Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Evaluating the statistics Part 2

As noted in my last post, the method of calculating smoking attributable deaths raises a lot of questions.

For example, Health Canada managed to reduce the number of smoking related deaths by roughly 22%, just by changing the data set used in their calculations. In 2007, they were claiming 47,581 smoking related deaths, but by the summer of 2008, there were only 37,203 deaths attributed to smoking. But, there were no more, and no fewer, actual deaths. The reduction was in the statistical deaths attributed to smoking calculated by Health Canada.

No big deal you say? They found an error in their calculations and corrected them.

But, from 1998 to 2008, the inflated numbers were quoted by the anti-smoker crowd, the press and politicians as gospel. And, in fact, the exaggerated numbers are still being used by many in the anti-smoker brigade. Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada is but one example. And, the dramatic reduction in smoking attributable mortality was not considered sufficiently newsworthy to be reported by the major news media in Canada.

Had smoking related deaths increased by only half that amount, it would have been front page news.

According to Health Canada, persistent HPV infection with high risk types, is the major cause of cervical cancer. It is estimated that over 99% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

This contention is supported by the Canadian Cancer Society: “Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by persistent high-risk HPV infection. High-risk types of HPV are considered known cancer-causing agents. About 70% of cervical cancers are associated with high-risk HPV type 16 and 18. Other high-risk types of HPV are associated with the other 30% of cervical cancers.”

But, if you look in the smoking attributable mortality tables prepared for Health Canada, 34.7% of cervical cancers (126 of 362 deaths) are attributed to smoking. Is this claim even remotely possible? Was the data on HPV and cervical cancer too recent to have been taken into consideration in calculating smoking related deaths? And, even if that were the case, does it not point out the tenuous nature of the original data linking cervical cancer to smoking?

But, the inclusion of cervical cancer in the ever expanding list of smoking related diseases becomes even more suspect, when you realize that data suggesting HPV was likely responsible for all cervical cancers has been available since 1999.

A similar situation is developing with mounting evidence of a link between lung cancer and HPV. Health Canada claims that 88.6% of male lung cancers are caused by smoking. Another 1.5% are said to be caused by exposure to SHS. And, 10% of lung cancers are caused by exposure to radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. That's 100% of male lung cancers for which the cause has, allegedly, already been found

But, that leaves no room for the deaths that may have been caused by exposure to asbestos or any of the other dozen or more risk factors associated with lung cancer. At least for men. Of course, any deaths associated with exposure to asbestos, beryllium, uranium, diesel exhaust, smog, etc. may be exclusive to the female component of the population. But, you'd think that was something someone should have mentioned.

So, what should we make of recent studies suggesting that HPV, not radon, may be the second leading cause of lung cancer. And, one study from Germany does just that: “The data suggest that HPV is the second most important cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking and strongly argues for additional research on this issue.”

The study also notes that: “Overall, the mean incidence of HPV in lung cancer was 24.5%. While in Europe and the America the average reported frequencies were 17% and 15%, respectively.”

Even the anti-smoker claim that 85% to 90% of all lung cancers are caused by smoking doesn't hold up to scrutiny. According to Health Canada, 13,401 of 17,188 lung cancer deaths were caused by smoking. But that's only 78%.

Nit-picking? Maybe . . .

Smoking may contribute to morbidity and mortality from some diseases. But, if Health Canada and the rest of the anti-smoker cult have to resort to deceptive statistics to convince the public of the hazards of smoking, how can anyone have any confidence in anything they say? And, the statistics are deceptive, both in fact and presentation.

Has anybody ever wondered how Health Canada can state with such precision how many deaths from IHD were caused by smoking, but they can't tell how many may have been caused by stress, diet or lack of exercise? How can they determine that exactly 13,401 lung cancer deaths were caused by smoking, but the best they can come up with for exposure to radon in the home is “about 2,000”?

How many Canadians know, for example, that despite the fact that smokers comprise 20% of the population, only 13% of the over 40,000 IHD (Ischemic Heart Disease) deaths are attributed to smoking? How many are aware that, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance, “over 60% of new cases (of lung cancer) are never smokers or former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago.”

How many Canadians know that smoking related illness is a fiction; that people die from heart disease and lung cancer whether they smoke or not. How many are aware that smoking related statistics are based on speculation and conjecture; that they are being used as a propaganda tool by the health scare professionals in the anti-smoker cult?

But, perhaps the most important question is why the public, the press and politicians seem so eager to buy into the bullshit and bafflegab.

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