Whining hippy on pancreatic cancer

However, it could never happen, and not because I\’m so enlightened, sensitive or any of the other euphemisms for \”whining hippie\” usually dumped on vegetarians. My conversion to flesh-eating couldn\’t happen because, frankly, I\’m not stupid enough. As in, I can read.

Analysis of more than 6,000 pancreatic cancer cases published in the British Journal of Cancer says that eating just 50g of processed meat a day (one sausage or a couple of slices of bacon) raises the likelihood of pancreatic cancer by a fifth. 100g a day (the equivalent of a medium burger) raises it by 38%, 150g by 57%.

Hmm. Age adjusted incidence of pancreatic cancer is 12 per 100,000.

So the eating of processed meats raises it to 18 per 100,000 or so does it? (Not really, as the 12 rate already includes those who eat processed meats but still….)

Ho hum, that\’s about the risk of dying in a car crash isn\’t it? Just one of those minor risks that confront us all, that have to be navigated on that route from cradle to the inevitable grave.

19 comments on “Whining hippy on pancreatic cancer

  1. I wonder what the health risk of being repeatedly punched in the face for being a pretentious, self righteous little sh!t is. Bet it is more than 18 in 100,000 of the relevant population.

    Besides, what are the risks of eating vegetables – many of which are actively trying to kill us. That eating meat raises one form of cancer doesn’t mean eating tofu doesn’t raise the risks of another.

  2. One way to assess risks like this is NNH (or in case of new treatments or safety procedures, NNT), the ‘number needed to harm’ (or ‘treat’). Very rough calculation suggests that’s about 20,000 in this case – i.e. if 20,000 people eat processed meat rather than avoid it for one year, you expect one extra case of pancreatic cancer.

  3. Vegetarians are on average healthier than meat-eaters – the major risk of vegetarianism is B12 deficiency; meat-eaters have higher incidence of heart disease and various cancers.

    But the article you link to is stupid. The statistic she quotes is about the risk of eating processed meats: the paper speculates about a mechanism involving nitrite preservatives. So why does she tell us the weight of a medium burger?

    (Further down the column she reveals an even greater willingness to advertise her ignorance on copyright and trademark issues.)

  4. …if the author was so concerned with this tiny risk, she could simply eschew processed meat and stick to lovely juicy chucks sliced unprocessed from the carcass of the dead animal.

  5. PaulB – “Vegetarians are on average healthier than meat-eaters – the major risk of vegetarianism is B12 deficiency; meat-eaters have higher incidence of heart disease and various cancers.”

    In my experience Vegetarians are also disproportionately concentrated among those aged 15 to 30. So naturally they have lower rates of heart disease and various cancers.

  6. PaulB, vegetarians are on average healthier than meat eaters because they generally look after themselves more than meat eaters. Meat eaters, because it’s the default for the vast majority of the population, don’t need to think about their food what be picky about it.

    Vegetarians will examine every piece of food they consume and make sure it’s healthy. And because they are watching what they eat they also watch their own bodies more.

  7. Strange she went for such a rare example as pancreatic cancer when other stats are far more in her favour, as PaulB notes. SMFS – actually it’s dead easy to adjust these stats for age (a rudimentary version of the required procedure is on the GCSE Statistics syllabus) and that’s what researchers usually do, so unlikely to be the issue here. Bigger difficulty is more subtle confounding – people who have specifically chosen an atypical diet are presumably likely to be more aware and engaged than most about various body and diet issues.

  8. “Vegetarians are on average healthier than meat-eaters –”

    Yet experience of talking with vegetarians would seem to indicate the opposite.

    How often in the process of learning that a person is vegetarian does one also learn that they are firm believers in alternative medicine? Will regale the listener with anecdotal evidence of it’s success in treating their ailments.

    Now I’m a confirmed carnivore of many years standing. I wouldn’t even consider myself a ‘believer’ in orthodox medicine. Quite honestly I haven’t the experience to judge. I so rarely have reason to resort to any form of medication because I so rarely have an ailment to medicate it’s hard to form an opinion.

    Nevertheless, I do feel my lack of experience may be telling me something….

  9. These people are in favour of State intervention. Would it be too much to ask then, for the State to prohibit anyone who is a moron from writing a word in any medium whatsoever.

    Furthermore, anyone who includes numbers in a piece has to have maths A level (I’m taking account of grade devaluation here).

    I haven’t read the British Journal of Cancer Alarmism, but really…

    Notice that 100g gives you a 38% chance?
    And one half extra – 150g – gives you 57%?
    So pigging out and having 300g gives you a stone cold raving certainty of getting it? Rilly?
    It’s just a simple, straight line graph of death then…

  10. “Vegetarians are on average healthier than meat-eaters”: in the sense of lesser morbidity, lesser mortality (age-for-age), greater physical fitness faster, further …..), etc, etc? Which? All of them? Some?

    Corrected for co-variates, I presume?

  11. “Vegetarians are on average healthier than meat-eaters”: unless they catch E Coli from organic beansprouts, no?

