The science of red meat and cancer – what does it say?

ingredients for delicious lunch with meat and vegetables

Over the past few years, there have been numerous stories about whether red meat increases the risk of cancer and other diseases. Well, the science on this is extremely complicated and nuanced, something doesn’t play well with clickbait headlines. People want to know The Truth™ about meat.

A few years ago we were flooded by memes, articles, and tropes laughing at us carnivores because the World Health Organization stated that eating red meat increases the risk of cancer.

Then recently, we were flooded by new memes, articles, and tropes when an article was published to tell us that red meat was safe, and did not cause cancer. Of course, that was followed up by even newer memes, articles, and tropes that that new article was junk, and red meat causes cancer. 

Even those of you with good scientifically skeptical minds (which includes a lot of vegans, who might have wanted to point fingers at us carnivores) are wondering if anyone knows anything about red meat and its relationship to any disease, let alone cancer. So I sliced some excellent salami and ate it with my GMO crackers – this old avian dinosaur did what he is supposed to do, he read the underlying scientific articles.

So, should you worry whether red meat increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases? I agree that there are a lot of issues about people eating beef, pork, and chicken for our individual health and for the health of the planet. But that’s outside of my bailiwick, and it will garner an incredible amount of yelling and screaming.

But I’m going to be brave (or not) and just try to answer the simple question of whether red meat increases the risk of cancer. And here we go.

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mRNA cancer vaccine – immunotherapy for colorectal cancer

mRNA cancer vaccine

Germany-based BioNTech, the company that developed the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine with Pfizer, has announced an mRNA cancer vaccine for colorectal cancer. I hate to get excited about new technologies, but it’s clear that mRNA vaccines could lead to a lot of advances in medicine.

Let’s take a look at this new therapy for colorectal cancer, one of the deadliest cancers.

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Did Japan ban Gardasil? No, but the anti-vaccine crowd loves the trope

Japan Banned Gardasil

One of the most popular zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccine movement is that Japan banned Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. And like most of those zombie memes and tropes, the facts are a lot different than the anti-vaccine claims. Shocking, I know.

Although I don’t quite understand the reasoning, the anti-vaccine world absolutely hates Gardasil, possibly more than any other vaccine other than COVID-19 vaccines (of course). These zealots maintain that the HPV vaccines cause all kinds of harm to teens and young adults. Yet, there are literally mountains of data derived from numerous huge epidemiological studies that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is one of the safest vaccines on the market.

So if you really want to prevent cancer, one of the best ways available to you is getting the HPV vaccine. The idea is so simple, yet is clouded by the myths about HPV vaccines – one of the most popular, of course, is that Japan banned Gardasil. Let’s examine this fable with a critical and skeptical eye.

Spoiler alert – Japan did no such thing.

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Measles does not prevent cancer – debunking another anti-vaccine trope

measles cancer

There’s a ridiculous anti-vaxxer trope, that getting measles can prevent cancer, that’s been circulating for a while. Of course, it was pushed by members of the disgraced Trump White House, so it has the same credibility as that White House showed for any science whether it was the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change.

Of course, your favorite ancient feathered dinosaur is here to correct this issue – a measles infection is not going to prevent any of the 200 or more cancers that afflict humans.

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Polio vaccine does not cause cancer – another anti-vax myth debunked

polio vaccine causes cancer

Apparently, the “polio vaccine can cause cancer” zombie memes have been reanimated by the anti-vaccine world. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure. And once again, I’m seeing it.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, Reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 200 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see a claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that and accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute anti-vaccine claims take a lot more than 200 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced, and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to send that claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth™. Killing zombie anti-vaccine tropes and memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these anti-vaccine fake facts is a full-time job. Sadly, even after a thorough debunking, someone will call us a paid shill, ignore the evidence, and repeat the trope.

I need to create a bot that automatically refutes every repeated trope. In lieu of that, let’s just discuss the myth. And refute it once again.

Continue reading “Polio vaccine does not cause cancer – another anti-vax myth debunked”

Polio vaccine does not cause cancer – anti-vax myth debunked

polio vaccine causes cancer

Apparently, the “polio vaccine can cause cancer” zombie memes have been reanimated by the anti-vaccine world. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure. And once again, I’m seeing it.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, Reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 200 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see a claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that and accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute anti-vaccine claims take a lot more than 200 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced, and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to send that claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth™. Killing zombie anti-vaccine tropes and memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these anti-vaccine fake facts is a full-time job. Sadly, even after a thorough debunking, someone will call us a paid shill, ignore the evidence, and repeat the trope.

I need to create a bot that automatically refutes every repeated trope. In lieu of that, let’s just discuss the myth. And refute it once again.

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Bananas do not prevent cancer – another internet myth debunked

I wrote this article many years ago, debunking the claim that bananas prevent cancer, and it remains the most popular article I’ve ever written. It probably gets so much traffic because of the ongoing memes about how bananas will cure every cancer known to man. 

Too many individuals see these memes on Twitter and Facebook, then they accept them as scientific facts. They rarely are. That’s why critical thinking is necessary. 

But if a meme is going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, then that claim ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence. But this wild belief about bananas is not even supported by ordinary evidence. It is supported by zero evidence.

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Why can’t we get a cancer vaccine as fast as one for COVID-19?

cancer vaccine

I keep reading memes and other nonsense that if scientists are so smart why can’t we have a cancer vaccine as fast as we did for COVID-19? It’s not a serious question, it’s actually pejorative – it’s meant to imply that we’ve been looking for years for a cancer vaccine without success, yet we were able to get a COVID-19 vaccine within a few months, so obviously it was rushed.

Fortunately for us on the side of science, this is one of the silliest and most desperate myths being pushed by our favorite anti-vaxxers.

Busting cancer myths is one of my favorite activities – my non-statistical analysis of medical pseudoscience puts cancer slightly above vaccines on the stupidity of the tropes. Combining vaccine nonsense with cancer is right up my bailiwick. Let’s have some tearing apart this trope.

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Annoying cancer myths – more zombie memes that can’t be stopped

Anyone who follows the cantankerous feathered dinosaur knows that we tend to focus on vaccines, where the anti-vaccine religion focuses on tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and outright lies. Cancer myths seem to steal from the anti-vaccine playbook by pushing similar tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies.

I keep responding to these cancer myths all across the internet, so I thought that it might be useful to list out my favorite ones. No, it would take 50,000 words to debunk all of these cancer myths. For example, the Burzynski Clinic quackery is best handled by a real cancer specialist, David Gorski, MD, who has written well over 100 articles critiquing the Burzynski pseudoscience. So I’m going to stick with my personal favorites.

So, let’s take a look at these cancer myths, and I’ll do my best to debunk them.

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43,000 HPV-associated cancers annually – HPV vaccine can prevent most

HPV-associated cancers

As I’ve written before, there are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer. One of which is to prevent HPV-associated cancers with the HPV vaccine (see Note 1).

Too many people who discuss the HPV vaccine, especially among the anti-vaccine religion, tend to focus on HPV-related cervical cancer. But HPV is linked to several dangerous and deadly cancers, and a new report examines the details of those cancers. 

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