Using ONS Mortality Statistics

This will have to be a short post since I dare not be tempted to blather on too long since I must get up earlier than normal tomorrow.

Some time ago, I burrowed into ONS Mortality stats going back to 1970. By that year, smoking had reached its zenith. (Actually, I went back further – to about 1950 – but, at the time, I was only interested in the period of time after smoking started to decline, ie. post 1970). I found that lung cancer, as a cause of death, had declined over the forty years to 2010, but not nearly as much as smoking had declined.

In very general terms, there are some difficulties in drawing conclusions:

1. How much has treatment for LC improved such that it could be considered that, for any particular person, his LC could be considered to be cured?

2. Is there any evidence that the much vaunted ‘delayed effect’ is true?

3. What have been the different experiences of males and females (which I did not bother with at the time)?

You see, as far as I know, there has been no repetition of the ‘Doctors Study’, or other study using the same criteria and started from scratch, say, 15 years after the start of the Doctors Study – say, starting in 1965 or thereabouts. I think that the Zealots (Eugenicist/Prohibitionist-in-hiding) deliberately set up a small number of large studies about the same time studying the same thing. I cannot be sure, but it seems that the commonality between these studies was that non-smoking status was the benchmark against which others would be assessed. That is, a non-smokers was a saint, and everyone else was a sinner.


In the past couple of months, I have been intending to revisit the ONS stats and pull out what information might be gleaned. You see, Tobacco Control has lost sight of its ‘scientific’ origins. What was important in the Doctors Study was the VAST difference between the occurrence of LC among heavy smokers especially and non-smokers. The fact that LC was rare among smokers was not important in their thinking. Only the difference between heavy smokers and non-smokers mattered. That is fine, except that, over the 50 years of the Doctors Study, nothing was changed. All the measurements were the same. No account was taken of the Clean Air Acts of the 1960s. Non-smoker status remained the benchmark throughout the 50 years.

So, why is it that the Doctors Study, or something close to it, has not been repeated over, say, the period from 198o to 2000, taking into account improved treatment and cures? Why has the Doll Doctors Study become akin to a ‘holy bible’?


Sometimes one feels that it is a waste of time even bothering to look. Had I had that attitude when I summarised The McTear Case, I would never have started. I was naive at the time and assumed that it was worth doing.

I must overcome that feeling and set to.

What I hope to find is that not much has changed – that the numbers are much the same. On the other hand, I would not wish to cheat as Tobacco Control cheats. But I must also not submit readers to masses and masses of figures. No, the idea is quite simple. It is hard to be sure, but it might be important to compare the figures for LC deaths in young people (say, beneath the age of 30) over the 40 years from 1970 to 2010.

I have in mind to split male and female figures. I have in mind to extract figures for sample age groups over sample periods of time. IE, say, 60 year olds at 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010. What was the difference between LC deaths as a proportion of all deaths at each point? It may not prove anything, but it might be interesting to know even so. I don’t mind what the outcome might be – just what have been the facts.

I shall finish with this thought. Whatever might have been the cause of LCs from about 1900 onwards, even if it was caused by a combination of multiple factors, like genetic susceptibility, the Zealots will always claim ‘that smoking is unnecessary”, as compared with, say, diesel engine exhaust fumes. They have already used that trick again and again.

So I’ll make the attempt. I hope that I am not wasting my time.


12 Responses to “Using ONS Mortality Statistics”

  1. Frank J Says:

    Go to it, you’re good at this sort of thing and it would be very interesting.

    I’m struggling, atm, with the decline in both smoking and LC matching right away i.e. decline in smoking since 70 and ‘immediate’ matching decline in LC? Can’t see that one at all.

    Good luck.

    • junican Says:

      If LC incidence were to decline rapidly as smoking declined, then TC would claim that it was the smoking decline which caused the LC decline. If they did not coincide, then ‘the delayed effect’ comes into operation. Win/win for TC.

  2. garyk30 Says:

    Does ONS track incidence rates.
    As you say, increases in medical treatment will change mortality rates.
    Here is the incidence rates in the USA.

    Table 8 delineates the age-adjusted cancer incidence rates for respiratory cancers by site, sex and race between 1973 and 2006.

    Lung cancer incidence increased by 22.5 percent from 49.0 per
    100,000 in 1973 to 60.0 per 100,000 in 2006.

    Smoking rates down- lung cancer incidence rates up.

    • garyk30 Says:

      ” No account was taken of the Clean Air Acts of the 1960s.”

      Note below, the change in the average age of diagnosis.

