Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Massaging numbers in a Faustian bargain.

Roundup, the most ubiquitous chemical in agriculture does not cause cancer

 until it does-- shockingly elevating risks of lymphoma by 41%?!!

 

 

AGRICULTURAL HEALTH STUDY (AHS)



Is this the truth?





This? 







OOOOPS. Glyphosate increases risks of lymphoma by 41% ?!


Two dueling studies. AHS vs Meta-Analysis (based on AHS)





Want the truth? 



Radical idea: read the two studies pivotal in the "bellwether" case!

And rather carefully since Monsanto deemed the AHS the most valuable epidemiological study in a class action lawsuit involving thousands of plaintiffs and billions of dollars in damages riding on it.


But don't worry about what's riding on it and who wrote it--science is often simply about doing basic arithmetic, as I've pointed out about here, and here with a different "meta-analysis" It is fascinating how the AHS can be whitewashed in a meta-analysis to lead to an opposite desired conclusion. 



Paul, read the study!





The National Cancer Institute occupational cohort study (AHS)  enrolled two cohorts --applicants for commercial and private pesticide licenses. It also enrolled private pesticide licensee spouses following the cohorts through four phases. 

The latest installment, phase IV was released to great fanfare last year and cited widely by pro-glyphosate advocates as the most comprehensive study on 54,000 (??)  "farmers" proving decisively that Roundup does not cause cancer. 

Commercial pesticide applicants could theoretically be operating out of a mansion in Bel Air with a crew of pesticide "handlers" doing the actual spraying. Private pesticide license holders are primarily conventional farmers likely spraying their fields themselves, and so the degree of exposure to Roundup between the two groups are presumably somewhat different. 

No true control group without any occupational exposure-organic farmers not using Roundup were recruited- there was no unexposed group comparison. And since pesticide licenses are only required for restricted use of pesticides, and Roundup is not a restricted use pesticide. Thus farmers using a chemical marketed as safe as salt, coffee, and sunshine,  who didn't get safety training are likely exposed to much higher levels of Roundup than anyone in either cohort--but are not represented in this study. 


So flaws are already evident in the basic study design in spite of "expansiveness" of the study enrolling over 89,651 "farmers". The method of original selection is akin to recruiting groups to measure effects of cigarettes by comparing cancer rates of half a pack a day smokers to a pack a day smokers while excluding nonsmokers and three packs a day smokers. 


But forget those methodological flaws- let's just look at the arithmetic! 




"Phase 4 was completed by 60% of the enrolled private applicators 

and 61% of the enrolled spouses"



Please whip your calculators out and check the percentages of people followed up. Let's start with the first row--the private pesticide applicators

33456/52394 x100=63,85%
18599/52394x100=35.50%
17869/52394x100=34.11%
24170/52394x100=46,13%

24145/52394x100=48.08%  -phase IV







HUH!! WHY IS 46% reported as 60%?? 

Maybe it is just a solitary goof up, an innocent arithmetical error?
Let's repeat it in the next row, the spouses of private pesticide license applicants followed up. Because attrition of the male farmers might be somewhat compensated if the spouses were followed up. 

23796/32345x100=73,75%
14391/32345x100=44.49%
15385/32345x100=47.57%
19950/32345x100=61,17%

18186/32345x100=56.23%   

Nope! There it is again! 56% of spouses reported as 61%, the same as in the summary! 

What is so special about 60%? 
Once is an error, twice is an unlikely coincidence, but that weird 60% again, four separate times, National Cancer Institute-- inflating the numbers of people followed up?  It's not a sporadic mistake, it is weird shenanigans deliberately misleading and fraudulent. 




Wonder why?   Let's learn a bit about fundamental guidelines on follow up in cohort studies. 






The study that Monsanto deemed it's strongest scientific evidence--not once, not twice, but on four separate occasions published fraudulent data because epidemiologists consider studies with less than 60% retention rates of limited validity.  


Instead of admitting that losses to follow up introduced significant bias if they were due to Roundup exposure resulting in lymphoma, for instance, they fudged the numbers to underestimate risks of lymphoma by blatantly posting misleading, outright wrong percentages, to avoid raising suspicions. 

If this is not fraud, I do not know what is. 