    The study itself is standard epidemiological fare: they’ve found a correlation worthy of further study. The vast majority of such correlations turn out to be wibble.

  12. I know it is easy to adjust the figures for age, but have they? A well designed study is something most people should do, but it doesn’t mean that they do do it.

    From Wikipedia:

    Longevity

    A 1999 metastudy combined data from five studies from western countries.[71] The metastudy reported mortality ratios, where lower numbers indicated fewer deaths, for fish eaters to be 0.82, vegetarians to be 0.84, occasional meat eaters to be 0.84.

    So you’re even healthier if you eat fish?

    Regular meat eaters and vegans shared the highest mortality ratio of 1.00.

    No health benefits at all from being a vegan?

    The study reported the numbers of deaths in each category, and expected error ranges for each ratio, and adjustments made to the data. However, the “lower mortality was due largely to the relatively low prevalence of smoking in these [vegetarian] cohorts”.

    So vegetarians are not healthy because they don’t eat meat, they are healthier because they don’t smoke. Which means a vegan diet must be bad for you – how many vegans do you know who smoke? And yet they die at the same rate meat eaters who smoke do.

    Out of the major causes of death studied, only one difference in mortality rate was attributed to the difference in diet, as the conclusion states: “…vegetarians had a 24% lower mortality from ischaemic heart disease than non-vegetarians, but no associations of a vegetarian diet with other major causes of death were established.”[71]

    In “Mortality in British vegetarians”,[72] a similar conclusion is drawn: “British vegetarians have low mortality compared with the general population. Their death rates are similar to those of comparable non-vegetarians, suggesting that much of this benefit may be attributed to non-dietary lifestyle factors such as a low prevalence of smoking and a generally high socio-economic status, or to aspects of the diet other than the avoidance of meat and fish.”[73]

    So a vegetarian diet does you no good at all.

    The Adventist Health Study is an ongoing study of life expectancy in Seventh-day Adventists. This is the only study among others with similar methodology which had favourable indication for vegetarianism. The researchers found that a combination of different lifestyle choices could influence life expectancy by as much as 10 years. Among the lifestyle choices investigated, a vegetarian diet was estimated to confer an extra 1–1/2 to 2 years of life.

    I would give up 1 to 2 years of incontinence in a nursing home for decent steak alone. Not even counting pork chops, or even better roast pork or roast chicken. Frankly this is not a pay off worth making.

    The researchers concluded that “the life expectancies of California Adventist men and women are higher than those of any other well-described natural population” at 78.5 years for men and 82.3 years for women. The life expectancy of California Adventists surviving to age 30 was 83.3 years for men and 85.7 years for women.

  13. “eating just 50g of processed meat a day (one sausage or a couple of slices of bacon) raises the likelihood of pancreatic cancer by a fifth. 100g a day (the equivalent of a medium burger) raises it by 38%, 150g by 57%.”

    So RRs pf 1.2, 1.48 and 1.57. Anything below an RR of two is, as a rule of thumb, considered epidemiologicallly insignificant (even if one ignires the fact that correlation is not causation.) If eating meat tripled, say, one’s RR of developing pancreatic cancer, then this sanctimonious innumerate prodnosed fuckwit might have a vestigial point. But it doesn’t, and she hasn’t.

  14. The reduced risk of ischaemic heart disease in vegetarians is pretty well established in the literature, even after taking into account confounding factors such as age and smoking.

    “I would give up 1 to 2 years of incontinence in a nursing home for decent steak alone.” No, that’s not the way it works.

    I’m not on a mission to make you live longer. But if I were, I’d advise you to moderate your meat intake.

  15. PaulB – “The reduced risk of ischaemic heart disease in vegetarians is pretty well established in the literature, even after taking into account confounding factors such as age and smoking.”

    I would like to see some of the literature. But that they have found one thing that may have improved still is not a good reason to give up meat. We would have to see what else got worse.

    “No, that’s not the way it works.”

    Really? How does it work? Yes, it is an average. So in many cases I wouldn’t live longer anyway. But on average you’re asking me to give to steak for a couple of extra years wetting myself alone in an old age home. Not that appealing really.

    “I’m not on a mission to make you live longer. But if I were, I’d advise you to moderate your meat intake.”

    And I would question whether you know what you’re talking about or whether this was some form of quasi-religious zeal disguised as science.

  16. The literature isn’t hard to find on-line. To get you started, here’s a recent summary from non-zealots: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864 “a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease”.

    (And while I’m at it, here’s a recent review of vegetarianism and cancer risk: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048091/?tool=pubmed )

    How does it work? Well, first, diseases that increase mortality have increased morbidity also – you get sick before you die. And second, a risk that gives, say, a one year reduction in life expectancy doesn’t mean everyone dies a year earlier, it means that some people die a lot earlier.

    It’s easy to assume that only other people will get unlucky with the smallish risks we all take. Usually that assumption is right, sometimes it’s wrong.

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