Families Against Cancer & Toxics
Stop cancer before it starts
By Bryant Furlow
July 27, 2010
The Medical Muckraker
Earlier this month, I got an interesting e-mail from Terry Nordbrock, executive director of the National Disease Clusters Alliance (NDCA).
Terry pointed out a curious “correction” in the monthly government scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. (EHP is the flagship journal of the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences.)
EHP had added a “correction” to a 2007 CDC review of risk factors for acute childhood leukemias, Terry noticed.
Whereas the authors had originally reported that both benzene and ionizing radiation were risk factors for childhood leukemia, the correction indicated that benzene was not, after all, a leukemia-associated carcinogen:
In the Abstract and in the section “Risk Factors,” the sentences “Only two environmental risk factors (benzene and ionizing radiation) have been significantly linked to ALL or AML” in the original manuscript published online have been changed here to “Only one environmental risk factor (ionizing radiation) has been significantly linked to ALL or AML.”
That’s a hell of a shift in thinking to be buried, unexplained, in a correction note.
I’ve contacted all three authors of the corrected review, as well as leading leukemia epidemiologists, for some insight into what’s going on.
Benzene’s carcinogenicity is one of the best-established epidemiological ‘truths’ in the field. A consensus that benzene’s not a significant carcinogen after all would be tantamount to epidemiologists deciding cigarettes might not cause cancer after all.
That would be huge news.
But given the petrochemical industry’s concerted efforts over the years to downplay benzene’s carcinogenicity, one also has to consider whether or not there may be more to the story.
Evidence for some of the seemingly most clear-cut cases of benzene’s carcinogenicity are buried away from epidemiologists’ eyes in court settlement documents regarding an occupational cancer cluster in Cincinnati, Ohio and a residential lymphoma cluster near Waller, Texas.
I’m heading up to Santa Fe now to cover state regulation of health insurance rates for The New Mexico Independent.
But I’ll be digging into the curious EHP correction and reporting what I learn at epiNewswire, later this week.
Thanks for the interesting tip, Terry!