And it gets better. Epidemiologists understand that nonrandom losses to follow up can magnify bias further, such that even losses of 10% of the cohorts are considered unacceptable if they are differential. Lo and behold, an entire cohort disappears in stages 3 and 4 of the study, compounding bias. 


The missing data and gaps one can drive a Mack truck through are mitigated by "imputation" as the student who wrote the second study, the "explosive" meta-analysis, based on the AHS study mentions, which Carey does not notice. 

Imputation is simply a fancy word for estimates. 


I personally generate fairly tight imputations for my work as a vet and I am often off by about 20% but anyone who's hired a contractor would be thrilled with a 20% discrepancy.  Estimates under the best of circumstances performed in good faith can be done well or very badly, in other words.  






MASSAGING NUMBERS 

Carey's Guardian article manipulates the public using the very same strategy often employed by Pharma to oversell and over-hype ineffective or unsafe drugs--highlighting relative risk without putting it into the context of absolute risk.


97% of average readers never ever read past the headline, 2% read the entire article, while 0.9% click on the original study's abstract, and 0.1% read the actual peer-reviewed study. How many people do you suppose cross-checked the complex computer-generated statistical "imputations" or the statistical veracity of the meta-analysis or understood the sleigh of hand Carey used to misrepresent the meta-analysis?
It's a safe bet that a number of readers are approximately zero-- a statistical black box, as naturally comprehensible, intuitive and accessible as the one holding Schrodinger's dead and alive cat.


Will these shennanigans sway the judge in the first "bellwether" Round Up Lymphoma case? 


I don't think sooo.

The buzz of Carey's obvious PR campaign









Can AHS that blatantly lies about simple arithmetic and easily verifiable percentages be trusted with complicated statistical gymnastics we cannot independently calculate ourselves, be extrapolated further in a meta-analysis, losing accuracy with every layer of assumptions and approximations? 

No one seemed to have asked. They all seem to believe that science is mixing together rotten meat (the AHS study) with fresh peas, carrots, potatoes, apples, and oranges  (the smaller case-control studies) in a crock-pot transforms the spoiled bits of AHS into a fresh gourmet meal--an accurate meta-analysis. 





Sorry to inform you, but our Rachel Carson award-winning book author, our "truth-telling veteran investigative journalist" and "research director" at US Right to Know, with the article in the Guardian-shared over 20,000 times obviously never read the AHS or the meta-analysis incorporating the fraudulent AHS, nor did her partisan "journalist" friends--Michael Balter, Paul Thacker, GM Watch, GMO-Free USA, Food Babe, Food Democracy Now--not to mention  the anonymous trolls recruiting "soldiers" into this "food movement" / US Right to Know Army

Not sure they would understand either if they did, apart from the click-baity bits. 








Sifting through AHS dumpster for nuggets-Hypothyroidism

This journalist ally of Carey's with Thacker in science defense has 40 years of experience in science reporting on fossils-- which in case you missed it, have been dead for thousands of years--bizarrely believes himself qualified in medicine of the living as he comments on hypothyroidism veterinarians see on a daily basis. 






Hilariously he has no idea that hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism--the most common endocrinopathies seen by most veterinary hospitals on a daily to weekly basis--are polar opposites of each other. 





He clearly couldn't care less if this information ever reaches medical professionals. If it was really about hypothyroidism or lymphoma to advance animal or human health, he'd certainly be reporting on it in JAMA, JAVMA, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, where endocrinopathies are customarily discussed by medical professionals who diagnose and treat living breathing patients with this all too common disease. 

For Carey's team, there is no difference between science and politics. The AHS gave linking Roundup with hypothyroidism and leukemia so our "science"- defending journalism team will be happy to trade off and compromise on lymphoma and roll the rotting fraudulent AHS over into a meta-analysis that undergoes a spontaneous metamorphosis into a dazzling edifice of scientific certainty that is supposed to sway a jury and a judge that Round Up caused lymphoma. These folks are not Einsteins, methinks.    


None could tell you in person what's in the AHS or the "meta-analysis" --even if they read it--these veteran science journalists failed elementary school math!! 


