Radioactive Times: LLRC Journal

Bone cancer: Revisions revisited

Report from Radioactive Times Volume 3, Number 2, October 1999 (content not updated)

In November 1993 LLRC drew attention to a 300% excess of bone cancer incidence in Wales which was apparent in data published by Wales Cancer Registry, compared with the national average rate. The Cancer Registry's immediate response was to announce a validation exercise.

Their revised figures were published in early 1995. Total numbers of cancers were less, but yearly variations now showed a remarkably strong correlation with the variations in deposition of Strontium-90 from atmospheric weapons testing 20 years before. Chris Busby included this obsewrvation in his book Wings of Death, which was published in October 1995.

In April 1996 LLRC convened a Symposium in the House of Commons to debate Wings of Death and Chris Busby's Second Event theory. The National Radiological Protection Board's speaker, Dr Colin Muirhead argued that the Second Event theory depended on the Welsh bone cancer data. He opened his speach by claiming that bone cancer in Wales no longer showed any excess. By a remarkable coincidence, just two days before the Symposium, Wales Cancer Registry had announced that a second revision of the data had eliminated the excess entirely. The full report was not published for some months, fuelling suspicions that the press announcement was issued to help NRPB attack Busby. By a further remarkable coincidence, on the very day of the Symposium the Western Mail (a Welsh daily newspaper) carried the news that WCR was to be closed amid allegations of incompetence, and its functions handed over to the Velindre NHS Trust.

Subsequently Dr Peter Meyer, a retired histopahologist from the Whittington Hospital in London, supplied a detailed criticism of the revision (published in full in Radioactive Times vol. 2 No. 1). In October 1997 LLRC referred Dr Meyer's paper to Dr Ruth Hall, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, who passed it seideways to the Wales Cancer Intelligance and Surveillance Unit, thte replacement for WCR. WCISU's Director, Dr John Steward, undertook to reply. After many reminders LLRC finally received a reponse from Dr Steward just before this Radioactive Times went to press. We shall bring you a complete appraisal in the next issue.

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