Johns Hopkins: cancer is primarily ‘bad luck’

Two scientists at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Dr. Bert Vogelstein, the Clayton Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and ‘bio-mathematician’ and assistant Professor, Cristian Tomasetti, Ph.D. published a study on January 2nd in the journal Science, which concluded that two-thirds of adult cancer incidence across tissues can be explained primarily by ‘bad luck’.

The scientists created a mathematical model by searching the scientific literature for information on the cumulative number of divisions of stem cells among 31 tissue types during an average individual’s lifetime. They then charted the number of stem cell divisions in these tissues and plotted them against the incidence of cancer. For example, in colon tissue there are 4 times more cell divisions than occur in the small intestine, and cancer is more prevalent in the former. QED.

“It was well-known that cancer arises when tissue specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations during cell replication”, said Vogelstein.

Let’s get real

1. Firstly, neither prostate nor breast cancer were covered in the research since the researchers could not obtain reliable data on stem cell divisions. So that would rule out almost one third of all cancers in the UK. And we are always being told by the UK ‘Brand leader’ Cancer Research, that these are largely hormonally driven, with factors such as oestrogen, lack of exercise and obesity playing a big part. If the new research is correct, and it were to apply to breast and prostate cancers as well, how has CRUK made such a big error? Just bad luck, perhaps?

2. Secondly, I will hazard a guess that the number of stem cell divisions in a tissue occurs in line with the number of overall cell divisions. And what the scientists actually showed was that there was a link between more cell divisions in a tissue and an increased risk of cancer. Hardly, new thinking really.

3. But if it is all about stem cells do the conclusions mean that someone in New York has many more stem cell divisions in their lungs than someone in China, or Kenya, where cancer incidence is considerably lower? The UK population must have 4 times the stem cell division of Thais; with almost exactly the same population we get four times the number of cancers they do. Why would that be?? Would the increased rate of stem cell division in New York or London not constitute a cause? Or are Thais just four times luckier than Londoners?

4. Next, having shown a link between cell division volumes and cancer volumes, our plucky duo made a mental jump: “It was well-known that cancer arises when tissue specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations during cell replication”, Well known to whom? In 2012 scientists were still arguing whether there was such a thing as a cancer stem cell.

And the idea that cancer is caused by mutations to the core DNA is quaintly old fashioned. Indeed the modern theory of cancer (being confirmed by scientists week in, week out) is that not much happens to the core DNA (and when it does the immune system easily spots it as rogue). Instead, chemicals like homocysteine build up in the blood stream and cause more methylation around the DNA coil. This holds histones in place, which in turn hold the integrity and shape of the DNA in the nucleus.

When the histones cover a gene responsible for, say, controlled cellular division, it cannot send out its messages, it is silenced, and the cell starts dividing randomly. It is important to note that this methylation and acetylation is believed to be reversible by literally thousands of scientists currently working for drugs companies and University Medical Schools. The science is called Epigenetics (Epi=around, the gene). Drugs companies believe they can affect the methylation and acetylation directly; or indirectly via the enzymes that cause it.

Other scientists believe that there are a host of natural compounds (from sulphoraphanes to carotenoids) that can do this, as can exercise hormones. Indeed, Epigeneticists argue that there are clearly 4 causes of DNA blockages – environmental toxins, stress, poor diet and hormones such as oestrogen.

So, are these epigenetic scientists all wrong?

Where hypotheses and statistics meet

A statistician is someone who will tell you that it’s better to have a watch that is broken (it is right twice a day), than one that loses 7 minutes a day (it is right once every thirteen days).

I have decided to look at road accidents in Britain (London and Manchester were excluded because there were no reliable statistics). Now, it is widely accepted that council road administrators allow too many non-UK-qualified lorry drivers to drive on the roads. And sure enough, we have found that the number of road deaths is proportional to the increases in foreign lorries on our roads. It doesn’t fit exactly (but to about an 80% level) and it differs by the 31 regions we looked at. So if you die in a road accident it has little to do with your skills as a driver, or how fast you were going, or the weather conditions. The number of foreign lorry drivers being allowed on our roads by a lack of legislation is behind it. Just bad luck really.

