Saturday, March 19, 2016

Something's Fishy in the Shipyard

The nuclear worker groups had a lower death rate from all causes, leukemia, and LHC than the non-nuclear workers. - Professor Emeritus Myron Pollycove, M.D., University of California at San Francisco, Medicine and Radiology

Suppose you're not convinced about the concept of radiation hormesis and want to do a statistical analysis to settle the matter in your own mind. What is your concept of a "convincing" study? How would you design an experiment so that you would have no doubt about the trustworthiness of the results? Some safeguards I'd like to see would be:

1. The study would have to be supported by deep pockets, because there would be a lot of expense in collecting and analyzing the mountains of data involved.

2. I would want those in charge of the actual research (as opposed to those who are paying for it) to be scientists from a reputable institution.

3. There must be a very large number of exposed persons and the same order of unexposed controls, with both chosen randomly from the same employment pool in order to make the study statistically meaningful and to avoid any possible "healthy worker effect."

4. The doses to the individuals would have to be as accurately known as possible, at least up to industrial or military standards.

5. The study would have to look at not only cancer but also total mortality, in order to test the hypothesis that radiation hormesis not only might reduce cancer, but also might lessen the effects of infectious diseases and other immune system breakdowns.

6. Finally, I would want the researchers to believe that they were attempting to measure a positive correlation between radiation and disease, without even suspecting that any hormesis effect was of interest.

The following investigation at Johns Hopkins meets all my criteria.