Striking a Faustian Bargain


The "meta-analysis" is a mash-up of heterogenous case-control studies with a prospective cohort (AHS) study in which the authors emphasizing several points.--the highly unusual methodology,  discarding all data except for the highest levels of occupational exposure to farmers and listing pages upon pages of limitations which Carey obviously missed. 


A meta-analysis is as good as the sum of its individual studies.  No matter how fancy the statistics, you can not build a robust meta-analysis based on studies with weak evidence any more than erecting a house with weight bearing beams and joists of rotting wood on a warped foundation. 

As I contend,  the AHS study was fraudulent, but suppose that it was not.  The authors discarded all the AHS data except for the highest occupational exposures, including in a lengthy study just one sentence Carey wanted for perfect sensationalized click-bait: glyphosate raises (relative) risks of lymphoma by 41%!!  


MAKING SENSE OF RELATIVE AND ABSOLUTE RISKS


The lifetime risk of lymphoma in 2019 is 1/42 in men and 1/54 in women. Which means that according to Carey's team, if a farmer is using glyphosate at a maximum level for a maximum period of time, and has none of the risk factors recognized by cancer experts--their lifetime risk rises from 2.3% to 3.25% in a lifetime.  Epic win for the Anti-Roundup Team? Certainly not a tabloid journalism clickbaity byline. The self-appointed science guardians, unfortunately, appear to lack traits one seeks in a science journalist- curiosity, skepticism, and competence in science starting with elementary school arithmetic. Because figuring out when science is used to manipulate rather than inform does not get much easier than this. 

And for a team this incompetent in science, what are the odds of them being good at judicial chess? 







The approximated risks in the hyped "meta-analysis" only apply to extreme occupational exposure and is absolutely irrelevant to the general public. 

You see why pro-GMO, pro-glyphosate people like it? 

 If a plaintiff has no accepted risk factors for lymphoma- his lifetime risk rose by less than one percent. Brilliant! 





Does Roundup Cause Lymphoma?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals and limited in humans classifying it as a probable carcinogen.

Studies generally show a positive correlation between multiple pesticides used in farming, especially and worryingly in children! But the very fact that multiple chemicals are used and the long lag time between exposure and disease makes it very challenging to parse out the effects of a single pesticide considering the complex formulations and cocktails.  

. 
My opinion is, that neither the AHS nor the Carey-hyped "meta-analysis" offer credible evidence that Roundup does or does not cause lymphoma in humans. Neither got us any closer to the truth.  


And an astute science minded judge will see right through the manipulation.  So, in the bellwether case on farmer lymphoma,  the judge unsurprisingly tosses Carey's entire idea of "science and truth" to the curb by bifurcating the case causing spasms of consternation for depriving the jury of "evidence".

 He directs the plaintiffs to first prove causation of lymphoma before anything in Carey's  science-free book of anecdotes and chapters of insinuations called Whitewash that by the way,  garnered a Rachel Carson award from American Society for Environmental Journalism,  documenting in tedious detail the "industry playbook" (and is just one of dozens in that genre  that includes such science luminaries as the Food Babe) is deemed relevant to whether hard science supports the claim that Round Up actually caused  human cancer! 

And when the judge restricts plaintiffs suing for lymphoma to hard science on causation alone deeming your "nuggets of truth" and your book completely irrelevant to the case--you do what your singular specialty has been all along-- you smear the judge's integrity with insinuations. 


Because when you are science incompetent and your career is vested in the outcome of your Public Relations campaign--  insinuations are your entire playbook. 









SF jury awards Sonoma County man $80 Million in Monsanto weed killer cancer case











Monday, November 5, 2018

Real news. Cheating Death with Dr. Jen Gunter.


Why women can't rely on New York Times medical expert's vagina monologues. 





 Dr. Gunter  offers to help you keep your vagina fine- tuned like a Stradivarius.  so she will teach you how to  clean it--don't, it's like a self cleaning oven! 

She guides you on appropriate objects to insert into it--tampons, not jade eggs, please.   
But why?




Goop eggs...Jade eggs in vaginas are a thing!!!





I know, I know.  No one know and no one You know has ever heard of Goop. But just wait....real news will be sure to change that. 