What is odd though is that this conclusion doesn’t hold true in Africa or China. So I’ll leave that out of my model.


So, thanks to Johns Hopkins, science has a new bed fellow: Bad luck. It’s the devil’s work. No need to feel guilty about your gluttony and sloth – just ‘eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye may die’.

No need for CRUK or the Government to feel guilty about failing to do anything serious in the way of Cancer Prevention Programmes in the community. You can’t legislate for bad luck. It would be pointless spending billions of pounds telling people to eat healthily, exercise and give up smoking if cancer occurs ‘for no particular reason other than randomness’ (according to Tomasetti).

If 65% of cancers are just bad luck, and we add on the 20% known to be caused by parasites and viruses (according to the WHO), then we certainly aren’t left with much that is to do with our sloth and gluttony. ‘50% of cancers are your own fault’ said CRUK 5 years ago. ‘30-50% of cancers are due to your poor diets’ said the WHO. ‘At least half of all cancers are preventable’. Oh no they’re not says a mathematical model (that left two of the biggest out).

Food companies that sell junk, have no case to answer. Lucky for them. What of the legal cases in the USA where people sue cigarette companies or mobile phone companies for not warning them that their products cause cancer? Presumably your bad luck is now lucky for these companies.

At CANCERactive we were helping a patient with oesophageal cancer. She had had bad acid reflux for ten years and been on a drug the whole time. A trip to the manufacturer’s website said that ‘on no account should the drug be prescribed for more than six months’. The woman asked her doctor what he thought caused her cancer. ‘Just bad luck’ was his reply. Johns Hopkins have vindicated him. His mis-prescription of the drug was irrelevant.

But there’s a get out clause in the model: “We found that the types of cancer that had a higher risk than predicted by the number of cell divisions, were precisely the one’s you’d expect” (lung cancer – linked to smoking; skin cancer – linked to sun exposure). So, other factors do cause deviation from their model. Lucky, I spotted that.

Junk science

The new science of ‘Bad luck’ is a dangerous concept. It removes the need for people to exert any self-control. The implication is that you can make little difference to prevent your cancer (and thus can make little difference to prevent it returning – so it is pointless doing anything to help treat your condition). Self-empowerment for patients goes out of the window. You might as well stay fat, not exercise, carry on smoking and just place your total faith in your good doctor’s hands. And luck.

Except, isn’t it lucky for us that The American Cancer Society have produced a 2012 report saying that since 2006 there has been an ‘explosion’ in research, and ‘overwhelming’ evidence that good diet, weight control and exercise can increase survival and even prevent a cancer returning.

Except, isn’t it lucky for us that the Karolinska Institute has produced straight line graphs on the links between cows’ dairy consumption and prostate, breast and ovarian cancers; or that Bristol University produced a meta-study on 52 research reports concluding that people who exercised regularly developed less cancers, and that those with cancer who exercised regularly, survived longer.

Watch out for the follow up study: ‘It is just bad luck that the chemotherapy didn’t work for you’. (Well it wouldn’t anyway because there is no drug available today that tackles cancer stem cells.)

What bad luck.

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Guy Chapman – losing all ability to be rational?

Skeptic unguided missile and irrational bully Guy Chapman seems to have seriously lost the plot. A piece from WDDTY covered in Junk Science prompted a 9 page rabid rant from wacko Chapman …. about Chris Woollams and me!

But this was nothing compared to his 24 page – yes, twenty four page – suicide note about an article Woollams had written, in which Chris dared to mention that Guy Chapman had an affiliate marketing business. Firstly, I think (I was bored after the first two paragraphs) Chapman said he was not an affiliate marketer, then he said he was but didn’t make much money at it (?)

