Eating, drinking make you die.
October 31, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Body fat causes cancer according to a scary report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that reviewed 7000 studies. Obesity creates "a low-grade chronic inflammatory state" that promotes cancer. This report seems more foreboding than others of its ilk, e.g.: "Even small amounts of excess body fat, especially if carried at the waist, increase risk." Drinking is also carcinogenic: better limit yourself to 2 drinks a day if you're male and 1 if you're female. (Of course, breathing is also bad, and so is sunlight. ) Conclusion: you can live a really long time if you don't like to eat or drink, though you want to avoid taking this to extremes.
posted by cogneuro (115 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've heard that living eventually results in death.
posted by jokeefe at 11:19 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pretty much anything at anytime is unhealthy for you. My retort to this is what fun is life if you don't live it?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2007


Does this mean my all bacon and hot-dog diet may actually be doing me harm?
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I nearly dropped my cigarette when I read this news.
posted by mullingitover at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2007 [16 favorites]


Looks like American health care has some tough(er) times ahead, especially considering the body fat thing.
posted by LordSludge at 11:31 AM on October 31, 2007


life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate.
posted by quonsar at 11:31 AM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


*sprays wood alcohol on keyboard*
posted by cortex at 11:34 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The report, the second by the two nonprofit organizations, calls on people to "be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight" ... "The recommendation reflects what science is telling us today ..."
This is odd, because I could have sworn I saw a new study just a month or two ago that came to just about the opposite conclusion: those on the upper end of the "normal" range or the lower end of the "overweight" range actually have the longest average lifespans. My google-fu is failing me, but I'd love to find this article. Somebody's overstating their evidence here, and I'd love to know who.
posted by ourobouros at 11:35 AM on October 31, 2007


These researchers *want* cancer to win. Why don't they support the troops?
posted by DU at 11:35 AM on October 31, 2007 [5 favorites]


I am going to have to go with the study that claims beer protects you from getting cancer.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:37 AM on October 31, 2007


The thing about cancer is, it usually only affects you towards the end of your life. *rimshot*

In all seriousness though, wouldn't such a person be far more likely to die from other obesity-related problems long before the cancer killed him?
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:38 AM on October 31, 2007


*sprays wood alcohol on keyboard*

*squeezes lemon and tonic on cortex's keyboard and drinks it*

*goes blind*
posted by tkchrist at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2007


Anybody remember the study that showed jerking off helped reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer?

Would ANYBODY even get prostate cancer if this was true?
posted by tkchrist at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Candy you eat on Halloween doesn't make you fat. DOESN'T.
posted by maudlin at 11:43 AM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


You lose some, you win some.
posted by zennie at 11:45 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Everything gives you cancer/There's no cure, there's no answer." -- Joe Jackson
posted by blucevalo at 11:45 AM on October 31, 2007


Anybody remember the study that showed jerking off helped reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer?

Would ANYBODY even get prostate cancer if this was true?


Yes
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:46 AM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


I flat out refuse to take this shit seriously any more.

Doctors keep coming up with new things that "cause" cancer, but not reliably. In other words, we have no fucking idea where it comes from, short of a strong dose of gamma radiation, but we keep seeing it pop up all over the place, so try not to do anything. fuck that. the list of things I'm told to avoid now includes my phone, eggs, sunlight, microwaves, red meat, fat, chemicals used in the farming of fruits and vegetables, smoking, drinking, electricity, stress, my own goddamn body, x rays, bathroom cleaner, air, toys, christmas, football, apple pie and my mom.

the only things that don't seem to "cause" cancer are thc and sex, so until someone can figure out a way for us all to regularly engage in a legal and affordable lifestyle of constant mary jane consumption and rigorous fucking, doctors can fuck right off and not come back till they've cured the fucking thing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call my mom on my cell phone while standing in front of my microwave (heating up an apple pie) with a raw steak in one hand, a beer in the other, a cigarette in my mouth while I'm playing with some recalled toys under high tension wires next to a puddle of spilled bathroom cleaner naked.
posted by shmegegge at 11:53 AM on October 31, 2007 [19 favorites]


We have evolved bodies which can work hard, walk long distances, eat a lot of fruit and veg and make a bunch of babies. Any deviation from that, especially if it involves sitting on your arse and eating a lot, gives you cancer.

