DEBUNKED: Myth: Cancer has become more prevalent in the USA

Via Skeptical Raptor’s Blog

cancer-foods-cause_250pxOne of the enduring zombified tropes of the junk science world is that the rate of cancer in people is higher today than it was in the past. Depending on the one screaming this myth, this rate of cancer increase is a result of A) vaccines, B) GMO crops, C) pasteurized milk, D) non-organic foods, or E) everything.

To be certain, there are a few things that do cause cancer, like smoking, asbestos, and obesity (and there are a lot of causes of obesity, it might be impossible to link the cause of obesity directly with cancer). Here and there, you might run across a study that mentions one thing or another may or may not increase or reduce the risk of cancer. But most of those studies are one-off primary research, usually using small groups, providing little clinical evidence that you may or may not be able to increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Wait until we can find these studies in large systematic reviews, before deciding that this or that may or may not increase or decrease the risk of cancer.

In the meantime, Joe Mercola certainly can make boatloads of money making such nonsense cancer claims.

Let’s go find out what the evidence tells us about the cancer rate. Let’s see if there are any real peer-reviewed articles that do a careful analysis of cancer rates over 100 years in the USA. Without much effort, I found one with the obscure and complex title of, “The decline in US cancer mortality in people born since 1925.” The paper by Kort et al., and published in Cancer Research in late 2009, reviewed data reported by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, was obtained from WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS). They examined the incidence (rate) and mortality from various cancers from individuals born in 1925 and after.

What the authors found was that rate of Cancer in each age group is holding roughly constant. However, since society as a whole is aging, overall cancer incidence is increasing slightly.

© Cancer research, 2009. All-site cancer mortality rates at different ages by decade of birth. Mortality rates for 40 to 79 year olds are plotted stratified by age and plotted by year of birth.

© Cancer research, 2009. All-site cancer mortality rates at different ages by decade of birth. Mortality rates for 40 to 79 year olds are plotted stratified by age and plotted by year of birth.

Well, the results are pretty clear. The rates of cancer for each age cohort appears to be flat, slightly increasing, or slightly decreasing. Overall, across all age groups, the cancer incidence is nearly flat (although the numbers are higher because the US population is larger and older than it was 60 years ago).

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