Guy, I really suggest you get out a bit more. Staring at those big internet screens and your dashboards all day could well be causing serious mental stress. And make some real friends, don’t just keep inventing them.

Here’s a little reminder of what your business is about from an investigative journalist in 2008 ( Note important phrases like ‘his Commercial affiliate advertising links page’, and, ‘making money out of advertising products’.

Keep taking the medication Guy – it would be sad to lose someone who is always good for a laugh.

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Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) commonly known as Galileo, was an Italian physicist, astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. He has been dubbed the ‘father of modern science’.

One of his many observations was that the earth span around the sun, and not (as the Catholic Church at the time wanted people to believe), the reverse. His view that the earth was not the centre of the Universe was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615. They ordered him to recant. However, he refused and, instead, published a book with research supporting his views. The Inquisition tried him, found him guilty of heresy, and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

As you may know, his views turned out to be correct.

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Junk Science Number 1: HPV, cervical cancer and vaccines.

October 2011 – The FDA has approved the use of Merck’s Gardasil vaccine in males.

Suddenly, cancer ‘experts’ in medical orthodoxy are rushing to argue that all young males need to be vaccinated before their first sexual encounter, just as they argued with young females. The claim? This will prevent cervical cancer. I have no problem with the FDA approval – HPV is a growing menace and is being passed through sexual encounters. But, please, what is this rubbish about HPV causing all cervical cancer and vaccination of 13 year olds saving thousands of lives sometime in the distant future?

Does Human papillomavirus actually cause cervical cancer?

It is a popular theory amongst cancer ‘experts’, that a virus – the human papillomavirus – causes cervical cancer in women. This has led to mass media coverage and, in my opinion, scaremongering of a huge scale.

I say theory, because that is what it is – it is not proven. Indeed other ‘experts’ have said this theory is ‘madness’. For example, Peter Duesberg and Jody Schwartz, molecular biologists at the University of California, Berkeley back in 1992 noted that there was a total lack of consistent HPV sequences and HPV-gene expression in tumours that were HPV-positive. In simple English, they proposed that ‘carcinogens induced the cancer and the proliferating cells became more susceptible to infection – so the presence of HPV in them is just an INDICATOR of a problem, not the cause’.

This alternative proposition had other support – for example the US National Cancer Institute has also reported that direct causation has not been proven.

Yet in 2008 moves were made in the UK to start a National vaccination campaign in girls before their first sexual encounter. After all this is a vaccine, supposedly to prevent, not a cancer treatment. At schools in the UK and Scotland girls aged 13 were vaccinated en masse, and the decision was left to the girl – in most cases she was allowed to over-rule her parents’ views if she wished. In some schools no choice was even offered.

Cancer charities like Cancer Research UK are on record as saying this vaccination programme could prevent at least 1,000 deaths a year. I think it could prevent at least two world wars and Arsenal winning the European Championship – sorry, I am just exaggerating.

Back to molecular biologists Duesberg and Schwartz: In a controlled study of age-matched women, 67% of those with cervical cancer and 43% of those without were found to be HPV-positive ( So, only two thirds of women with cervical cancer have the presence of the virus anyway – whether it caused the cancer or not!

They also observed that these cancers on average appear 20-50 years after infection.

The vaccines

There are 16 strains of HPV, and two (16 and 18) are linked to cervical cancer. (Yes, I wondered why there are 16 strains and one is numbered 18, too)

Two vaccines are available – Gardasil from Merck, and Cervarix from GSK; the latter knocks out HPV 16 and 18; the former includes a couple of HPV strains as well that ‘are linked to’ genital warts. There is concern in America over aluminium content in Gardasil and it is not recommended for people with an allergy to yeasts, (which is just about everybody).