Got it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:53 AM on October 31, 2007


getting all nervous over everything causes cancer
posted by caddis at 11:54 AM on October 31, 2007


Heard an interview with one of the researchers yesterday, where the following dilmma was discussed: Drinking alcohol led to a reduced threat of heart disease, while avoiding alcohol led to a reduced threat of cancer.

Pick your way to die, I suppose.
posted by ardgedee at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2007


Is there anything we can eat that doesn't contribute to cancer (or hasn't been claimed to contribute to cancer)? More generally, is there anything we can eat that doesn't eventually lead to death?

I heard water and oxygen are essential components required by cancer cells for proliferation; consumption of either while cancer cells are present in your body will eventually lead to your accelerated demise (whichever way you choose to interpret this).

Life's too short to be afraid of dying ;-)
posted by kureshii at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2007


I'd take a car that never breaks down over never getting cancer. All that damn research money is going to the wrong place.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2007


Man, as usual, the "science reporting" just sucks. The report itself is pretty interesting, though.
posted by OmieWise at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2007


Doctors keep coming up with new things that "cause" cancer, but not reliably. In other words, we have no fucking idea where it comes from...

"SCIENTISTS" SAID I COULD DIE IF I FELL OUT OF AN AIRPLANE BUT NOW THEY SAY I COULD DIE IF I GET HIT BY A CAR SCIENCE IS BOGUS AMIRITE?
posted by DU at 12:01 PM on October 31, 2007 [12 favorites]


Where exactly is the causal connection? I only see correlations.
posted by parudox at 12:02 PM on October 31, 2007


I only see correlations

That sounds like commie-talk, mister. You best get yerself back in line and shut yer hole.
posted by aramaic at 12:07 PM on October 31, 2007


Cancer will never be cured until it cancer medication and research stops being profitable.
posted by hexxed at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I'm reading this chart correctly, "adult attained height" is also a risk factor for several types of cancer.

I think I might start a chain of height-reduction centers now, so I'll be prepared to reap the profits when the world realizes the full enormity of the tallness epidemic.
posted by backupjesus at 12:10 PM on October 31, 2007


Reading Metafilter gives you cancer. Seriously. Happy Halloween.
posted by alteredcarbon at 12:10 PM on October 31, 2007


Please disregard the 'it' in previous statement.
posted by hexxed at 12:11 PM on October 31, 2007


A glass. Two shots of bourbon. An ice cube. A dash of water.
Pure Heaven! The sweet death that warms me belly. I wanna die feeling good.
posted by doctorschlock at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2007


Doctors Sensationalist media outlets keep coming up with new things that "cause" cancer, but not reliably.

What we uniformly call "cancer" is a really a whole group of diseases affecting the cellular mechanisms that control mitosis, with a large variety of causes at the DNA level. We do actually know quite a bit about cancer. However, most researchers are only working on a tiny fraction of the big picture. Each new scientific publication is only a fraction of even that researcher's fraction. The problem is that the general news media isn't really inclined to add nuanced perspective to their reporting. That's Jon Stewart's job, apparently. Good on you for not taking it all seriously.

Also, what chuckdarwin said.
posted by zennie at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2007


All you skinny teetotaling vegetarians have fun in the nursing home.
posted by nanojath at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2007


"I heard water and oxygen are essential components required by cancer cells for proliferation;"

I caught the sarcasm but it's actually worse than that, oxygen causes cancer. In fact, cancer is a side effect of living in an oxygen rich environment.
posted by 517 at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2007


The Chinese joint behind my building double fries their fried chicken. They even fry their spare ribs. That my friend, is death calling your gut.
posted by doctorschlock at 12:27 PM on October 31, 2007


In fact, cancer is a side effect of living in an oxygen rich environment.

I thought cancer was a side effect of cells being under semi-autonomous control.
posted by DU at 12:27 PM on October 31, 2007


"SCIENTISTS" SAID I COULD DIE IF I FELL OUT OF AN AIRPLANE BUT NOW THEY SAY I COULD DIE IF I GET HIT BY A CAR SCIENCE IS BOGUS AMIRITE?

Yes, because that's what I said. You have paraphrased me brilliantly.
posted by shmegegge at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I started working at a cancer research center (oh, and thank you so much for what you're implying, hexxed) they handed me a sheet with a graph that showed the increase or decrease in prevalence of different types of cancer for different types of activities. Smoking, boozing, eating red meat -- everything with a correlation that's generally accepted to be significant.