The jade egg claims to have been used by Chinese concubines to both strengthen pelvic muscles for better sex, and to help its user increase sexual energy, health, and pleasure by somehow connecting your chakra to your yoni. Personally, I think serving your partner dinner in bed, a bottle of red wine,  candlelight and romantic music topped off with a massage is much more likely to connect your yoni to your chakra, but maybe that's just me. I am not going to argue with Chinese concubines or Japanese Geishas.


But If it wasn't for Gunter's discovery and obsessive  alerts no one would have heard of jade eggs and their lethal nature and Goop probably wouldn't be a very profitable company-- no thanks for Dr. Jen-- who evidently has never heard of the Streisand effect. 


Very curiously Dr. Gunter minimizes concerns about tampons devoting a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of effort to educating women about tampons. Unlike Goop jade eggs, millions of women use them. 

It's estimated that over 18,000 tampons are inserted by an average woman into her body during her menstruating years, compared to irrelevant inert non-absorbing rock eggs. 




The need for feminine public education is so dire that Netflix is streaming a documentary called a Guide to Cheating Death,  promoted by real news (VICE). I  suggest you watch the first episode. Produced by Tim Caulfied-- a lawyer by training, and a health and science policy researcher by industrial inclination. The first episode  stars New York Times  vagina expert, Dr. Jen, and costars Dr. Schwarcz, a chemist by training; and  a religious expert, Alan Levinovitz--with no, none, zero scientific expertise of any sort. 




Yes, she is a quadruple boarded obstetrician/gynecologist licensed to put women into stainless steel stirrups, insert cold metal duck lips called a speculum  to conduct clinical pelvic exams, with decades of experience in abortions.  





Here she is in NetFlix Life Saving documentary not clutching pearls, but an anatomically correct vagina-- edumificating women using a rigorous, evidence based approach.





[No Fido, calm down. Stop. It's not a squeeky  dog toy! That stuffed fuzzy pink thingie is a female sexual reproductive organ called a vagina with labia, urethral opening and a clitoris.  We'll search  Chewys for doggie toys later.]




You can look up Alan Levinovitz on Twitter where he is retweeted by a giant network of industry non-affiliated non-marketing scientists just like Dr. Jen, who regularly promotes famous non Monsanto affiliated trolls and "non-profits"- a designation which confer complete anonymity on their donors, that pesticide corporations would never in a billion years take advantage of to launder money.



Here she is, completely accidentally, appearing with a famous non-industry funded "independent" scientist promoted by the "non-profit" Biofortified, complete with a stuffed GMO corn mascot, probably from the same plushy factory in China where Dr. Jen bought her plushy vagina.




I recognize the Biofortified plushy because the little stuffed corn showed up  completely randomly in my flower bed, right outside my hospital, right after a 10,000- Monsanto-member Facebook page cyberattack on my 500-real humans hospital Facebook page. 






Guess what five minutes of googling reveals about Jen Gunter's Netflix costar, the acclaimed scientist, Dr. Joe Schwarcz. Nothing much.

 He just happens to work on messaging with  Crop Life, a pesticide industry trade group.  








And here she is being promoted by Monsanto's employee Vance Crowe.


You know... Monsanto?  The ones who gifted the health community with health promoting bovine growth hormone, DDT,  Agent Orange, PCBs,  and GMOs including GMO cotton sprayed with a variety of health promoting herbicides, like glyphosate (a ubiquitous antibiotic and probably carcinogen dubbed tomorrow's asbestos) and 2,4-D (cousin to Agent Orange)




GMO Network



Shhhhhh. Don't tell real news, Vice, or Statnews.

Can you guess what the documentary debunks?  Public concerns about toxins in food, water and environment, of course, framing health conscious people as religious, science illiterate fanatics. It's obviously outrageously irrational to want non-pesticide drenched food. Treating food like medicine is extremist and abjectly unsceintific in the 21st century. 





Tom Caulfield, the lawyer,  rigorously trained in science in law school and self-trained in health care policy, knows a thing or two on selecting credible experts to tear down dangerous celebrities, almost  as if enacting Richard Berman's (Dr. Evil's) lobbying, PR strategies for polluting industries. 



The Grey Lady herself, who published an expose on Richard Berman's "endless war" strategy evidently hasn't read it's own journalists, propelling Dr. Jen Gunter into celebrity stratosphere. and appointing her your medical expert.

