Group 1 carcinogens

July 2nd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Thomas Lumley at Stats Chat blogs a quote from Professor :

The ethanol in is a group one carcinogen, like asbestos

Now I have to say I had no idea what a group one carcinogen is, but Prof Sellman makes it sound like something very very nasty and fatal.

Prof Lumley explains:

Many of the readers of this story won’t know what a “group one carcinogen” is.  Given the context, a reader might well assume that “group one carcinogens” are those that carry the largest risks of cancer, or cause the most serious cancers. In fact, all it means is that an additional hazard of cancer, whether high or low, has been definitely established, because that’s all the IARC review process tries to do.

So it is a fancy name for some risk, not high risk.

Some group 1 carcinogens, such as tobacco and hepatitis B, are responsible for large numbers of cancer deaths worldwide. Others, such as plutonium and diethylstilbestrol, are responsible only for small numbers of deaths. Some group 1 carcinogens cause aggressive, untreatable tumours; for others, such as human papillomavirus, disease is largely preventable by screening; still others, such as sunlight, sometimes cause serious disease but mostly cause relatively minor tumours.

The phrase “group one carcinogen” is only relevant in an argument over whether the risk is zero or non-zero. Its use in other contexts suggests that someone doesn’t know what it means, or perhaps hopes that you don’t.

I am sure Prof Sellman knows exactly what it means.

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25 Responses to “Group 1 carcinogens”

  1. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    All I can tell the petty tyrant and aspiring dictator Sellman is a loud Fuck off.

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  2. Pete George (23,299 comments) says:

    I’m wary of anything Prof Sellman says, but it is not just him who is warning about the cancer risk from alcohol.

    The Cancer Society of New Zealand says Kiwis are only now sobering up to the link between alcohol and cancer, just as we did more than 30 years ago with smoking and lung cancer.

    Strong links between drinking more than two or three units a day have been established to deadly digestive tract cancers including mouth, throat, larynx and oesophageal cancers.

    There are also strong links between alcohol and bowel, breast and prostate cancers.

    Dr Jan Pearson, of the Cancer Society, said it was time Kiwis started talking about the risks of excessive drinking.

    “We are probably at the stage now that we were at 30 years ago with tobacco,” she said.

    She said lung cancer still caused a high number of deaths with a 20-year time lag from when NZ still had high smoking rates.

    Otago University public health professor Tony Blakely said alcohol “absolutely” contributed to cancer rates.

    “Alcohol has more obvious impacts on injuries, deaths, social bedlam, unwanted pregnancies and suicides,” he said.

    “It’s ubiquitous in our culture.”

    Excessive drinking significantly increased the risk of developing cancer, he said, alongside genetics and an unhealthy lifestyle.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8861658/Ethanol-akin-to-asbestos-in-cancer-stakes

    And there are plenty of references to this.

    Alcohol is associated with an increased risk of a number of cancers. 3.6% of all cancer cases and 3.5% of cancer deaths worldwide are attributable to consumption of alcohol. Breast cancer in women is linked with alcohol intake. Alcohol also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx and larynx,[5] colorectal cancer, liver cancer, stomach and ovaries.

    Australia: A 2009 study found that 2,100 Australians die from alcohol-related cancer each year.

    Europe: A 2011 study found that one in 10 of all cancers in men and one in 33 in women were caused by past or current alcohol intake.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_and_cancer

    There’s a strong (and common) message – drink in moderation to limit a range of health risks, including cancers.

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  3. Mobile Michael (430 comments) says:

    Being alive is the leading cause of death. So, live a little.

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  4. Pete George (23,299 comments) says:

    Mobile Michael – I’d rather live a lot, for as long as possible.

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  5. ben (2,414 comments) says:

    Pete George: each to his own.

    Doug Sellman: trust, credibility and truth matter.

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  6. peteremcc (341 comments) says:

    So, why is the government still giving this guy wads of money to lobby itself?

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  7. Alan Wilkinson (1,848 comments) says:

    Sellman is another disgrace to science, along with too many “climate scientists”, notorious sociologists and the likes of Mike Joy environmentalists. All are ruthlessly willing to mislead the ignorant in pursuit of their “noble cause”.

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  8. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,608) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Sellman is another disgrace to science, along with too many “climate scientists”, notorious sociologists and the likes of Mike Joy environmentalists. All are ruthlessly willing to mislead the ignorant in pursuit of their “noble cause”.

    Sorry, but there is misleading because you misrepresent the facts and then there is this other “misleading” you highlight where you do not misrepresent the facts but that your audience is too ignorant to know what you are saying. He is to blame because others are ignorant? Seems a little unfair.

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,275 comments) says:

    He is to blame because others are ignorant? Seems a little unfair.

    Not at all. Misleading by omission can be just as misleading and misleading by commission.

    I’m a lawyer. You’d by rightly annoyed if you asked me whether something was a crime, and my answer was that it was not, but I only gave that answer because yesterday we abolished crimes, and they’re now called offences.