You will see from these words found on the NCI web site that Merck has now been working with the NCI:

‘On June 8, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a new vaccine to prevent infection from four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Two of the HPV types targeted by the vaccine (HPV-16 and HPV-18) are responsible for about 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer worldwide. The other two HPV types (HPV-6 and HPV-11) cause approximately 90 percent of the cases of genital warts. The vaccine, made by Merck & Co., Inc., is based on laboratory research and technology developed at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI played a pivotal role in what holds promise to be a major public health success story. NCI continues to conduct research on HPV and cervical cancer’. So the powers that be are now fully in support.

But elsewhere on their site they state ‘Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) published in the February 28, 2007, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have provided the first national estimate of the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection among women in the United States aged 14 to 59. Investigators found that a total of 26.8 percent of women overall tested positive for one or more strains of HPV’.

So over a quarter of all young to middle-aged women are infected with HPV (or more if you believe the 43 per cent in the Duesbery and Schwartz work). So one has to ask why there are so few cases of cervical cancer (2500 in the UK last year) and even fewer deaths if HPV really is ‘the cause’.

Cervical cancer, like many cancers, has a bias to older women (about half come in the 39-59 age group and a half in the over 60 age group). Moreover, there is a higher incidence of smoking amongst those women who die of cervical cancer and, as we are so frequently told, cancer is our own fault – we drink alcohol, smoke, don’t take exercise, eat poorly and so on.

Let’s have a rain check here – only two thirds of people with cervical cancer have the virus. The virus may not even be a cause, but an indicator. If you are infected with the virus, you have less than a 1 in about 10,000 chance of developing the cancer next year anyway. (Based on a population of about 28 million of the required age and 2,800 cases)

Nevertheless we are told vaccination could save up to a 1,000 lives a year in the UK – 10,000 over the next ten years – 100,000 over the next 100 years. Note the ‘up to’. Who is doing this maths?

Why isn’t the incidence of cervical cancer higher?


Because you have an immune system that has built up over the eons of time to knock out viruses. Some estimates say that a healthy diet can eradicate the virus in 18 months or less. Four American Clinical trials show that Ellagic acid is effective against HPV – the source of Ellagic Acid in the research? Half a cup of raspberries a day.

The claims continue


Consider these quotes from the Cancer Research UK web site:

‘Death rates from cervical cancer have fallen in high-income countries in recent decades, thanks to effective screening programmes, new treatments and HPV vaccination.’ Vaccination only started three years ago – it’s a miracle. Hallelujah!

Then 9th November 2011: ‘The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Cervarix “offers excellent protection” against serious cell changes that lead to cervical cancer, particularly when given to young adolescent girls before they become sexually active, according to research published in the Lancet Oncology.

A second study published in the same journal showed that Cervarix also protects against several other cancer-causing HPV types that it’s not specifically designed to target, giving protection against a group of strains that together cause about 85 percent of cervical cancers worldwide. (So it does things no one knew it could do? One wonders what else it is capable of)

Cervical cancer affects around 2,800 women each year in the UK, and is the second most common cancer in women under 35.

Virtually all cases are linked to genital infection with HPV, the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. In the UK, girls in year 8 at school (aged 12 to 13 years) are offered the Cervarix vaccine.’ Note ‘linked to’, not ‘caused by’. Note also  ‘offered’.

So I read the original research for you. It says that the most difficult-to-study precursor to cervical cancer is CIN3. The researchers studied 15-25 year old girls with less than 6 sexual partners during their lifetime. (!)

The efficiency of Cervarix against CIN3+ associated with HPV-16/18 was 100%, but in the group that had had no trace of HPV before the trial it was not 100 per cent but  45·7%.

On the issue of age, in the total vaccinated group, vaccine efficacy against all CIN3+ and CIN3+ associated with HPV-16/18 was highest in the 15—17 year age group and progressively decreased in the 18—20 year and 21—25 year age groups. Had they taken 45 year olds there is no knowing how low this figure might have been.