"Tear down celebrities who speak out...the problem is that the public really does have a celebrity worship culture. But the good news is that there is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle."

The meteoric rise to stardom by industry's quasi-experts via celebrity take downs is a classic public relations strategy aided and abetted  by real news too many times to list. 
See here and here for a taste. Not unlike mainstream media giving billions in exposure to President Trump, while blaming his ascendancy on Russian fake news















Dr. Jen's landmark study published in a peer reviewed journal and she is humbled by the traffic it's getting. She has her scientific priorities straight. 

Searching archaeological data bases Dr. Jen and an archaeologist proved that vagina eggs were never, ever used in China for thousands of years as Gwyneth Paltrow, the dangerous GOOP celebrity claims. As if thousands of years of use in China would have altered their medical indication, sort of like TCM (traditional chinese medicine) and accupuncture.

Public Health Win of the Century! Go science!




When your rise to stardom depends on destroying a star with her Yoni Egg--Highly motivated scientifically implausible conclusion: Goop Rock Eggs Kill

According to Dr. Jen, Goop eggs are "porous" and thus can lead to life-threatening illnesses. Stated on her blog: Jade eggs could cause fatal toxic shock syndrome.





How many cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome are on record associated with rock eggs?
You guessed it. ZERO! 





Remember, they named it Rely...

the super-absorbent tampon taken off the market linked with a disproportionate number of Toxic Shock Syndrome cases


But, New York Times, American's paper of record's medical expert---very accidentally, I am sure--- understates the incidence of TSS by a factor of 10, as 0.32/100,000 when researchers are pegging it as rising from 1/100,000 to 3/100,000. 








Toxic Shock Syndrome

A potentially fatal disorder that results from interaction of immune system ( that responds differently in younger people than the aged)  with variants of super-toxin or super-antigen releasing aerobic bacteria, Staph aureus and Strep pyogenes. Aerobic bacteria, remember--needs oxygen to live, while vaginas are anaerobic supporting growth of friendly house-keeping anaerobic (oxygen-hating) bacteria. 

Dr. Jen who has done a fellowship in infectious diseases can't be bothered to consider how glyphosate, a patented antibiotic with well known suppression of anaerobic bacteria in many animals could possibly, plausibly alter the microbial ecology of the vaginal lining favoring overgrowth of opportunists like the Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin spewing Staph and Strep. 

So, she dodges glyphosates probable inhibition of commensal vaginal bacteria by pointing out that glyphosate isn't a carcinogen when ingested--according to the World Health Organization,whose cancer research arm, IARC, classified glypphosate --as a probable carcinogen. 

Of course glyphosate's carcinogenicity and oral ingestionhas exactly nothing to do with its antimicrobial effects on vaginal microbiota. Just ask Dr. Gunter.


Unsurprisingly, Dr. Gunter is on record as 100% certain tampons are toxin free. Yet,  residue levels of dangerous toxins like dioxins, phthalates, or glyphosate are not required to be published-- FDA classifies tampons as medical devices. Ingredients are not listed for medical devices and you can fact check me on it.


Fortunately, she has sisters in arms well known for having marketing expertise and no scientific training, I've written about in a post called Monsanto Politics-Microbiome Mayhem to amplify her message in the press.  And that's real independent, balanced industry-unaffiliated news for ya.


A couple of questions in closing.

Question 1: How much blood does a Goop Rock Egg absorb? 

It would be fun to see Dr. Jen subject  Goop Eggs to  FDA mandated absorbance testing, a measure of risk of  causing TSS. 



Question 2. Can Dr. Jen post a study culturing Staph aureus or Strep pyogenes (agents of TSS) on Goop's inert jade eggs? She has, after all,  done a fellowship in infectious diseases and publishes in legitimate medical journal, doesn't she? Like this renowned expert who found that cotton tampons reduced risk of TSS

And who would want to do that--support organic cotton farmers? 

Phew, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about TSS. So, if you have any questions, please post them in comments and I shall share whatever little knowledge I gained researching this highly networked (non-industry-affiliated) medical expert whose pole straight  to the top was, no doubt, greased by hard work and scientific expertise rather than $15 billion menstruation industry. .