Feminism gives you breast cancer

I ran across this story study linking breast cancer protection to housework while browsing Scienceblogs briefly over the break (GrrlScientist mentioned it here), but hadn’t had a chance until now to read through the actual publication. As usual, I’m late; Orac has a good overview, as well as some comments made by other bloggers railing against “feminism” and how this study proves that feminist philosophy kills women.

First, here’s how the BBC story describes it:

Women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

The research on more than 200,000 women from nine European countries found doing household chores was far more cancer protective than playing sport.

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming was also better than having a physical job.

The women in the Cancer Research UK-funded study spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week cooking, cleaning and doing the washing.

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Upcoming Iowa events on evolution and intelligent design

It’s a new year, and it will be a busy one here in Iowa when it comes to evolutionary biology. I want to highlight two upcoming events: Iowa City’s first annual Darwin Day celebration featuring a lecture by Massimo Pigliucci, and an upcoming symposium on evolution and intelligent design, featuring John Haught and Wesley Elsberry. These events will be held in February and March, respectively; more information on both of them after the jump.
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Iowa/Vander Plaats update

I mentioned the situation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his support of intelligent design last week (posts here and here). A group of us have put together an editorial discussing Vander Plaats’ position and why it matters to Iowa voters (letter and signatories can be found here at the Iowa Citizens for Science site). Yesterday, a columnist for the Des Moines register also wrote up the story, and our response to it:
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The failure of alternative medicine

I previously blogged an editorial by NBC medical correspondent Robert Bazell, where he told scientists to “quit whining” about intelligent design and instead work on teaching “values.” While I agreed with him there on the science (he made it clear he gave no respect to “intelligent design” and other types of creationism), his suggestion that teachers and scientists spend more time worrying (and teaching) about more “practical” things such as biotechnology and medical ethics was just, in my opinion, wrong. Luckily, his new editorial on alternative medicine contains no such red herrings.
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People out there never cease to amaze me

Regular readers out there will already be familiar with the groups of people who deny evolutionary theory, who deny that HIV causes AIDS, even those who deny that germs cause disease, period. Wilhelm Godshalk is even on the record for denying gravity. I don’t know what it is about this site, and science blogs in general, that bring people out of the woodwork in this manner, but we have another live one. Witness Charles Hoy’s assertion that fear, not smoking, causes lung cancer.

What evidence do you want? Lung cancer is as common in smokers as it is in non-smokers. Where it all gets tricky is when you have to draw the frontier between smokers and non-smokers. A person who has been smoking from his 15th until his 30th birthday and who gets lung cancer at an age of 60, is he in the smoker’s or in the non-smoker’s stats? Already there are not so many people who never smoked a cigarette in their lives and, of course, today the last barriers to easy statistics are leveled. Secondary smoke! What an amazing trick of the apologist geniuses. Nobody in the whole wide world is save from secondary smoke and today ALL lung cancer can be traced back to cigarettes.

But we should consider things differently. For example, everybody diagnosed with a severe disease like cancer or AIDS will end up having lung cancer. Look it up: Cancer metastasis in the lungs is the most common of secondary cancers. Which is very logical: People who are severely ill are very afraid and the cause of lung cancer is fear. Or, to be more precise, a biological conflict of “fear of death” is the cause if the lung alveoli are concerned.

Someone better alert the tobacco companies–I assume they’ll want their settlement money back.

[Edited to add that apparently Hoy also denies the germ theory of disease, like our previous pal jspreen. To ease my mind, I’m going to believe he’s just putting me on. Again, don’t shatter my illusions…]

Orac on the HIV/viral load paper

Orac has a post up on this new JAMA paper as well. He brings up some better examples than the one I gave:

Does anyone in this day and age still believe that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer? The epidemiological evidence of the association is bulletproof. However, the majority of smokers don’t get lung cancer. In fact, there are complex statistical models that allow a pretty accurate calculation of risk in populations based on how long and how much a smoker has been smoking. For example, if you start smoking at age 18 and smoke two packs a day, by age 55, you have about a 5% chance of dying of lung cancer and by age 75 you have about a 20% chance of dying of lung cancer. That’s a far lower chance than an HIV-positive patient has of progressing to full-blown AIDS in 10 years (approximately 50%); yet no one seriously disputes that smoking is a very strong risk factor for lung cancer. At the population level, the association is very strong. However, if I see a 65-year-old patient who has been smoking since age 18, I can’t tell him whether he will definitely get lung cancer. I can only quote probabilities. Between two 65-year-olds who are heavy smokers, one may be perfectly fine and another may have stage IV lung cancer.

Let’s look at another example: Breast cancer. Let’s look at stage IV disease, which is, in essence, 100% fatal eventually. However, we do have pretty good estimates of median survival and what a patient’s chance of living 6, 12, 24, and 36 months are. However, when faced with a single breast cancer patient with stage IV disease, we are pretty poor at predicting how long that particular patient will survive. We can’t give a good answer to this poor hypothetical patient’s question, “How long have I got left?” We can only quote probabilities. One woman might deteriorate and die in 6 months, while all of us involved in the care of breast cancer patients have seen the occasional patient who has lived with metastatic disease for several years and done mostly well.

Examples like this abound in the medical literature. The fact that HIV “dissidents” again think this new paper describes some phenomenon unique to HIV again shows their ignorance of the totality of the biomedical literature.