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  10. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    So…. how’s about that legalization of cannabis… y’know… while we are on the subject of “petty tyrant’s” and “each to his own” and “living a little”. :cool:

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  11. Alan Wilkinson (1,848 comments) says:

    @Weihana, it is the duty of scientists (and all technical experts) properly to explain what is known and what is uncertain so that the inexpert can make informed decisions based on their own needs and values. The likes of Sellman and the others I listed are attempting to ursurp that public right.

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  12. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler (2,992) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 9:39 am

    He is to blame because others are ignorant? Seems a little unfair.

    Not at all. Misleading by omission can be just as misleading and misleading by commission.

    But what has been omitted? Almost everyone has Wikipedia in their pockets. If you don’t know what a word means, Google it.

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  13. Scott Chris (5,967 comments) says:

    Yeah using the label ‘group 1 carcinogen’ in this context is misleading notwithstanding Prof Lumley’s sloppy taxonomy.

    And yes, alcohol causes cancer.

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  14. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,609) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 9:44 am

    @Weihana, it is the duty of scientists (and all technical experts) properly to explain what is known and what is uncertain so that the inexpert can make informed decisions based on their own needs and values. The likes of Sellman and the others I listed are attempting to ursurp that public right.

    If you can’t be bothered pulling out your iPhone, closing angry birds, opening your browser to find out what a word means then perhaps you are better off simply removing your genetics from the gene pool. :)

    … or simply taking the word of those who know more than you even if that does “usurp” your “right” to get drunk while feeling comfortable about it.

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  15. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler (2,992) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’m a lawyer. You’d by rightly annoyed if you asked me whether something was a crime, and my answer was that it was not, but I only gave that answer because yesterday we abolished crimes, and they’re now called offences.

    I don’t see the comparison. In your example you are using a technical term “crime” when the person asking the question was using the plain meaning. Your answer therefore is misleading as the technical term “offence” is covered by the plain meaning of “crime”.

    “Group one carcinogen” is clearly a technical term.

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  16. Alan Wilkinson (1,848 comments) says:

    @Weihana, obviously you and I have different views on human rights and values. I believe in freedom and you believe in slavery – all with the very best of intentions, of course, by those who know better than the ignorant masses.

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  17. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,611) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 10:07 am

    @Weihana, obviously you and I have different views on human rights and values. I believe in freedom and you believe in slavery

    I’m not sure how that follows. Alcohol trading hours (and other minor annoyances) annoy me as much as anyone else… and the fact is, the political lobbying is why people don’t like Sellman and fair enough I suppose.

    “like asbestos”… yeah arguably misleading, but I think the bar has been lowered far enough… If we are going to live in a democracy then there must be some onus on the individual to be informed… and if not, then don’t vote.

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  18. Scott Chris (5,967 comments) says:

    I’m a lawyer. You’d by rightly annoyed if you asked me whether something was a crime, and my answer was that it was not, but I only gave that answer because yesterday we abolished crimes, and they’re now called offences.

    This comparison is, ironically, misleading. The nature of the relationship between client and lawyer is not the same as that of a lobbyist and his target audience.

    One intends to inform, the other to persuade.

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  19. Scott Chris (5,967 comments) says:

    All are ruthlessly willing to mislead the ignorant in pursuit of their “noble cause”.

    I don’t have a problem with this.

    Those who know better, know better. Those who don’t are just as likely to be misled by a competing pedlar of alternative truth, such as a naturopath or Anthony Watts or James Dellingpole.

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  20. Alan Wilkinson (1,848 comments) says:

    @Scott Chris, you miss the point entirely. There are facts and there are value judgements. It is not your place to play God and usurp the value judgements of others by misleading them about the facts on which those judgements should be made.

    That is the role of petty tyrants throughout history.

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  21. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Cancer cells feed on glucose…sugar. Stave it by eating low carb.

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  22. gump (1,543 comments) says:

    @The Scorned

    The non-cancerous cells in your body also feed on glucose.

    If you’re eating an otherwise balanced diet, why would you want to starve your non-cancerous cells?

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  23. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,612) Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 11:21 am

    @Scott Chris, you miss the point entirely. There are facts and there are value judgements. It is not your place to play God and usurp the value judgements of others by misleading them about the facts on which those judgements should be made.

    That is the role of petty tyrants throughout history.

    Is that not just a weeeee bit dramatic?

    The facts he gave were correct.

    David observes:


    “So it is a fancy name for some risk, not high risk.”

    But what is “high risk”? For those who do develop cancer I’m sure they view the risk as more than trivial in hindsight. In any case, everyone has enough personal experience to know that you do not generally drop dead from drinking alcohol so it’s obviously a question of “some level of risk”. To say he is misleading because of some subjective distinction between “some” and “high” seems like nit picking someone’s comments who is clearly trying to persuade public opinion. To say he is a “petty tyrant” is over the top.

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  24. Alan Wilkinson (1,848 comments) says:

    @Weihana: “the facts he gave were correct.” So was the context he didn’t give about degrees of risk, exposure and uncertainty.

    He certainly is a petty tyrant since he seeks to ban all alcoholic drinks.

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  25. hj (6,707 comments) says:

    Oh Dear! Someone attacks the machine!

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