Smoking, duh, was the worst, for lung cancer and some others. Heavy boozing was pretty bad, too. Read meat, third. Everything else way down the list.

I booze, but I don't smoke or eat (much) red meat. I eat less red meat now than before I got that sheet. You pick your poisons in life -- I changed my behaviors based on new information. What's wrong with knowing a little something about the risks?
posted by gurple at 12:30 PM on October 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


shmegegge: the only things that don't seem to "cause" cancer are thc and sex

sex may not "cause" cancer, but sexually transmitted diseases do, not that I'll be striking sex off my "must avoid" list any time soon.
posted by rinosaur at 12:34 PM on October 31, 2007


er... not that I'll be putting sex ON my "must avoid" list...
posted by rinosaur at 12:35 PM on October 31, 2007


"I thought cancer was a side effect of cells being under semi-autonomous control."

It's that too. But chances are, if you have cancer it's because some oxygen species was where it shouldn't have been and stole the wrong the electrons, creating a problem that propagated itself through the method you mentioned. There are other ways to get cancer but this is a big one.
posted by 517 at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2007


Well, you can pooh-pooh this info all you want, naysayers, but let's face it: the science is solid. Not perfect, but solid. Backed up by a hella lotta studies and research.

If you want to fast-lane your life, I'm not stoppin' you. Just be informed and have your eyes wide open.

But don't play the "It's all bullshit, I'm not getting cancer" game. Leave that to the fundamentalist global-warming deniers, okay? There's nearly nothing here that shouldn't be taken seriously.

You know that cigs give you cancer. Now, you know that abdominal fat, in excess, does too. What's so hard about this to swallow?

Get real. Look at yourself in the mirror. Is that spare tire worth the cancer risk, not to mention the tight wardrobe, and the loss of a slim, attractive appearance? A few less calories and a few minutes in the gym, extended over time, and voila, it's gone.
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:48 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


The good news: fatties can drink whatever they want, they are already doomed. Hand over the keg, bitches.
posted by SassHat at 12:54 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Get real. Look at yourself in the mirror....

Get real. Look at yourself in the mirror. Is that last paragraph worth the flamewar risk, not to mention the loss of an attractive reputation? A few seconds with the mouse and the delete key, and voila, it's gone.
posted by gurple at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


gurple: What's wrong with knowing a little something about the risks?

Nothing, except that people-- even very smart people-- generally suck at evaluating risks. If you said that engaging in a behavior means a 50/50 chance of developing cancer, a significant number of people will instinctively interpret that as, "what I do has no effect on my chances of getting cancer." Cancer is scary, and most people don't find that mixing cancer with mathematics makes it any less frightening.
posted by zennie at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2007


I believe the scientists call this "natural selection".
posted by blue_beetle at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2007


It is so much fun to be smartass about cancer. Till we get it.
posted by Postroad at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2007


But don't play the "It's all bullshit, I'm not getting cancer" game.

Fine, killjoy. Who's up for a round of competitive chain smoking? Hungry, Hungry Hippos?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:10 PM on October 31, 2007


Fuck you.

My 55 year old aunt died from cancer (something that doesn't happen in my family) and she spent all of her life as a slim woman who ate healthly and exercised regularly while being the life of the party, if not THE party. Her overweight sister will probably outlive her by 20 years, so again, I say fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and I hope it's as part of threesome with a fat couple who eat greasy french fries off your idiotic, egghead body.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Life is a terminal condition.
Gimme the chocolate.
posted by dbiedny at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2007


Ultimately, what this come down to is that Jewish mothers, with their chicken soup and their blintzes and their "eat eat eat!", cause cancer.

Thanks mom. Now you know why I never call.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:24 PM on October 31, 2007


Who's up for a round of competitive chain smoking?

I'll bring the Guinness
posted by hexxed at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2007


Fuck you.

My 55 year old aunt died from cancer (something that doesn't happen in my family) and she spent all of her life as a slim woman who ate healthly and exercised regularly while being the life of the party, if not THE party. Her overweight sister will probably outlive her by 20 years, so again, I say fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and I hope it's as part of threesome with a fat couple who eat greasy french fries off your idiotic, egghead body.


In other news, anecdote treated as data! Film at eleven, along with the overthinking of a wendell.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sensationalist media outlets keep coming up with new things that "cause" cancer, but not reliably.

