Genetic link for lung cancer identified

464749_cigarettes.jpgSome really interesting genetic research was recently published in Nature on smoking and lung caner:

Three independent genetic studies have found some of the strongest evidence yet that your genes influence your risk of developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer, the most common killer cancer in the world, is largely caused by smoking. Tobacco is thought to be responsible for about 5 million premature deaths every year and smoking is still clearly the largest risk factor. But the new results suggest that, amongst smokers, some people may be as much as 80% more at risk than others thanks to their genes.

So how risky is smoking? You won’t need a genetic test; it suffices to say it’s fairly risky indeed:

About 50% of the general population carries a single copy of this cancer gene variant, members of the three research groups suggest. Data from all three studies — some of which did not include non-smokers — show that possessing this single copy raises the risk of lung cancer by about 30%.

What’s more, another 10% of the population is likely to carry two copies of this set of mutations, raising cancer risk by as much as 80% relative to people with equivalent lifestyles without the cancer-linked gene variant.

McCain is anti-vaccine

Into the Fray Over the Cause of Autism – New York Times

“It’s indisputable that autism is on the rise among children,” Senator John McCain said while campaigning recently in Texas. “The question is, What’s causing it? And we go back and forth, and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

Not as if I need another reason not to vote for McCain… I’ve posted numerous refutations of the thimerosal-autism link here before, and this one‘s as good as any. You can also take a look here [NSFW] at what happens when you don’t immunize children, but I’ll warn you the pictures are pretty graphic. Here’s my favorite Metafilter comment from a now-deleted thread:

It’s mercury, a neurotoxin.

You know what else is a toxin? Chlorine. That’s right: it corrodes sensitive mucous membranes and can digest living cells. I therefore suggest you stay away from table salt — it contains chlorine, you know. Clearly toxic!

Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

NPR: Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

Every year, overdoses of heroin and opiates, such as Oxycontin, kill more drug users than AIDS, hepatitis or homicide.And the number of overdoses has gone up dramatically over the past decade.

But now, public health workers from New York to Los Angeles, North Carolina to New Mexico, are preventing thousands of deaths by giving $9.50 rescue kits to drug users. The kits turn drug users into first responders by giving them the tools to save a life.

[…]

The nasal spray is a drug called naloxone, or Narcan. It blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.

Pretty awesome, right?  The Bush administration doesn’t think so:

But Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.

“First of all, I dont agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. Thats No. 1,” she says. “I just dont think thats good public health policy.”

Madras says drug users arent likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isnt as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug users motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

Now, this would be an ok position for an idiotic, hack pundit or talk show host to have, but this is the deputy director of the ONDCP. Let’s see what their mission is:

The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.

I always hear President Bush saying history will be the judge of his administration. I’ve got a good guess what word history will file his presidency under: failure. It’s like he hires people based on their ability to be willfully and blissfully stupid. The rationale against Narcan reminds me a lot of the opposition to the HPV vaccine; a twisted moral argument at worst, a bureaucratic cop-out at best.

Rape of a Nation by Marcus Bleasdale

MediaStorm: Rape of a Nation by Marcus Bleasdale (warning: graphic images)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the deadliest war in the world today. An estimated 5.4 million people have died since 1998, the largest death toll since the Second World War, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).IRC reports that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo. Most deaths are due to easily preventable and curable conditions, such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and neonatal problems and are byproducts of a collapsed healthcare system and a devastated economy.

The people living in the mining towns of eastern Congo are among the worst off. Militia groups and government forces battle on a daily basis for control of the mineral-rich areas where they can exploit gold, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds.

After successive waves of fighting and ten years of war, there are no hospitals, few roads and limited NGO and UN presence because it is too dangerous to work in many of these regions. The West’s desire for minerals and gems has contributed to a fundamental breakdown in the social structure.