Tag: cancer

MLB Needs to Ban Chewing Tobacco

The recent death of retired San Diego Padres baseball player Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer has sparked a conversation about the use of chewing tobacco. Gwynn attributed his cancer to dipping tobacco, a habit that he picked up in 1981. Although, there are no studies linking tobacco to salivary gland cancer, as with smoking tobacco, it is considered a risk factor. ESPN sportscaster Keith Olbermann thinks that it’s past time that chewing tobacco use is banned from baseball.

Banning the habit would be a good idea, not just as a way of remembering Tony Gwynn but protecting players health and as an example for the fans of the game.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Capitalism causes cancer by bigjacbigjacbigjac

Capitalism causes cancer,

both the kind you’re thinking of,

and another kind:


Cities are tumors on the Earth,

our precious home planet.

You Can’t Patent Mother Nature

In a rare unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented:

The case, AMP v. Myriad Genetics, revolved around Utah corporation Myriad Genetics’ exclusive patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which, when mutated, lead to a very high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Because Myriad was the first to identify the BRCA genes, it patented them, charged exorbitant prices for BRCA testing, and then aggressively prevented any other labs from offering the same test. In 2009, a coalition of plaintiffs including the ACLU, Breast Cancer Action and a number of scientific organizations, researchers and patients sued Myriad, claiming that it had no legal right to hold patents on the BRCA genes.

In a majority decision written by Clarence Thomas, the court affirmed the plaintiffs’ claim that because DNA is naturally occurring, it “lie(s) beyond the domain of patent protection.” In so deciding, the court effectively reversed decades worth of policy by the US Patent and Trade Office, which has granted thousands of gene patents, many of which should now be rendered invalid.

The Court refuted Myriad’s claim that because it had put a lot of time and money into locating the gene, that it therefore deserved a patent: “extensive effort alone is insufficient” to make something patent-worthy. Basically, just because you tried really hard doesn’t mean that you deserve a multi-billion dollar legal monopoly.

This is great news for women, men, doctors, scientists and the world in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer. In a New York Times article about the impact of the ruling, other research companies said they would begin offering genetic testing which would bring down the cost and availability of the test, as well as, other tests held by patents:

Some experts say that other genetic tests that are exclusively controlled by a patent holder include the test for spinal muscular atrophy and the test for an inherited form of deafness.

Dr. (Sherri) Bale of GeneDx said the deafness gene also caused a skin disease. Her company is allowed to test for mutations that cause the skin disease, but if it discovers a mutation for hearing loss, it cannot tell the doctor. Instead, a new blood sample has to be drawn and sent to Athena Diagnostics, which controls the testing for the deafness gene. Dr. Bale said the court’s decision should eliminate the need for that arrangement.

It is often said that patents cover 4,000 human genes, or about 20 percent of all human genes, meaning the decision could have a large impact.

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now, in a discussion of the ruling, were joined by Judge Robert Sweet, the senior federal judge for the Southern District of New York who originally invalidated Myriad Genetics’ patents; Lisbeth Ceriani, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit. In May 2008, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer; and Sandra Park, a senior attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and a lead counsel on the case.

“With the ruling today, we fully expect much better access and much better options for patients, as well as for scientists who want to look at different parts of the genome,” Park says. “They no longer now need to deal with patents on the thousands of genes on our genome when they’re engaging in their scientific work.”

Transcript can be read here

1.3 Million Women Received Unnecessary And Invasive Cancer Treatment, Study Finds

This is a counterpart to the more recent finding of even more abusive use of a worthless screening test for prostate cancer that I have recently posted about.

By Igor Volsky on Nov 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

Routine mammograms have caused more than a million U.S. women to receive “unnecessary and invasive cancer treatments over the last 30 years,” a new study finds, detecting tumors that are harmless. The results come after the government’s Preventive Task Force issued recommendations in 2009 advising primary care physicians against recommending mammograms to women under 40 years of age. Those guidelines stirred political outcry on both sides of the aisle and slowed down work on President Obama’s health care law.

But the study shines new doubt “over the effectiveness of an already controversial cancer screening tool that is aimed at detecting tumors before they spread and become more difficult to treat”:

   Their analysis showed that, since mammograms became standard in the United States, the number of early-stage breast cancers detected has doubled – in recent years, doctors found tumors in 234 women out of 100,000. But in that same period, the rate of women diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer has dropped just eight percent – from 102 to 94 cases out of 100,000…


Igor doesn’t mention, probably because nobody bothered telling Igor, that there are some answers to better diagnosis.  GE, Abbott Laboratories and Quest Diagnostics know all about it but they are saving money for the financial cliff we are throwing grandma off.  Maybe they think it would depress the economy further if all the doctors and hospitals and suppliers, like themselves for instance, were further hurt by advanced testing.

Besides maybe some men think women look better without a breast or two.  Mostly we men make the decisions you know.

Best,  Terry

Do you inhale? Capitalism and your Health by Northsylvania

True to form as usual

A purely free market system has one glaringly obvious flaw: if a company’s first responsibility is to its shareholders. In a system based on quarterly earnings, business decisions are only based on the effects of a product on the customer, or even society as a whole, if they impact the bottom line in the short term. This is why, to one extent or another, the excesses of free market capitalism are restrained through regulation. The only brake on corporate malfeasance in a case where the interests of business and society are diametrically opposed is the regulatory arm of the government.

Unfortunately, the interests of the government can be swayed by massive amounts of money, either through tax revenue or through campaign contributions to individual representatives. Sometimes the welfare of society and its constituent members are ignored, even in a supposedly representative democracy. A number of examples can be made here, from the lack of attention to global warming due to the interference of Big Oil, to the current state of the banking system.  This diary examines something both universal and intimate: the government’s ambiguous role in preventing long-term diseases such as cancer, and regulating triggers that might cause it. It is not a critique of the current US health care system, or even Obama’s modification of it, but an overview of how good health over the life of an individual is certainly not of primary importance to industry and in some cases, not of interest to the government either.

Many speculative discussions have arisen in this forum over the past several years concerning carcinogens in the environment and the food supply. Some of these are  controversial enough that they will not be covered here except tangentially. Instead I will use as a case study a substance whose toxicity is so well understood by the general public that there is no argument that its use and cancer are correlated. Nonetheless, because of the vast amounts of money produced through its sale, its carcinogenic nature was first ignored and then debated well past the point when it had become obvious to those in the medical profession, government regulators, and consumers. That subject is, of course tobacco, or more precisely the vast quantity of it consumed by cigarette smokers.