What we uniformly call "cancer" is a really a whole group of diseases affecting the cellular mechanisms that control mitosis, with a large variety of causes at the DNA level. We do actually know quite a bit about cancer. However, most researchers are only working on a tiny fraction of the big picture. Each new scientific publication is only a fraction of even that researcher's fraction. The problem is that the general news media isn't really inclined to add nuanced perspective to their reporting


Quoted for truth. Well said.
posted by desuetude at 1:31 PM on October 31, 2007


Cancer will never be cured until it cancer medication and research stops being profitable.

Cancer chemotherapy is extremely expensive, especially relative to its rather modest effect in most instances. It can cost up to $60,000 for a course of treatment, which is outrageous. And you're right, drug companies who profit from such treatments are very interested in expanding the use of these drugs. Most of the products they sell were originally from government-funded research at Universities, so I doubt they have the power to affect the development of new cures and preventatives.

The huge majority of research into the cure, early detection, and prevention of cancer is funded through the government and is done by non-profit institutions. The researchers themselves would dearly love to not just cure it, but prevent it from happening in the first place. Hence, the studies showing that the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, that screening and polyp removal prevent colon and rectal cancer, and that cigarette-smoking cessation prevents lung cancer. These latter two have had a huge effect on the cancer incidence and mortality in this country, so much so that cancer death rates have declined measurably over the last half-decade. And the HPV vaccine may eliminate cervical cancer, too. Chemoprevention using non-toxic nutritional supplements and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen are being studies to prevent other cancers, as well. Meanwhile, screening has led to reduced mortality from breast cancer and randomized trials are ongoing to evaluate screening for prostate cancer, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer. The researchers involved could probably make a shitload more money as lawyers, investment bankers, physicians, or hedge-fund managers, but they are, by and large, motivated to use their intellects to to relieve suffering from this disease.

At least, I know that's why I'm doing it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:31 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


I stand corrected, thank you mental.
posted by hexxed at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2007


Sorry for your loss, Brandon Blatcher, but don't blame me. Epidemiological studies don't predict individual outcomes. Individual mileage (or just, age) does vary. The point of the post was that activities that many people would consider within the normal range of experience are now being categorized as carcinogenic. What people DO with that information is up to them.
posted by cogneuro at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of my grammas lived to see three centuries - she was born in 1900 and died in 2006. She could barely read (before she got blind, when she was in her mid-80s) and had very little formal education, so she never paid attention to the modern science and medicine. Her food was among the best food I ever eaten but it was far away from starting to remind any hint of "healthy". But that was the food she ate all her life. Two of her daughters are in their late eighties now and both have been obese since anyone alive remembers. All her 10 sons and daughters (my father included) are either obese or overweight. No sign of cancer on that side of the family.

My other gramma, on the other hand, was a skinny little woman who would eat very little. She died in her mid-80's after having intestinal cancer for almost 8 years.

So, there.

Now, I thought it was known that life itself is somewhat alien to a Universe made mostly of extremely hot lumps of hydrogen, extremely cold and empty space in-between and something they call "dark matter" (which I suspect they made up just to balance the equations). We will all die. In any timescale that makes sense to the Universe, Earth evolutionary timescale included, eating healthy food will kill you as quick as eating junk food. Humans evolved to live 70 years +/-20. Anything more or less can be dismissed as a measurement error.
posted by nkyad at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thank you to the people who actually make sense in this thread. Is it really that unreasonable to believe that excess body fat and alcohol consumption increase cancer risk? No. I work with cancer patients full-time and I will tell you it is not.
If you want to be blase about your health, it's really easy to do so while young and healthy. In 5, 10, 15, 20 yrs when you're calling my workplace for help, maybe you won't feel the same way anymore.
It's one thing to enjoy food and drink in moderation. This study says that overdoing it is bad for your health and since when has that been a revolutionary concept?
posted by fructose at 1:48 PM on October 31, 2007


If you do get cancer, please try to get a rare or unusual form. It makes my job so much more interesting. Thanks!
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 1:48 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's with all the disdain for science in favor of personal experience in this thread? You guys know there's an atheism thread still active from yesterday, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:49 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Word, Pope Guilty. Anecdotes are USELESS.
posted by fructose at 1:51 PM on October 31, 2007


It's one thing to enjoy food and drink in moderation. This study says that overdoing it is bad for your health and since when has that been a revolutionary concept?

