Saturday 8 September 2012

Get back to your pots and pans, woman

Thanks to Ivan in the comments of the previous post, I am now aware of this crucial piece of data-dredging junk science epidemiology. From the Daily Mail, obviously...

Housework could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 13%

It may sound counter intuitive but housework could be good for your health.

Yes it does and no it isn't.

Researchers found women who spent six hours a day doing household chores, going for a brisk walk or gardening were 13 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than their sedentary peers.

Even those who managed just two-and-a-half hours of activity reduced their cancer risk by eight per cent.

As mentioned in an earlier post, 13% and 8% reductions in risk are nothing to get too excited about and they very likely are not real, but let's have a stab at this one. I haven't read the study, but we do know that having children reduces breast cancer risk and that the more children a woman has, the lower her risk:

Childbearing reduces the risk of breast cancer and the higher the number of full-term pregnancies, the greater the protection.

Risk of breast cancer reduces by 7% with each full-term pregnancy, and overall women who have had children have a 30% lower risk than nulliparous [childless] women.

A 15% risk reduction has been shown for womenwith a twin birth, compared to women giving birth to a singleton.

The only women who could possibly need to do six hours of housework a day are those who have at least one child running about the place so I'm guessing that the researchers have failed to adequately control for childbirth.

Mind you, that's only speculation. So ladies, why take the risk? Pop the kettle on while you're about it, will you? Chop, chop.


Ben said...

Pop, pop ... brilliant! So ladies, if I can be of any help ... (not for the housework though, I have a bad back).

Ben said...

oops. I meant to write chop, chop

Curmudgeon said...

Encouraging "stay-at-home mums" is of course one of the favourite themes of the Daily Mail.

Ivan D said...

I did do some checking and it turns out that this story has a basis in an actual epidemiological study albeit one of a dubious multi-centre composite nature.

The authors looked at all kinds of physical activity and concluded that:

"moderate and high physical activity are associated with modest decreased breast cancer risk"

They really do mean modest:

Physically active study participants had a HR of 0.87 (95% CI 0.79-0.97), and those moderately active had a HR of 0.92 (95% CI 0.86-0.99)

They do claim to have corrected for confounding factors but we are not told exactly how so accepting the results section is more or less an act of faith.

This less than earth shattering news was then transmitted to the world via CRUKs publicity machine under the heading "An active lifestyle helps lower breast cancer risk"

I understand that CRUK may be changing its slogan to "You've got cancer and it's all your own fault you fat alchoholic!" but apart from the obligatory soundbite to that effect from its director of communications (I wonder what she costs in terms of fun runs) and the usual tendency to avoid mentioning the true meaning of an 8% risk reduction the CRUK media machine is reasonably accurate in its coverage.

So the leap to "Housework could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 13%" seems to be very much attributable to Claire's interpretation of a CRUK press release. As the 13% figure arrived at in the study was based on high levels of physical activity of all kinds, the headline is incorrect but that sort of thing doesn't bother the Daily Mail.

I can however see to some degree where Claire is coming from. The original study found no correlation between occupational activity and breast cancer, so we are being asked to believe that physical activity in the work environment confers no benefit re breast cancer risk but doing the ironing does.

Anonymous said...

What can be more sacred than MOTHERHOOD ! Have these prohibitionist Nannies no shame!

BTW Chris now my wife wants more damn lil brats....Thanks

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX Researchers found women who spent six hours a day doing household chores, going for a brisk walk or gardening XX

"Unemployed dole scroungers" do you mean?

Jay said...

This is obviously a study done by men who are trying to get out of doing the household chores.

And it's fucking brilliant! :P

Ivan D said...

I should have said sadly incorrect with respect to the Daily Mail article and this mere fact has not stopped me getting Mrs D to clean up after me for her "own good" today. I await the repercussions with some trepidation.

Perhaps you could host a competition for the best new CRUK slogan Chris? I think that I've captured the spirit above but I am sure that someone could manage something a bit snappier.