Does everything cause cancer?

Everything does not cause cancer: How to sort out science facts

Does it seem sometimes as though everything we eat, breathe or do causes cancer, or birth defects, or miscarriages?
Well, here is some news for those who wonder whether anything from apples to sweetener is safe.

According to Consumer’s Research magazine, studies on the causes of dreaded medical problems such as cancers, miscarriages and birth defects are often misleading and almost always inconclusive. That’s why a diligent consumer may read one day that power lines cause cancer and the next day that they do not.

Here are some guidelines that may take the fright factor out of reading scientific studies:

* People are living longer and dying of different things.
Before measles shots, some percentage of children would die of this childhood disease or another. Those children may now survive, but they will eventually die, as we all do.

* As people live longer, cancer becomes more common.
At the dawn of man, very few people died of cancer. Instead, they got stomped by elephants and attacked by lions. They starved. They got the plague. They froze to death.

Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-fourth of the adult population will get cancer and one-fifth will die of it. That doesn’t mean technology and environment are responsible. It means we are living longer. There are many cancers that occur in children, but most occur in adults. The older the population, the more likely that cancer will be a cause of death.

Moreover, most cancers are not explained. An environmental or behaviorial factor is very rarely demonstrated to cause cancer, according to Michael Fumento, author of Science Under Seige (William Morrow, New York, 1993). Smoking and lung cancer have been definitely linked.

* Miscarriages are relatively common and unexplained.
The rate of miscarriage after a recognized pregnancy ranges from 12.5 percent to 15 percent, Fumento writes. Since there are hundreds of millions of people in North America, that would be a large number of women experiencing miscarriage. These women are scattered all over the continent. Occasionally, more than one woman in an office building or neighborhood may have a miscarriage. This doesn’t mean there is a cause in their environment.

*Birth defects are not unusual and they are mostly unexplained.
Of the four million babies born each year in the U.S., up to 120,000 may have birth defects. Although there is technology available that sometimes can determine causes of defects and miscarriages, at least 43 percent have an unknown cause and the rest have at least some unknown factor.

* Rare diseases occasionally happen to people with unusual or dangerous occupations or environments. A rare disease may occur in a person who works in or lives near a nuclear reactor. Before linking the two events, remember that the rest of the people who have that same rare disease do not live next to or work in the nuclear reactor. Nevertheless, the others still have the rare disease.

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