Monday, March 9, 2009

Red wine: Sunlight to a vampire, or the water of life?

OK I may be talking rubbish here. I would be real interested if someone who really knows could honestly say. This is a serious subject.

The BBC carried this story about alcohol and cancer in women.

Basically I think they are saying that Alcohol causes cancer.

Now that may be so, but as far as I can figure it there is no real direct evidence that it actually does. I figure it looks suspiciously like guesswork and assumptions to me, as far as I can discover.

Now I am not saying they are wrong, but I am not all that convinced they are right either and this sort of stuff has to be right.

It was a seven year study of women, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the author was Dr Naomi Allen.

They say a little short of 70,000 of the middle-aged women in the study developed cancer and “a pattern emerged with alcohol consumption”.

I guess they mean a correlation of some sort. Simply it is where two sets of measurements show a relationship. They either go up and down together, or do the opposite.

In this case levels of alcohol consumption and various cancers.

The thing is, just because you get a correlation it does not mean that one is caused by the other.

Take daisies. They open and close. Take a commuter rail service in the town where the daisies grow.

If you were to compare the daisies opening and closing with the railway timetable you would notice a correlation between the two. But the daisies don't cause the timetable to be the way it is. The trains don't make the daisies open and close.

If anyone thought that they could change the daisies opening and closing by running all the trains at night instead they would be making an expensive mistake. Both are really driven, when you get down to it, by the rotation of the earth.

Now my question is this. Do any of these researchers that are always playing with statistics...

(because that's what they are doing as far as I can see... and they do say. “Lies, damned lies and ..” well, Statistics)

...do any of them check to see if there really is a cause and effect between the two things, or just a “relationship”?

For instance that there is not something to do with lifestyle, affluence, preservatives, the baby boom population hump that is getting, lets face it, middle aged, whatever... That ties say cancer and alcohol consumption in an English speaking western society together?

Oh and how come no one in France ever noticed this link? Given the amount of wine consumed there. Wasn't someone trying to claim how good for your health the odd glass of red wine was a while back based on a similar sort of statistical study there?

It's not just alcohol either. Someone seems to come out with stuff like this on a regular basis about all sorts of things.

If they are pushed can they honestly show you a real cause and effect link, or only point to similar pattern?

It is a worry...

7 comments:

jmb said...

At least I don't have to worry about this Miss Moggs since I am teetotal. But the Old Scientist believes it is the water of life! No doubt in his mind.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

JMB, I think I go along with the Old Scientist on the subject of Vino Rosso.. and good Scotch and Bourbon.

Crushed said...

A bit like the idea that you can catch a cold from being out in cold weather.

It's a virus. It happens to be spread more in cold weather because people spend more time in close proximity to eachother.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You've got me scared now! But your daisy analogy helps and so does the thought of the French.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Crushed, That seem like just the sort of example I was thinking of.

Welshcakes, That is just it. They always seem to be scaring us with something just like this . then someone comes up with another so-called study that seems to suggest the exact opposite. My problem is i have difficulty believing any of them.

I figure France is not a howling wasteland yet.

The way the UK government is going on about alcohol units these days,(and as a weird aside why are they saying 3 units for a glass of wine now and not 2? Did they move the goalposts? Are they fiddling the figures?) surely based on what the UK government are saying that would make the average citizen of France a "problem drinker". Did anyone tell President Sarkozy yet?

It just seems to be scientists, who are not mathematicians or statisticians playing with statistics. It seems to me that just because they are experts in one narrow field it does not make them an expert on everything, or even anything else at all.

Ashley said...

As per the research, Red wine, good to remain healthy!

Ellee Seymour said...

I think more women must be more susceptible than others to cancer. I have read several times that alcohol can contribute towards breast cancer.
Good on you for being teetotal.