Honestly, you need to understand that what makes your life personally significant has no bearing whatsoever on how other people choose to live theirs, and that's as it should be. I understand how seriously you (and everyone else, that's why we say "serioius as cancer") take cancer, but people handle information like this in different ways. One way is to get sick and tired of a culture of fear propagated by sensationalist media outlets and for-profit medical companies. No, no one is honestly saying "Fuck Cancer, I'm never going to get it." They're saying, when you step out of yourself enough to see it, "I'm tired of being afraid of this shit. And I'm tired of being afraid one minute, and then told I didn't need to be the next, and then that I should be again the minute after that." Let people handle this how they choose to. I mean, christ, most of the comments rejecting the study are just jokes. It doesn't matter whether Cancer is somehow inherently funny. This is how people are.
posted by shmegegge at 1:57 PM on October 31, 2007


Parse these two statements out:

1. Obesity creates "a low-grade chronic inflammatory state" that promotes cancer.

2. "Fat Causes Cancer"


Do they seem equivalent? If you answered yes, you too can enjoy a fun career writing ratings-rich alarmist medical stories for slow news days.
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:58 PM on October 31, 2007


I thought cancer was a side effect of cells being under semi-autonomous control.

Freedom is a cancer on society.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:59 PM on October 31, 2007


I don't have to understand anything. I work with cancer patients on a daily basis. It's hard a to laugh a lot when you're in pain that no drug can touch, you can't eat, you can barely breathe, etc.

I don't think you understand that.

Not to mention that everyone pays the cost of cancer that can be avoided. The financial and social costs.

Please tell me what makes you an expert? I don't understand where you think you're coming from.
posted by fructose at 2:00 PM on October 31, 2007


I think it's pretty shortsighted to put the onus on the individual. We'll continue to indulge vices, or not.

But the culture us individuals live in? The one with the anti-pedestrian sprawl, the corn subsidies, the one that makes fast food cheaper and more accessible than fresh produce, lack of restrictions and oversight of cattle, that's sort of the problem.

I don't think the science is bad, but I guess I'll reiterate that I think it's myopic.
posted by birdie birdington at 2:02 PM on October 31, 2007


Humorous anecdotes serve very usefully to crack my shit up, thank you very much.
posted by everichon at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2007


but don't blame me.

Oh, I'm not, sorry if I gave that impression. It was more "fuck you sensationalic reports, with your half ass, scare the shit outta ya thinking".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2007


I don't think you understand that.

No, I do. I do because I (like everyone else) know people who did/do suffer from it, and (like everyone else) am bombarded with information about Cancer and its symptoms all the time. You don't seem to understand that I'm talking about natural and understandable reactions to bad news. I'm saying you should be more accepting of them, because right now you honestly seem to be saying that it's not ok to joke about and/or have a critical discussion about the findings of a cancer study. If you do, in fact, believe that, then by all means feel free to not participate in the thread, because it has largely become a place to joke about and/or have a critical discussion of the study. You are not on some moral high ground, here. You're just being really judgmental and self righteous.
posted by shmegegge at 2:05 PM on October 31, 2007


It doesn't say "overdoing it is bad for your health", it says to avoid processed meats, soda, dietary supplements, and "even small amounts of alcohol".

I mean, you get the "Sensational New Cancer Discovery" thing, right? Google ["study says" "can cause cancer"]. First five pages: Cell phones, X-rays, oral sex, pollution, carbonated drinks, salt, French fries, air fresheners, chemotherapy, coffee, powerlines, obesity, Teflon, fertilizer, alcoholic beverages, paint remover, mothballs, and city-dwelling.

You hear so much distorted, alarmist crap in this area that's rushed to the newspapers based on how well it reinforces prejudices. New technology? Cancer! Freaky sex? Cancer! An even slightly sedentary lifestyle? Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society's director of nutrition and physical activity, says... cancer! And no soda!

So I guess my question comes down to... Really? Soda?
posted by ormondsacker at 2:08 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, okay, how much of the variability in who gets cancer is explained by these variables, things like eating red meat?

I ask because I've been reading about the uranium industry lately. During the Nevada bomb tests they found radioactive snow in Rochester, NY, and six* other cities! It got me thinking about all the other crazy stuff probably not included in these studies as controlling variables. On November 6, 1953*, how many hours did you spend outside?
* Something in that ballpark. Too lazy to go look.

I'm not saying red meat doesn't cause cancer. I'm saying, if 96% of the likelihood is controlled by things I cannot control, and that 4% I can control is composed of all the things that make life full of pleasure (never drink again, 0.8%), then why bother?
posted by salvia at 2:12 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anecdotes are USELESS.

