No 'significant' Risk In Passive Smoking

LEADING cancer experts have conceded that the World Health Organisation's study of the link between passive smoking and lung cancer failed to find any statistically significant extra risk, as exclusively revealed by The Telegraph last week.

The experts include Prof Sir Richard Doll, the world's leading authority on the link between direct smoking and cancer, who said that the rejection was on the grounds that the results were simply yet more evidence of the kind produced by dozens of earlier studies, which have also usually failed to give conclusive results. He insisted, however, that taken together the studies point to a significant risk: "On its own, the WHO study is not definitive, but it contributes to the weight of evidence."

However, the rejection of the non-significant findings from the WHO study looks set to trigger accusations that "politically correct" scientists deliberately suppress data which fails to support their own beliefs. Despite repeated requests last week to the WHO team to put its own side of the story, and an undertaking from a senior team member to give a response to specific questions, none was given.

However, The Telegraph this week reveals the full extent of the flaws in the WHO report, including the fact the scientists appear to have over-interpreted the figures leading them to claim the risk is greater than it is.

The study, conducted by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, compared 650 lung-cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people. It looked at people who were married to smokers, worked with smokers, both worked and were married to smokers, and those who grew up with smokers. The WHO scientists and Ash incorrectly claim that the results show that there was a 16 per cent risk of a spouse living with a smoker developing lung cancer.

Dr Rudolfo Saracci, a senior scientist on the WHO team, yesterday declined a request to give further details of the research findings pending publication in a medical journal. However, he said the "soundest interpretation" of the results was that there is "an increase in risk related to spousal exposure".


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