healthcare centers, while blind spots develop about the causes of illness, especially environmental ones, including PCBs, heavy metals, radiation, and pesticides.

Lies, damn lies, and radiation health, A Prosperous Way Down by Mary Logan  2013,Recent news about Hanford leaks, a flurry of news surrounding the two-year anniversary of Fukushima, and today’s news about breast cancer rates in the US center my thoughts on blind spots in health research. I will use ionizing radiation again as an illustration of environmental linkages to disease, beginning with the trigger for this post, which was a new World Health Organization (WHO) report. Previous posts about nuclear hazards are linked here and here.

This week, the WHO published a preemptive report on Fukushima, only two years after the disaster. The WHO concluded that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.” This conclusion is from the same organization that has been muzzled on the topic of ionizing radiation contamination of our environment since 1959, when they agreed to misinform the public in subordination to the global nuclear governing body, the IAEA, to protect civil and military nuclear interests.  If you believe that Fukushima has not increased background risk and there will be no increases in cancer rates, I have a bridge to sell you. Mark Twain’s maxim about lies, damn lies, and statistics can be applied here. The point of this post is to examine western medicine’s epistemology of disease, specifically examining how we select the risk factors that are involved in cancer and other diseases.

Epistemology is the study of the nature and scope of knowledge. Our society lacks a broad understanding of how ionizing radiation behaves once it is accidentally released into the environment. There are two main reasons for this. Bednarz (2010) describes Mitroff and Silvers’ discussion of Type 3 errors, where we unintentionally solve the wrong problems through our narrow worldview and reductionist focus in science, and Type 4 errors, where we intentionally solve the wrong problems, because we are pursuing goals such as profit that subverts the science. In our western system of medical research, we commit both Type 3 and Type 4 errors as a result of our narrow worldview and our economic mandate for profit and growth. These type 3 and 4 errors result in blind spots, especially regarding environmental linkages to disease.

In another medical report this week, a new epidemiological study of breast cancer reports increasing rates of breast cancer in young women (Johnson, Chien, & Bleyer, 2013). The pattern of increased incidence in younger patients would be compatible with the epidemiology of radiation-caused cancers, which are more common in the young who have faster cell division/turnover. The increased incidence could also be compatible with many other accumulating environmental toxins.

“The number of American women ages 25 to 39 diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer — which has already spread to other organs by the time it’s found — rose about 3.5% a year from 2000 to 2009, according to a study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. The trend began in the 1970s, although the most rapid increases occurred in about the last decade, the study says. The study doesn’t provide any clues about what might be driving the increase, says study author Rebecca Johnson, a pediatric and adolescent oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. . . .

The number of women in this age range diagnosed with advanced disease rose from about 250 a year in 1976 to about 850 a year in 2009, Johnson says. The largest increases were in the youngest women, from ages 25 to 34, the study says. There were also slight increases in metastatic diagnoses among women ages 40 to 54, but no increase in older women” (USA Today, 2/27/13).

Western medicine’s emphasis on treatment and pharmaceuticals, with abandonment of science that is focused on prevention and risk factors in fields such as epidemiology, public health, and environmental medicine points to reductionist science and the influence of money in directing the focus of research. Recently, Dr. Susan Love said that  “. . . her experience [of a recent diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia] has emboldened her in her quest to focus on the causes of disease rather than new drugs to treat it.” This aha! moment from a well-known breast cancer researcher illustrates our blind focus on research oriented towards treatment with increasingly costly drugs that may not cure.These days, our science is often directed by funding, and funding increasingly is directed by large corporations whose incentives are to increase profit. This research emphasis leads to a focus on tertiary treatment in high-tech healthcare centers, while blind spots develop about the causes of illness, especially environmental ones, including PCBs, heavy metals, radiation, and pesticides. In Love’s case, her leukemia is even more likely to be attributable to radiation exposure than other diseases. Strontium-90 is a bone-seeker, playing havoc with bone marrow. Should we be focusing on and funding genetic testing and treatment as the future of medicine, or should we be widening our view to encompass better science about preventive care and attention to burgeoning environmental risk factors? Especially since the cost of healthcare in America is now at 18% of GDP, and rising without brakes.http://prosperouswaydown.com/epistemology-radiation-health/

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August 7, 2015 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, women

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