Obviously. But pay attention to the fact that people are not telling anecdotes in order to dismiss science. I know I was not. I was just pointing to the statistical nature of science and the need to balance the hundreds of cancer promoting factors already discovered against the individual choices or life conditions. In the end, some people will smoke, others will eat, others will drink. If you are a heavy drinker, chances are you will die of liver failure well before cancer has a chance to kick in. Same for obesity and heart failure. But those are choices people make on their own free will. Giving information is one thing, forcing people to react to information in a "proper" way is somewhat counter-productive.
posted by nkyad at 2:16 PM on October 31, 2007


Is there any kind of comprehensive report for the layperson on how to live the best cancer-free life? I agree that all the reports make it sound like everything in our world causes cancer.
posted by agregoli at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2007


If you are a heavy drinker, chances are you will die of liver failure well before cancer has a chance to kick in.

I'm counting on it!
posted by shmegegge at 2:18 PM on October 31, 2007


stop smoking,
get fat,
get cancer
posted by caddis at 2:20 PM on October 31, 2007


Oh come on you blowhards. The conclusions are:
Try to be lean rather than fat.

Don't smoke.

Drink no more than 1-2 alcoholic servings a day.

Breastfeed babies for 6 months rather than give them formula.

Eat salt, fat, and sugar in moderation.

Eat processed food in moderation.
And yet people in this thread are still freaking out about it. What, you want to be able to pig out on bacon and cocoa puffs for every meal while guzzling beer and chain smoking and not cut your life expectancy? Come on.

This meta-study isn't just good science, it's common fucking sense.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2007


MetaFilter: I don't have to understand anything.
posted by Reggie Digest at 2:57 PM on October 31, 2007


MetaFilter: common fucking
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:01 PM on October 31, 2007


This meta-study isn't just good science, it's common fucking sense.

But that's exactly the reason it's such a joke: If it's common sense, why bother with the report?
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:11 PM on October 31, 2007


Anecdotes are USELESS.


So are scare articles that mention percentage increases while omitting base rates. A 20% increase sounds scary until you find out that the initial risk was something like 1 in 100000 or even less.

My basic rule is that if they neglect the baserate I ignore the article because typically the amount of risk translates into me losing the amount of time reading the article would have taken.
posted by srboisvert at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2007


But that's exactly the reason it's such a joke: If it's common sense, why bother with the report?

Unfortunately, common sense isn't. And science doesn't work on common sense. Occasionally things that appear to be common sense turn out to be wrong so you need to science to back it up. Happily, common sense and science seem to go together perfectly in this instance.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on October 31, 2007


But that's exactly the reason it's such a joke: If it's common sense, why bother with the report?

Stop having so much faith in people. We are all fucked up and generally totally incompotent. Have you actually looked outside lately?
posted by public at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2007


I tried, but i fucked it up.
posted by shmegegge at 3:37 PM on October 31, 2007


srboisvert's point about the base rates is crucial. I also couldn't find where in the study these factoids came from: "Once an individual reaches the 18-ounce weekly limit for red meat, every additional 1.7 ounces consumed a day increases cancer risk by 15%, the report said. Every 1.7 ounces of processed meat consumed a day increases cancer risk by 21%, it added." This looks like another case of reporting misleading odds ratios. Both issues explained by the incomparable Mark Liberman in Language Log. The two underlie a lot of the scare-mongering in popular press reportage of science.
posted by cogneuro at 3:56 PM on October 31, 2007


Language Log.

sorry, I fixed that.
posted by cogneuro at 4:00 PM on October 31, 2007


I don't think the personal anecdotes are trying to disprove science or anything, just acting as a data point that even if you do all the things recommended you can still get cancer and your overweight friend will laugh as your funeral. Or something.
posted by liquorice at 4:10 PM on October 31, 2007


as = at
posted by liquorice at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2007


I'm not totally sure that's an example of misreporting of odds ratios, cogneuro. I supose it could be, but 15% isn't a very big increase if they were misreporting an odds ratio.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2007


Someone near the top asked why this study recommended being at the bottom end of the healthy weight range, while another recent report said that people with upper-normal and lower-overweight BMIs had the longest life expectancy.

