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Bullshit Health Media

Daily Mail “could cause cancer”, warns expert

Reading the Daily Mail could cause every conceivable kind of cancer, and massively increases the risk of breast cancer, experts fear. While other newspapers are also dangerous, the middle-market tabloid is particularly dangerous for women.

The new study, published in the journal Bigmouth Strikes Again, found a horrifying gap in current research. “We’ve looked at mobile phones, coffee and itchy fabrics as possible carcinogens,” explains the study’s author, Gary Marshall, “but nobody’s looked at the link with newspapers. It turns out that when you ask people with cancer whether they read a newspaper, most of them do – and a very high proportion of them read the Daily Mail. It’s obvious – the Daily Mail causes cancer.”

Critics suggest that Marshall’s study is “a load of shite”. As top cancer expert Mr B. Offin points out, “it’s utter nonsense. Of course you’d expect a high proportion of breast cancer sufferers to be Daily Mail readers – it’s a very popular newspaper among women in their forties and fifties. But to draw a link between newspaper reading habits and illnesses isn’t just bad science, but utterly offensive too. You might as well argue that owning legs causes cancer. It’s nonsense.”

Marshall angrily refutes the criticisms. “People who disagree with my findings are clearly part of a big global conspiracy,” he says. “Everybody panic!”

Ahem… that was sparked by this story, which suggests that mobile phone use kills your little soldiers:

Those who made calls on a mobile phone for more than four hours a day had the worst sperm counts and the poorest quality sperm, according to results released yest at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.

Doctors believe the damage could be caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by handsets or the heat they generate.

Hang on a minute. “Doctors believe?” This is one study, in which every single participant had a fertility problem. Surely for proper science you’d need to study an equal number of men without fertility problems and analyse their mobile phone use? And screen out other factors that may be relevant, such as diet, lifestyle, alcohol intake and so on? Allan Pacey thinks so:

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said “This is a good quality study but I don’t think it tackles the issue. If you’re using your phone for four hours a day, presumably it is out of your pocket for longer. That raises a big question: how is it that testicular damage is supposed to occur?”

He said mobile phone use may be a marker for other lifestyle factors known to affect sperm quality.

“Maybe people who use a phone for four hours a day spend more time sitting in cars, which could mean there’s a heat issue. It could be they are more stressed, or more sedentary and sit about eating junk food getting fat. Those seem to be better explanations than a phone causing the damage at such a great distance” he added.

Even the study’s author says it’s just a possibility, although you’ll need to read the Guardian’s story to see the quote:

Ashok Agarwal, who presented his findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans, stressed the study did not prove mobile phones were damaging male fertility, but urged scientists to investigate the possibility.

So, his study’s basically saying “ooh, this is interesting. Let’s have a proper look and see if it’s a coincidence or if there’s something going on here.” Could we postpone the panic until there’s some actual evidence?