The Business of vaccination

The above was a 4-year trial. There is no evidence on how long these vaccines are even protective for. There is a growing ‘argument’ from cancer ‘experts’ that women may need to be re-vaccinated every 5 years (although the above research seems to question that theory). All for a disease, that could actually be caused by other factors, and may well not appear for 20-50 years.

Then there are boys. We have covered stories in Cancer Watch where cancer ‘experts’ at CRUK were arguing for vaccination of boys because they were carriers of HPV. But even to the layman, a boy’s biochemistry must surely differ from a girl’s. But now those ‘opinions’ have some research behind them. And based on Clinical Trials, ‘the The FDA advisory has approved the use of Gardasil in males to prevent genital warts. Genital warts are flesh-toned or gray, raised or flat growths that appear on, in, and/or around the genitals. They can grow in clusters that resemble cauliflower, or they can appear singularly. In males, they can appear on the penis, scrotum, testicles, anus, groin, and thighs’.

This is quite clear – but also clear is that there is no mention of cervical cancer. In fact the Press release actually says ‘In most cases, there is no major health risk associated with genital warts; they do not cause cancer or even result from the same strain of HPV known to cause cancer’.

But the euphoria is unstoppable. In the New York Times article covering the approval it states, ‘The committee recommended that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated. It also recommended vaccination of males ages 13 through 21 who had not already had all three shots’.

Further on in the article is a quote from another cancer ‘expert’: “This is cancer,  for Pete’s sake,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a non-voting member of the committee. “A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth.”

Sorry, did I miss something? Where does it say this is a vaccine against cancer?

In America a National Compulsory Vaccination campaign for girls was turned down under a barrage of lobbying by Human Rights supporters. One issue already in the vaccination of males has been that of homosexuality.

In the UK, the Government has taken flack for approving the cheaper and less effective vaccine, Cervarix – it did not claim to cover genital warts. But Merck is coming to the rescue.

This is a mass-market opportunity. Every boy and girl vaccinated, say, every 5 years from age 12 – 50 in the UK adds up to 2 billion pounds per year of revenue.

And, hey, stop talking about a paltry 1,000 deaths a year in the UK. There’s the world to play for. Right on cue we find the CRUK web site stating A new commitment (sic) to lower the price of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for developing countries could help to prevent thousands of cases of cervical cancer in these nations.

The vaccine offers protection against the most common strains of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Merck, which manufactures the HPV vaccine Gardasil, has now agreed to sell the vaccine at a significantly reduced price to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), a public-private global health partnership that aims to increase access to immunisation in the world’s poorest countries.

GAVI will now be able to purchase the HPV vaccine at US$5 (about £3) per dose – 67 per cent lower than its usual cost.

The move should help to prevent cervical cancer deaths around the world, 88 per cent of which occur in developing countries’.

Merck has offered to lower its prices by a staggering 67 per cent per shot of vaccine. Can you imagine that in any other market? A Mercedes E class for just £6,000? A gold Rolex for £3,000?

So it’s time to make your own minds up. The earth spins round the sun, or the sun round the earth? Junk science supported by scaremongering, profit potential, selective research, non-scientific extrapolation from a virus infection to a ‘proven cause of cancer’ 30 years hence; or a genuine belief that vaccines are definitely going to eradicate cancer on a worldwide basis?

By the way, Merck is still lobbying to make Gardasil vaccinations mandatory. And the Texas Governor, Perry, who may run for President has voiced support. Merck is also the company that bought the world Vioxx.

My original article for CANCERactive is at Cancer


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Junk Science? ‘Mammograms are safe and save lives’. 

Mammograms shown to increase risks of breast cancer. Twice!

1 Life-saving research supporting mammograms found to be flawed

You may have read research from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen before. It is usually the ‘expert and prestigious centre’ sited for the latest vitamin bashing study in the tabloid press. However, when it concludes something against the cancer industry, its findings are barely reported.  So don’t be surprised if you have not read the following before:

A major plank of support in the ‘mammograms save lives’ debate has been a 2005 study where a drive to screen women in Denmark with mammography was claimed to have reduced breast cancer deaths in Copenhagen by 25 per cent.

