It is nice to see a dodgy study retracted!
It caused all sorts of hoo-ha – and as you can imagine there are a lot of people who are also glad to see the back of it!
I found out the good news after reading an article on the Reason website – “A Medical Journal Retracts a 2022 Study That Linked Vaping to Cancer“.
Now you have seen that title – can you understand why a lot of people thought the original study really stunk!
The Offending Article
This appeared in the “World Journal of Oncology” journal published in February 2022. Apparently produced by 13 researchers at high level institutions such as University of Missouri, The Mayo Clinic and many more.
As the Reason article states the offending publication…
“…has other obvious problems that should have been apparent before publication. It features enough inconsistencies, writing errors, non sequiturs, and failures of reasoning to make you wonder whether peer reviewers and editors actually read it, let alone carefully evaluated its strengths and weaknesses.”
Of course that is before we even start delving into the dodgy methods involved.
The Smelliest Bits
Aims and Methods
The aim of the study (I quote)…
“we aim to find the prevalence and association of ecigarette and traditional smoking among cancer respondents.”
OK this is research that needs to be done!
The methods used were…
” We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study using the NHANES database from 2015 to 2018. We assessed history of cancer (MCQ220), type of cancers (MCQ230a), and smoking status (e-cigarette: SMQ900 or SMQ905 and traditional smoking: SMQ020) using questionnaires. We performed multivariable logistic regression models to find the association of e-cigarette use, traditional smoking, and no smoking with cancer after adjusting for confounding variables.”
The “NHANES” Database is the “National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey” which is conducted by the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and prevention).
So the data for this study was taken from past survey answers. Sounds OK?
Well the surveys did not ask for dates when smoking / vaping took place. Therefore were these medical conditions already apparent before ceasing smoking / starting vaping? Who knows. Even in the best case scenario when a disease is diagnosed it is likely impossible to pinpoint the date or action which caused this?
As the Reason article states, if this is something you are studying in depth you would want to know all the dates relevant to the study to find any correlation. Silly silly.
This impacted the study data as the data used focused on 154,856 survey respondents from 2015 to 2018.
5% reported themselves as having ever used e-cigarettes. 31.4% claimed to be current smokers and 63.6% said they did not smoke and had never vaped.
Further on in the survey the participants were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with Cancer.
All sorts of scenarios could have taken place, the Cancer diagnosis could have prompted the smoking cessation or even the symptoms before diagnosis could have had the same effect. The disease could have already progressed before vaping took place.
Plus the fact a large proportion of vapers are ex-smokers – who is to know if the damage had taken place long before they stopped smoking?
Also the survey classified former smokers as “Non Smokers” again cocking up the data. Former smokers are likely to be a more risk of Lung issues than somebody who has never smoked.
Even worse than the above is the Conclusion of the study…
“Our study found e-cigarette users had an early age of cancer onset as well as higher odds of having cancer compared to non-smokers. Females had higher prevalence of e-cigarette use and cervical, thyroid and skin cancers were more prevalent amongst the e-cigarette users. More prospective studies should be planned to mitigate the risk. The long-term effect of e-cigarettes is not known yet, since they are relatively new compared to traditional cigarette smoking.
Furthermore, due to higher prevalence of certain types of cancers in e cigarette use and unknown consequences of e-cigarette use, more guidelines are needed regarding the use of e cigarettes and their association with cancer. E-cigarette should not be considered as a safe alternative to dual or traditional smoking without stronger clinical evidence on its safety.”
Great – that big steaming turd at the end – basically telling readers that e-cigarettes are unsafe.
You can read the full retraction statement here “Retraction Notice to “Cancer Prevalence in E-cigarette Users: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional NHANES Study“.
Plus the original publication has got a nice big dirty Red “Retracted” above the text…