Saturday, August 30, 2003

Cancer is a disease of old age

The pie chart below shows the proportion of cancer cases for men in the UK by age group:

81 percent of cancers occur in men over the age of 60, 92 percent in men over 50. Less than half of all cancer is in men under the age of 70.

The pattern is slightly different for women. Breast and cervical cancers seem to start to rise at around the age of 35. Even so, 86 percent of cancers in women occur after the age of 50.

Here's a bar graph of the overall picture:

Cancer statistics by age, 2000, UK, Office of National Statistics

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Children eat crap - it's official

BBC News reports a study which suggests that children throw away the 'healthy' stuff in their lunchboxes.

The survey of nine- to 11-year-olds suggests two out of three children regularly discard fruit, and one in three regularly throw away sandwiches. However, only one in five admitted to throwing away crisps or biscuits. And it's all down to peer pressure. Healthy stuff just ain't cool, apparently. Dr Ian Campbell of the National Obesity Forum said, 'Even if children are given healthy snacks in their lunches they will sometimes not eat them because they fear they will be ridiculed by their friends.'

(I'm trying hard to imagine the name-calling: 'Vitamin lover'? 'Nutrition fanatic'?)

Rather than wringing their hands about the immature eating habits of primary school children, perhaps teachers, parents and nutritionists could get a life and realise that as long as kids get enough protein not to be stunted, and enough carbohydrate to keep them running around, they're unlikely to come to much harm. When children become adults, they start to learn to enjoy a wider variety of foods and appreciate that they can't eat rubbish all the time.

Children throw away healthy lunch, BBC News, 26 August 2003

Monday, August 25, 2003

Red wine, olive oil and old age

A report in the New York Times suggests that red wine may contain a chemical that extends lifespan. The argument is that reduced-calorie diets seem to extend life in a variety of (non-human) animals and organisms. A chemical found in wine, but more abundantly in red rather than white wine, resveratrol, mimics this response. Meanwhile, another group claim to have found a chemical with a similar effect in olive oil.

However, the caloric-reduction hypothesis has yet to be tested on primates (although studies are underway), never mind humans. And the new work has only been done on yeast. So, don't hold your breath.

On the other hand, a scientifically-justified excuse for drinking more red wine? Marvellous.

Study Spurs Hope of Finding Way to Increase Human Life, New York Times, 25 August 2003