July 4, 2006
Feedback - A Phony Study Deludes . . .
Rolf Penner criticized Environmental Defence in his Free Press article regarding its publication "Polluted Children, Toxic Nation". In particular he described as "despicable" ED's report that childhood cancer in the US has increased by 21%. This Mr. Penner finds this a twisted statistic since childhood mortality from cancer (as stated in the same US report) has decreased by almost 50% in the same period, and this statistic was not in ED's report.
Does Mr. Penner, therefore, believe that it is OK to get cancer ("a painful and deadly childhood affliction") as long as the cure rate approaches some reasonable number that satisfies the Frontier Centre's statistical targets?
As long as children (and any other people) are getting cancer at higher rates, and as long as the cure rate is less than 100%, there is still plenty of pain and death to go around.
C. Hugh Arklie
Rolf Penner responds:
Dear Mr. Arklie,
The answer of course is no, I am not, or have never been, in favour of children getting cancer or any number of other afflictions. I personally know of a child and had a grandfather both of which suffered horribly and ultimately succumbed to cancer, it is not a fate I wish upon anyone young or old.
Which is why these statistics are a good news story, it was not that long ago that children died from causes that, at the time, we hadn't a clue about, but now know is cancer, and in many cases are now able to cure. It may seem counterintuitive on the surface, but the numbers reflect an increase in our ability to detect the disease in the first place. No, the cure rate is not 100% but thanks to the proper use of science it is no longer zero either and it is climbing.
As to the general population, data from the World Health Organization shows that when you adjust for age and known causes such as smoking the overall rate of cancer is decreasing. There is a very high statistical correlation between cancer and old age; the older we get the higher our chances of getting the disease. One of the facts of life is that we all have to die of something, it may be a little grim to say but there once was a time when we didn't live long enough to get cancer. That's not to say we should stop looking for a cure, but to realize how far we have come, and to put it into proper perspective. A cure for cancer would inevitably lead to a startling increase in people dieing from something else. This would not be a bad thing but could be dressed up to look that way because, yes, people would still die.
Groups such as Environmental Defence are not overly interested in the kind of sound science that has lead to these kinds of advancements as it does not further their agenda. Their view on what constitutes evidence, proof and certainty as is outlined in their report would ultimately lead us back to a pre-scientific kind of 'dark ages'.
I (and it sounds like you are as well) am interested in moving forwards to find new cures and further advancements.
I hope you find this helpful.
Agricultural Policy Fellow
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."