Now scientists from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen and the Folkehelseinstituttet in Oslo have re-examined this study along with additional data and found it flawed. In fact the corrected conclusions are exactly the opposite: ‘Deaths from breast cancer were lower in areas where women didn’t undergo those screening tests’.

This time the researchers used a control group of non-screened women and analysed the malignancy data for ten years before and ten years after the screening programme was introduced.

The results showed that deaths from breast cancer declined by 1 per cent in women between the ages of 55 and 74 in the screening areas but 2 per cent in non-screening areas! In younger women, breast cancer mortality went down by 5 per cent each year in the screened areas but over 6 per cent in the non-screened areas.

The ‘highly respected, prestigious and expert’ Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen concluded ‘We were unable to find an effect of the Danish screening program on breast cancer mortality’ (British Medical Journal).

Chris Comments: We have told you before of the risks of screening mammograms and we have a full review on our web site on the subject (Screening mammograms –increasing the risk of cancer?). One focal study (published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine) showed that an increased incidence of breast cancer occurred with the advent of screening mammograms in Europe. Cancer experts immediately rushed to comment, ‘Look how screening mammograms help find these early stage cancers’. You may feel they are talking rubbish.

We have also covered Norwegian research in icon that showed, across a six year period, a group of women who had regular screening mammograms had significantly more cancers than the identical control group having none. (Far from concluding that mammograms were dangerous, the researchers concluded that, left alone, early cancers could heal themselves!!?)

Then we told you about research by Johns Hopkins (Journal of the National Cancer Institute) on women with breast cancer genetic issues – the very group who are told by experts that they have to be extremely watchful and should be screened regularly. This group actually develops higher rates of breast cancer if they have regular screening mammograms that the at risk girls that don’t. So much for screening as a prevention tool.

We have also covered recent research that shows most mammograms only pick up a tumour when it has reached a size corresponding to at least 20 cell divisions. At around 40 divisions, you lose your fight with cancer. So 20 divisions is hardly ‘early diagnosis’ (We are hopeful that mammograms may soon be replaced by new simple blood tests that catch a cancer in its very first divisions). Now the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen say one of the major planks of the ‘mammograms save lives’ argument is false.

But that’s not all. It has long been understood that radiation causes cell damage and can increase mutation and cancer risk. Now read on….

2 Radiation increases breast cancer risk

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in America (a US Government facility) have shown that radiation both changes the environment around breast cells, and increases the risks of mutation in them; a mutation that can be passed on in cell division.

“Our work shows that radiation can change the microenvironment of breast cells, and this in turn can allow the growth of abnormal cells with a long-lived phenotype that have a much greater potential to be cancerous,” said Paul Yaswen, a cell biologist and breast cancer research specialist with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division, adding “Many in the cancer research community, especially radiobiologists, have been slow to acknowledge and incorporate in their work the idea that cells in human tissues are not independent entities, but are highly communicative with each other and with their microenvironment.”

The results, (published in the on-line journal Breast Cancer Research), showed that a culture of healthy breast cancer cells stopped dividing four to six weeks after exposure, causing premature cell aging and allowing pre-cancerous cells caused by the radiation to infill the spaces around them. Normal healthy cells generate substances that prevent this in-fill. Thus radiation negatively effects the environment around breast cells.

Research has also shown that radiation can increase breast cancer malignancy by affecting a tumour-suppressing gene (p16).

Chris Comments: When you read all this it is no wonder women are becoming increasingly scared about the risks of screening mammograms. Especially when the cancer authorities and charities bang on claiming ‘the screening programme saves lives’. Personally, I would not squeeze my private parts between two cold metal plates and have them irradiated in the vague hope that someone might spot a 4-year old cancer. Bring on the advanced diagnostic blood tests and send these screening machines to the scrap heap. Cancer

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