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Quickies: Cleaner air leads to cancer decline, assisted suicide in California, and the racist myth of alcoholism

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  1. There is also no convincing evidence that alcoholism ISN’T heavily involved with genetics. Adverse Childhood Experiences are often connected to trans-generational alcoholism. Did this person inherit alcoholism through their genes, or through their parent’s, and communities, abusive, drunken behavior? And to what extent has dangerous levels of alcohol intake been sponsored by governments and businesses?

    Except for a handful of twin studies, there hasn’t really been much attempt to disentangle the factors. The basic problem is suicidal levels of alcohol consumption. The basic solution is for the vulnerable individuals to NOT DRINK ALCOHOL.

    • The word ‘dehydrogenase’ doesn’t even appear in the article. Which is unfortunate, because alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase are the enzymes in question.

      Why is it so hard for people to accept both genetic and environmental factors?

  2. Air pollution cancer: Any time a relative risk is quoted without an absolute risk, it should raise a red flag to any skeptic.

    Happily the article has a link to the paper. The paper gives absolute risk: a drop from ~3000 cancers per million population to ~750. However, I couldn’t figure out whether that is per year, or per lifetime. I also did not find any indication how dangerous those cancers are. (I scanned the paper pretty quickly, so I could easily have missed something.)

  3. Yes, I don’t know whether or to what extent genes affect vulnerability to alcoholism, but the pull quote here is not a good argument against that. The theory has always been, I think, that long exposure to the “environmental toxin” of alcohol caused Europeans to develop some degree of genetic immunity to it (through the mechanism of alcoholics not reproducing as successfully). Not that Native Americans somehow developed special vulnerability to this toxin to which they had never been exposed. The idea is that alcohol was like the diseases Europeans brought with them, to which they had some immunity because they had long been endemic in Europe, but which devasted native populations.

    • I agree, but the thought that humans can evolve tolerance to environmental irritants is not wholly unsound, after all skin color and lactose tolerance are both examples of this sort of adaptation (at least partially).

      However, to assume that this is what is in effect here is poor logic (a cause and effect error, I believe) that is at least partially based in racism.

      There have been some studies that suggest the possibility that genes can carry epigenetic information from behavior or environment. I don’t know how good the studies are but they point to at least an interesting twist.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong but I think we discussed genes for alcohol resistance here on Skepchick some years ago.

      As I recall, a gene for alcohol resistance is actually found in Oriental populations and is still quite rare. Make of that what you will, but to me that does not fit the narrative of biological resistance in Western populations but rather argues for a cultural basis – if you want to go down that path at all.

      I feel such reasoning is wildly speculative.

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