TechCentralStation has a post on declining rigor in scientific publications. I was sorry to see Roswell Park included.
Apparently, we can no longer assume that peer review journals are free of "junk science." The peer-reviewed journal Cancer, a publication of the American Cancer Society (ACS), just published a special online supplement that clearly meets the definition of "junk"in every way.
This journal, which boasts a long and distinguished list of editorial advisors, featured an article by Dr. Julia Brody, the executive director of the Silent Spring Institute and researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The journal supplement section was funded by the foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Brody is the principal investigator of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study -- a study of exposures to "mammary carcinogens" from air and water pollutants, pesticides, detergents, plastics, and cosmetics.
Why is this study "junk"? Let me count the ways:
First, the conclusions drawn by the authors, namely that environmental pollutants cause breast cancer, are not based on human studies but instead on high-dose animal studies. The authors identify a series of synthetic chemicals that cause breast tumors in rodents and then leap to the assumption that these chemicals also cause breast cancer in women.
There is now a nearly-universal rejection by scientists of the use of laboratory rodent data to predict human cancer risks. Thus, it is astounding that this lengthy paper is predicated on the assumption that rodents are just "little women." Indeed, in a companion article in the same Cancer supplement -- this one written exclusively by staff members of the Silent Spring Institute -- the authors recklessly elevate the role of rodent tests by asserting that "identifying chemical carcinogens in animal studies is currently the primary means of anticipating cancer effects in humans." If indeed that statement were true, we would be classifying a whole host of natural foods as "cancer risks" because they naturally contain chemicals that cause cancer in rodents -- including mushrooms (hydrazines), table pepper (safrole), and bread (ethyl carbamate)
Second, the authors brazenly conclude that, while they cannot state with confidence how many breast cancer cases annually are due to exposure to trace levels of "chemicals" (including pesticides, ingredients in cosmetics and other "environmental pollutants"), they feel the evidence (what evidence?) is strong enough to warrant "strategies" to reduce exposures in an effort to reduce breast cancer risk.
Further, it is clear from the affiliation of the senior author that this "study" was in no way neutrally conducted. In its own description, the Silent Spring Institute claims to be "a non-profit scientific research organization dedicated to identifying the links between the environment and women's health, especially breast cancer." The study was commissioned by the Susan G. Komen foundation's "environmental factors and breast cancer" project. Thus from the get-go the assumption is that breast cancer is causally linked to "environmental" factors -- specifically chemicals in the environment. This article is not science -- it is environmental advocacy.
Read the whole thing.