The answer is that being slightly overweight correlates with affluence, and affluence is a big determinant of life expectancy - nine years difference between poor and rich men in my (British) city. If you get above moderately overweight, I assume the negative health effects subsume the positive wealth effects.
posted by athenian at 4:18 PM on October 31, 2007


I don't think the personal anecdotes are trying to disprove science or anything, just acting as a data point that even if you do all the things recommended you can still get cancer and your overweight friend will laugh as your funeral. Or something.

But some people live to be 90 with a two pack a day habit, but you don't see people using that as an example as to why we should ignore warnings about smoking. Anybody with a brain knows that there are no guarantees no matter how healthy a lifestyle you adopt. But why the denial over this metastudy? It looks pretty solid to me.
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on October 31, 2007


Do Europeans have a lower rate of cancer than Americans?
posted by bad grammar at 4:28 PM on October 31, 2007


athenian writes "The answer is that being slightly overweight correlates with affluence, and affluence is a big determinant of life expectancy - nine years difference between poor and rich men in my (British) city. If you get above moderately overweight, I assume the negative health effects subsume the positive wealth effects."

In other words, you can never be too rich or too thin.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:43 PM on October 31, 2007


Do Europeans have a lower rate of cancer than Americans?

Except for lung cancer... I think so.
posted by tkchrist at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2007


When people say things like "My grandpa smoked and drank everyday of his life and he lived to be 90." What they don't know is grandpa didn't spend the crucial years of his physical development sitting in front of an X-Box eating forty pounds of Cheesey Poofs. Grandpa maybe smoked. Grandpa maybe drank. But he was likely active, got fresh air, clean water, and ate REAL food. Maybe fattening food. But at least it didn't come out of some crusty factory spigot like space goop.
posted by tkchrist at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2007


Aside from the idiocy of playing Simon Says with the various medical powerhouses as Simon, let me restate:

Statistical studies do not establish cause and effect. At best, they establish statistical correlation. While some statistical correlations are obviously causal (almost 100% of people who stand out in the rain get wet), not all statistical correlations are causal, let alone useful.

Please see Wikipedia's False Causality.
posted by kalessin at 5:24 PM on October 31, 2007


Yes, USA has a higher cancer incidence rate than Europe, or anywhere else really.

2002 data, age-standardized rates per 100,000 in males.

USA: 406.6
Germany: 317.7
France: 341.8
UK: 286.6
Spain: 307.6
Italy: 321.3
Greece: 234.9
Sweden: 277.5
Switzerland: 329.1

etc

BONUS:
India: 99.1 (Justinian thinks this stat is bullshit)
Japan: 261.5
China: 204.9
Iraq: 123.4
Brazil: 216.1

(female rates are about 1/3 lower than males but the ratio between countries is very similar)
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on October 31, 2007


kalessin: Are you saying that the authors of these studies don't know the difference between correlation and causation?
posted by Justinian at 5:34 PM on October 31, 2007


Justinian, are you saying that every one of these past studies have established causation?
posted by ormondsacker at 5:46 PM on October 31, 2007


And I'm not sneering at science, I'm saying that in this particular area, there's a terrible track record of distorted scare-mongering. There are three levels of claims here: the common-sense level ("obesity is directly linked to bad health"), the findings-of-this-study level ("obesity is directly linked to cancer"), and the what-we-can-get-away-with-implying level ("everything remotely associated with obesity is directly linked to cancer"). Those guidelines listed up here? There's a difference between "follow these guidelines and you'll live a healthier life" and "follow these guidelines or you'll get cancer*".

*Mwahaha
posted by ormondsacker at 6:04 PM on October 31, 2007


what a load of crap. when Big Health decided to incriminate second-hand smoke, it was only a matter of time before the fat and red meat and alcohol would be next. Big Health is into lifestyle and behavior control. i predict it will get worse, far worse. there's money to be made.
posted by brandz at 6:27 PM on October 31, 2007


1. Get rid of cigarettes.
2. Get rid of fat, red meat, and alcohol.
3. ???
4. Profit!
posted by Reggie Digest at 7:50 PM on October 31, 2007


Maybe your relative who lived to be a hundred would have lived longer if they didn't smoke, drink so much, or eat so much fatty foods.

Likewise, maybe your relative who died in their sixties would have died in their fifties if they hadn't taken such good care of their bodies.

The point being the only personal anecdote that would prove "lifestyle doesn't matter that much in some cases" would be if you compared biological twins, one that lived healthy and one that did not, for mortality rates.