      There is a thought in my mind about the average of commencement of smoking over the years; but, it is hazy. 😦

      Question: What Is the Average Age for Lung Cancer?
      The median age for a diagnosis of lung cancer is 72, according to the most recent statistics collected between 2004 and 2008.

      From 1975 to 1999 the median age for a diagnosis of lung cancer was 66.

      Median Age for Lung Cancer in Women vs Men
      The median age for lung cancer is slightly different for men and women in most studies. Women tend to develop lung cancer at a younger age than men by roughly 2 years.

      Age of Lung Cancer Diagnosis Broken Down by Decades
      The percentage of lung cancers that are diagnosed at each age is as follows (for example, for every 100 cases of lung cancer, 20 of them will be diagnosed in people age 55 to 64):

      Age 20 to 34 – 1.0%
      Age 35 to 44 – 1.3%
      Age 45 to 54 – 7.9%
      Age 55 to 64 – 19.6%
      Age 65 to 74 – 30.5%
      Age 75 to 84 – 30.6%
      Age 85 and older – 10.0%

      • Some French bloke Says:

        Women tend to develop lung cancer at a younger age than men by roughly 2 years.

        Taking into account the lower smoking prevalence in women and the fact that they are less likely to smoke heavily, this statement contradicts those reports that pretend that non-smokers are diagnosed slightly later than smokers.

        This would more likely reflect the fact that LC death rates for younger men (below 50) have been declining since 1950, even at the time when overall rates for men were still on the increase, while the risk for women stayed about the same.
        Here are some UK figures (crude death rates) per 100,000 aged 1-49, according to the WHO database:

        MEN: 1950 9.8 1960 9.3 1970 7.8 1980 4.5 1990 3.7 2000 2.4 2010 2.0

        WOMEN: 1950 1.9 1960 2.4 1970 2.7 1980 2.0 1990 2.2 2000 2.1 2010 1.8

    • garyk30 Says:

      OK, smokers are starting younger and lung cancer is being seen at an older age. 🙂

      The overall average age at which smokers began smoking cigarettes regularly decreased from 19.7 years among persons born from 1910 through 1919 to 17.4 years among those born from 1950 through 1959 (Table 2).

      • junican Says:

        It really is weird. There are so many inconsistencies. The reason that I mentioned the clean air acts was because we breath the ambient atmosphere with every breath we take. When Doll started the Doctors Study in 1951, almost all the doctors would have been breathing polluted air for decades. That is the reason that the urban/rural divide is so important. How did doctors who lived and practised in rural areas fare? That question arose to some extent in the Hospital Study but was totally ignored in the Doctors Study. So it isn’t as though Doll was not aware of those possibilities.
        First, I need some time to delve into the figures. There always seems to be something which has priority!

  3. cherie79 Says:

    I was 67 when dx incidentally, no symptoms at all. Without that CT I don’t know when it would have been picked up. Five year scan in September so fingers x

    • junican Says:

      Good luck with that, cherie. I suppose that the important thing is that the accidental discovery and lack of symptoms meant that your LC was caught early enough. My wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at about 35. She is still with us aged 73. Lots of awkward physical problems but ‘compos mentis’ and in good heart.

      • cherie79 Says:

        Yes it was picked up before any spread, it is a strange disease with many variations, a fact I was unaware of before. It is impossible to judge the outcome, I have seen stage 4 people live for many years I think 14 is the longest I know. Yet others can die in weeks literally from dx. I had a friend dx with MS aged 34 who only lived two years yet your wife has a long life. I don’t worry any more just keep living as normal for now.

  4. jltrader Says:

    By 1980 it had already become a dogma within the medical establishment that smoking causes lung cancer – so why set up studies to question it ? As far as I’m concerned, whatever the statistics show, they can’t prove anything – they are so unreliable (for example, was it primary or secondary LC that killed the patient) that renders them useless from a scientific point of view. On the other hand, popularizing the McTear case is a great achievement I believe. Not only for the scientific bits, but also for exposing the shaky ground and dubious characters behind anti smoking movement.

    • junican Says:

      ASH’s response to the verdict in the McTear Case was that ‘it was a shame for Mrs McTear’. Just a bit of emotion. What has amazed me over the years since then has been that the tobacco industry seems to have made no attempt to trumpet that event. Also, you may be aware of the Stirling Uni youth survey business. Japan Tobacco went to court to demand access to the raw data which Stirling Uni had refused to supply. JTI won a verdict that Stirling Uni must provide the data, but as soon as they won the verdict, they dropped the whole thing. Crazy, or what?
      Sometimes (often!) I think that there are multiple behind-the-scenes agreements being made.

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