A new study on the causes of cancer comes to a surprising conclusion.
If the conclusions of this report stand up to scrutiny does not this necessarily imply that many of the past cancers attributed to smoking were in fact not connected to that activity at all but were the result of these random mutations in DNA? Does it not follow from this that smoking is not as dangerous as has long been claimed and that although it may lead to lung cancer in some it is not responsible for anywhere near the number of cases that has been attributed to it?
BTW I’d better make my own position clear. I haven’t smoked in more than 30 years and I think smoking is a disgusting habit that should be consigned to history as rapidly as possible.
No. The first figure in the link clearly shows that lung and stomach cancers are more likely caused by environmental causes than by hereditary or random causes (also head and neck, esophageal and cervical).
If I correctly understand the way science compounds knowledge over time: Single studies are essentially meaningless.
Over time, a few dozen other teams of researchers may check out the same things in roughly the same way. If they all keep finding over and over again that “the number of random mutations dwarfs the number of outside-cause mutations”, then – and only then – are we cooking with gas.
We already know that smoking does not *cause * lung cancer. We also know that smoking is a major risk factor. In other words, smoking alone does not cause lung cancer, some other factor such as random mutations may be the direct cause, but in the case of lung cancer smoking greatly increases the chance of whatever that direct cause is to actually result in cancer. The lowest considered figures would have at least two-thirds of lung cancer cases associated with smoking cigarettes, and it’s probably higher. Eliminating other environmental factors along with smoking might have eliminated 90% of the cases of lung cancer. That’s just the lung cancer, there are plenty of other ill effects due to smoking cigarettes.
So no, cigarettes will not be seen as the least bit less harmful.
I think we already knew that some lung cancers were not smoking related. But you put “maybe cigarettes aren’t so bad” in a headline, and you get clicks. Even when the study says, for the one zillionth time, that cigarettes fucking cause cancer.
I just watched my brother die slowly and painfully over the course of five years, being gradually carved up like a Christmas goose while the doctors tried to repair all the damage cigarettes did to his face and throat. Yes, cigarettes are that fucking bad.
The hatred of smoking in our culture is irrational. Not that smoking doesn’t have real health risks - it does - but there are very few people who are willing to stand up and say anything at all positive about it, even when warranted.
Some of us are old enough to remember when there were lots of studies saying ‘smoking was safe’ – eventually identified as being paid for by tobacco companies or their Foundations. There even used to be cigarette ads starring Doctors endorsing one particular brand.
How important/meaningless a single study is depends on many factors. One large study of one type is going to carry much more weight than a small study of another. Some single studies have been much more than “essentially meaningless.”
Here’s a breakdown of different types of studies and the weight they hold.
My mother smoked for 40 years and never got cancer, living to the age of 84. She kind of wished she had, the last fifteen years of her life were spent slowly suffocating from emphysema while chained to an oxygen tank, but hey, no cancer.
Smoking no more causes cancer than playing Russian roulette causes gunshot deaths. In fact, there are studies that show that the vast majority of deaths by gunshot don’t even involve Russian roulette at all; furthermore, I’ve known people who have played Russian roulette several times without ever suffering a gunshot death.
The CDC says smoking kills about 480,000 Americans every year (from all causes, including cancer, respiratory diseases, and children killed in fires started by smoking). Those deaths include 163,700 due to all types of cancer, and 127,700 due to lung cancer.
Going back to the study cited in the OP:
Of all lung cancers, 65% (127,700) were smoking related. So, this study tells us that about 35% (68,780) of lung cancers per year are due to random mistakes in the body. This study does not in any way question that smoking causes 127,700 lung cancers, or 36,000 other cancers, per year. The study only says that **some **cancers may be due more to random variation than we previously thought. But right there in the text of the article, they say, “well, except for some cancers like lung cancer, which is mostly caused by smoking.”
Well, it’s surprising to anyone who didn’t read Isaac Asimov’s 1986 essay The Enemy Within, which discussed spontaneous DNA mutation. Straightforward math and chemistry describe each of us producing ~6 DNA mutations per second or 85000 per day (the vast vast majority of which are nonviable and quickly discarded) but over a lifetime the odds of avoiding a cancerous mutation aren’t great.
I can remember being indifferent to smokers, mostly because they were everywhere and you gradually learned to just ignore them. Now when I walk into a room where there’s a smoker or where a smoker had recently been, the stench is actively irritating because it stands is such sharp contrast to the much cleaner air I’ve gotten used to (but gradually learned to ignore, until something intrudes on it).
Heck, I’ve found my eyes watering slightly when someone comes back from a smoke break, just from the reek on their clothing.
Vape fumes, I admit, can sometimes be borderline pleasant.
I believe there has been a study or two showing that obese folks are less likely to get osteoporosis. That doesn’t get much press either - probably for the same reasons. You get to the end of your nice little science article and there’s no cool way to write the conclusion.
“If more studies support this conclusion, the public would be advised to . . . well, lose weight for other reasons. Never mind.”