And of course, if you're still fine with the odds of your behavior affecting your life-span then go ahead. Doesn't hurt me any. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some candy to eat.
posted by Green With You at 8:06 PM on October 31, 2007


Anyone got data that relate cancer rates with average lifespan?

My as-yet-uncorrelated opinion is that one reason we see a rise in cancer rates is cos we live longer. Dying of a good ole heart attack at 60 markedly reduces the likelihood that one will succumb to cancer at 85.

Personally, I plan on treating anything beyond 65 or 70 as the bonus round. Watching our parents and their friends age, my wife and I don't see a whole lot that's great about 75+. (YMMV, and I hope ours does too)
posted by Artful Codger at 8:16 PM on October 31, 2007


you only live once- make it quick.
posted by potch at 9:01 PM on October 31, 2007


So can I eat this butter or not?
posted by louche mustachio at 9:38 PM on October 31, 2007


awww, FUCK. ANOTHER THING THAT CAUSES CANCER.

now I'm down to:

sitting here
staring at a computer monitor
eating a sandwich
scratching my ass
walking slowly in a circle and weeping
posted by tehloki at 5:11 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


what a load of crap. when Big Health decided to incriminate second-hand smoke, it was only a matter of time before the fat and red meat and

Thank you for this valuable contribution.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:56 AM on November 1, 2007


Can't resist jumping in on the causation vs. correlation topic. Observational studies can't do anything useful without an assumed causal model behind the analysis. That causal model embodies all the assumption behind making causal inferences. Those of you who suspect much of the ballyhooed epidemiology you see in the press is the result of not clearly understanding this are correct. Most epidemiologists have developed a little fantasy that they can directly divine causality from observational studies without specifying an explicit causal model behind their inference. Silly humans.

Now if you make your causal inferences based on an explicit causal model, and present this causal model with your statistical analysis, the reader can decide whether to agree with your conclusions or not based both on the presented analysis and the assumptions behind it. Lacking that, all you have are useless correlations, devoid of any benefit to health.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:59 AM on November 1, 2007


My as-yet-uncorrelated opinion is that one reason we see a rise in cancer rates is cos we live longer.

Cancer rates are falling, Artful Codger. See:

Jemal A, Siegel R, Ward E, Murray T, Xu J, Thun MJ. Cancer statistics, 2007. CA Cancer J Clin 2007;57:43-66.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:02 AM on November 1, 2007


It's probably too late for me to elaborate, but I actually sneer at the media (including us) for being so reactionary to yet another thing that causes cancer.

Psst. Hey buddy, I heard that LIVING causes cancer! Aigh! Mass hysteria.

I would not be surprised, quite honestly, if, after we get over our hysteria, we find that the study actuall reported uncertainties where we're reporting or assuming fact, and that the studies were essentially misrepresented by the media. It's happened before.

When? Last month. Last week. Ad nauseum.

I use these links from Junkfood Science because the author consistently does her homework and presents a survey of information - she does the numbers-checking work I'd otherwise have to take time out from my busy day to do. But if you're of a mind, I encourage you to do your own double-checking of the numbers. Folks will often misreport numbers. I don't know if it's the scientists or reporters, but there's always something avoidable that's been misrepresented, usually having the effect of biasing our interpretations of the "findings".
posted by kalessin at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2007


My grandpa smoked 6 cigars a day, plus cigarettes, drank alcohol all the time, wine, beer, whiskey, lived in a house full of asbestos, worked with asbestos, ate eggs fried in lard, had red meat every day for lunch and dinner plus salted pork, had 12 cups of coffee every day loaded with sugar, never ate fruit or vegetables, refused to exercise and he lived until he was like, 40. And he was pretty much riddled with cancer.
Plus he was a dick, used to give me ‘wet willies’ all the time and stick his finger up his ass and try and trick me into smelling it so, y’know, good riddance, maybe there’s something to be said for cancer, really.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:48 PM on November 1, 2007


Watching Oprah causes cancer.
posted by dasheekeejones at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2007


the list of things I'm told to avoid now includes my phone, eggs, sunlight, microwaves, red meat, fat, chemicals used in the farming of fruits and vegetables, smoking, drinking, electricity, stress, my own goddamn body, x rays, bathroom cleaner, air, toys, christmas, football, apple pie and my mom.

Holy shit, guys, schmegegge's mom causes cancer! RUN!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:09 AM on November 2, 2007


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