[FoRK] The Shift...

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Fri May 27 13:23:50 PDT 2005

Jeff Bone wrote:

> RT says:
>> There is little doubt that smoking accelerates
>> artery disease and causes emphysema and
>> lung cancer. The stochastic nature of the
>> result is due to two things: (a) these diseases
>> take decades to manifest, and (b) individuals
>> vary in their susceptibility. The question isn't
>> the causal link, only WHICH smokers will die
>> from their habit.
> I'd make a subtle but important change in those statements:  "There  
> is little doubt that smoking accelerates artery disease and  
> *increases the risk of emphysema and lung cancer.*"  Correlation is  
> not causation.  Over the last three decades we've been *programmed*  
> to believe the equation:  smoke, get lung cancer.  But that's just  
> not the case, nor is it clear how much of a causative impact smoking  
> has on smokers that do, in fact, get lung cancer.  Clearly, many  
> (most) do not.  Even the "1 in 3" number is highly suspect, likely  
> very inflated.

Medically, quite a number of things are known to statiscally frequently 
cause mutations.  If you smoke every day, I believe that the evidence 
shows nearly 100% cumulative chance that you have already had 
precancerous (at least 1 mutation) or cancerous (multiple mutations, up 
to and including metastisis ability) cells.  Not actually getting 
"cancer" depends on how well your body reacts to and destroys these 
errant cells.  I believe that everyone has some amount of these 
mutations in their lifetime, but it's only the ones that get away from 
the immune system and go on to more mutations and eventually metastisis 
that are deadly.  Many things can increase the incidence of mutations 
and/or decrease the ability of the immune system to recognize and 
eliminate bad cells.  Since it is known that smoking contains numerous 
cancer-causing agents (i.e. those with greater than background mutagenic 
properties) and they are delivered right to vulnerable tissue (square 
miles of lung surface) and internally (blood, bone marrow, etc.), it IS 
a causation of additional mutations and therefore a causation of cancer 

Many things increase mutation incidence, including sunshine, virii, 
trace elments and molecules, etc., but few get delivered in such an 
invasive, concentrated, and constant way as that delivered by smoking.

All of this is on top of other effects like ruining lung cillia and 
guarunteed osteoporosis.  (At Georgetown Medical Center in a class, they 
showed a slice of healthy and smoker bone.  The former was a nice, even, 
which sponge while the later was nearly black with an uneven, very 
sparse bone matrix.  Worse than classic osteoporosis.  One of the really 
nasty problems with osteoporosis is when your spine starts 
desintigrating, leaving your body collapsing around your spinal cord.  
We've all seen elderly people who were very hunchback and mishapen; 
that's why.  Not good.

> And it's a specious kind of reasoning, anyway:  it completely ignores  
> the issues of *how much* somebody smokes, *how often,* at what ages,  
> what kinds of tobacco products, and in what contexts.  Therefore the  
> fact that somebody at some point in their life smoked tobacco  
> habitually is at most a co-factor, one that with certain  
> qualifications (quantity, frequency, etc.) may trigger lurking  
> oncogenes in some significant subset of the population that smokes.

How does the context of smoking affect it's medical effect?

The oncogenes that you are referring to are mostly, I believe, involved 
in "expressing" some weakness in recognizing and eliminating already 
mutated cells, rather than being a direct cause.  It sounds like you are 
arguing that getting stung by a bee isn't a primary cause of an allergic 
death, it is just causing the expression of a bad gene that would have 
killed them anyway.

It is true that smoking a very small amount, infrequently, is unlikely 
to have much ill effect.  Because of what we now know about cancer and 
the body's reaction, it is even possible that very rare sampling could 
actually improve your health.  (The anti-oncology acting mechanisms are 
more active when they have been primed by prior "work".  Low amounts of 
radiation or certain poisonous chemicals, for instance, actually lower 
the incidence of (detectable) cancer in some populations. 

We all know smoking is highly addictive however and that very few who 
start always adhere to such sampling.

> But smoking itself is an easy-to-identify target --- smelly,  
> disgusting, annoying, increasingly unpopular, etc. --- and has a  
> nice, fat, rich, evil industry behind it, so it's easier to target  
> than, say, genetic predisposition.  After all, you can blame somebody  
> for their own bad behavior and, even better, you can blame the nasty  
> evil industry that "made" them behave badly.  But you damn well can't  
> blame somebody for their genetic heritage, can you?
> There are many more public health issues that have much clearer  
> causative links.  Eating McDonald's every day *will* make you a fat  
> slob and *will* give you heart disease.  Bottom line, end of story.   
> But we're not going after McDonald's, are we?  Not yet, anyway.   
> (Actually, the process has already started.  We're at about the same  
> place re:  demonization of fast food as we were on smoking in, say,  
> the early 70s.  IMHO.)

Eating at McDonalds every day AND consuming far more calories than your 
expend AND making poor choices will make you fat, unless you are 
genetically predisposed against that.  It might not give you heart 
disease, but again that depends on exercise and genetics.  Of course it 
also depends on what you eat: salads, fruit/yogurt, bagels, frozen 
yogurt (nearly fat free), and even the occasional grilled chicken or 
beef is unlikely to result in too many poor health issues.

> "We know what's best for you."
> jb


swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

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