800px-Pediatric_patients_receiving_chemotherapyKids receiving chemotherapy

Yesterday, I wrote a blog on sleep and cancer. Today, there is a report that cancer in children in the U.K. has risen by 40% in 16 years – that it is now the leading cause of death in children aged 1-14. Pretty shocking. The suggested reasons? Pollution, pesticides, EMF from power lines and hairdryers, disruption to circadian clocks from too much blue light (gadgets(, obesity, barbeques… Mostly attributed to the rise in pollution (40%) by Dr Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University. Professor Henshaw’s comments?

“Many items on the list of environmental causes are now known to be carcinogenic, such as air pollution and pesticides and solvents. There has been good research to suggest a mother’s diet can damage DNA in cord blood. Light at night we know is very disruptive for the body, which is why shift workers have such bad health.

“Burnt barbecues, the electric fields of power lines, the electricity supply in your home. Hairdryers. It’s all of these things coming together, and it seems to be teenagers and young people that are most affected.

“What’s worrying is it is very hard to avoid a lot of these things. How can you avoid air pollution? It sometimes feels like we are fighting a losing battle.”

All good stuff, and I’ll comment on some of it below.

Then I read what Nick Goulden, medical director of the charity which commissioned the report,  said about it:

“There is early evidence that precision medicine works in childhood cancers and can save lives.. t[and] could also reduce the burden of toxicity, and help them to improve quality of life both during and after treatment…

“We need the NHS, pharmaceutical companies and government to prioritise support of the medical and scientific community in their efforts to ensure that all children, teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to precision medicine …”

Now I’m sure that the charity is a great charity, that Dr Goulden is an excellent doctor, and that precision medicine is a very good thing. But I can’t help thinking  that it is bonkers to respond to a report that allocates blame for childhood cancers to pollution, pesticides and EMFs by suggesting that the government prioritise precision medicine. What about acting to reduce pollution? Pesticide use? Dirty electricity? Reducing nighttime light pollution?

To me, it seems that the way this issue has been reported highlights a flaw within medical thinking.  We have a problem, one which destroys lives, and our tendency is to look at what we can do to mitigate the effects, rather than to try to eliminate the problem at source. Maybe that stems from the nature of medical training – the doctor’s role, one which I think doctors struggle admirably to fulfil, is often to fix problems caused by lifestyle, environmental issues, or simply, natural ageing, Perhaps it is the role of politicians to oversee this and take remedial action. If so, they must be informed by doctors, rather than directed by them. Certainly, doctors cannot deliver a cleaner safer less polluted environment. But they can protest, and encourage thinking which allocates responsibility appropriately. Doctors do a wonderful job, and when we are overworked, it is hard to step above a problem rather than just trying to deal with its effects. Hard to say : : “this issue should never have to be fixed in the first place. Go and deal with the root cause. I’ll do my best to address the effects, but do not pretend that this is a solution.”

Postscript on  Zeez Sleep Pebble, Cancer & Sleep

I’ve written about sleep & cancer, circadian clocks,   in earlier blogs, and comment on blue light, darkness, EMFs,  in my long sleep tips (to be published shortly). The Zeez Sleep Pebble  also addresses the effects of lifestyle and environment. If we could keep activity and sleep in line with natural light cycles, exercise, eat well, had no stress, we’d probably all sleep a lot better. I’m really proud of what we have done with Zeez, and it doesn’t take away the facts that shift work, artificial light, sedentary life and a poor diet damage us.

Does the Zeez Sleep Pebble “zap” our brains? Does it add to the EMFs that Professor Henshaw spoke of?  No, No. It is extremely low power, 3 microteslas, whereas your hairdryer or shaver can create a field of upto 2,000 microteslas. . Too low in power to activate the neurons directly. It can’t switch neurons on or off. The effects it has  (significant effects reported by 80% users)  can be explained as resonant effects – our body picking up the low power signal and responding with  resonance. We ask users  to switch off / unplug other equipment to reduce interference which might stop it from having an effect.