Sunday, December 15, 2019

Some forms of hormone replacement therapy can LOWER breast cancer risk, research indicates

This is not a new finding but it is encouraging to see it replicated. For women with an intact womb there is no doubt that estrogen-only pills do increse womb (endometrial) cancer -- which tends to counteract their benefit for breast cancer.  What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.

Taking a combination pill containing progesterone plus estrogen does however reduce all risks greatly, though there still is an elevation of risks compared with women who take nothing.  The elevation of risk is now however known to be very small so there is little reason for women not to take the combined pill.

Rather perversely, women who have had a hysterectomy are the big winners.  They can get all the benefits of estrogen pills (reduced heart disease etc) without having to worry about womb cancer

Certain forms of HRT actually protect women against breast cancer, researchers have shown.

After years of back-and-forth debate on the risks of hormone replacement therapy, new analysis suggests the type of treatment women use has a huge impact on cancer risk.

Scientists have found that in women who took the combined oestrogen-progestogen form of HRT the risk was raised by about 26 per cent compared with those who took a dummy pill. The combined form is the type of HRT taken by most women.

But the oestrogen-only form reduces breast cancer incidence by 24 per cent.

The study, based on 27,300 women in the US who were tracked for about 19 years after they started taking the pills, alters scientists’ understanding of the link between HRT and cancer.

Crucially, however, women are not able to pick and choose which type of HRT they select.

Oestrogen HRT is only an option for those who have had a hysterectomy – an operation to remove the womb. That is because oestrogen is known to increase the risk of womb cancer, so only women without a womb can safely take it.

But 60,000 undergo a hysterectomy every year in Britain and by the age of 60 one in five women have had the procedure, so tens of thousands of women could benefit from taking the oestrogen only drug.

Researcher Dr Rowan Chlebowski, of the University of California Los Angeles: ‘In contrast to decades of observational study findings... oestrogen alone significantly reduced breast cancer incidence and significantly reduced deaths from breast cancer, with these favourable effects persisting over a decade after discontinuing use.’

The findings were presented yesterday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas.

The menopause can cause depression, hot flushes, headaches and night sweats. HRT tackles these symptoms by providing hormones as the body stops producing them.

But many women go without the drugs because of fears it raises the risk of cancer of the breast, womb and ovaries.

The number taking HRT plummeted after studies published in the early 2000s raised fears of side effects, but in recent years research has suggested the risk may be overstated.

Dr Melanie Davies, consultant gynaecologist at University College London Hospitals, said: ‘This is high-quality research.’

But she added that the risk of taking the combined pill is now probably lower than that shown in the trial, because HRT has been improved to more closely match the hormones produced by the human body.


British elections: The Left wanted a second People's Vote... and they got the one they deserved


To future generations, the names of toppled Labour strongholds will tell the story of Boris Johnson's tidal wave. It began in Blyth Valley, a former mining area in the North-East that had never before elected a Conservative.

It swept through Darlington, Sedgefield and Great Grimsby, Stoke Central and West Bromwich, culminating in that extraordinary moment when Dennis Skinner's seat of Bolsover — Bolsover! — was painted blue.

Even in Tory strategists' wildest dreams, they never expected this. The Conservatives' biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher's last victory in 1987, and their biggest share of the vote since 1979.

And for Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, a humiliation of truly earth-shattering proportions, with the party's worst showing since 1935.

Until now, two elections have defined Britain's history since World War II. One was Clement Attlee's Labour landslide in 1945, paving the way for the Welfare State and the NHS.

The other was Margaret Thatcher's 1979 victory, which turned the page on years of economic decline and inaugurated a free-market era upheld by Tony Blair.

Does Boris Johnson's victory belong in that category?

To some extent it depends on what happens in the next five years, but right now it certainly feels like it.

Watching people queue to vote in the rain, it was hard to banish the sense this was a genuine turning point, a decisive showdown for the future of the nation.

If Mr Johnson's gamble had failed, and if Jeremy Corbyn had walked into Downing Street yesterday, our country's future would now be utterly different.

A Labour victory would have been a victory for state control, nationalisation and the end of free enterprise.

It would have meant the probable death of Nato, as well as months and years of Brexit paralysis. And perhaps above all, it would have ushered in an era of bankruptcy, bigotry, envy and anti-Semitism — all alien to every atom of our national soul.

But you should never underestimate the good sense of the British people. They had the chance to put Mr Corbyn into No 10, but they preferred to give Mr Johnson the first really clear, unassailable mandate since 2005.

So to borrow a couple of familiar slogans, not only can we expect to get Brexit done, but at last we have a genuinely strong and stable government.

On that subject, I wonder what Theresa May is thinking. As several commentators pointed out, it was her supposedly disastrous campaign in 2017 that paved the way for this victory, even if the result was a bit different.

For it was Mrs May who first made inroads into Labour's working-class electorate, even if she did not turn her Northern votes into parliamentary seats. So it turns out that her strategists, much mocked at the time, were on to something after all.

There is no doubt, though, that this is a colossal personal victory for Boris Johnson. Long dismissed as a clown and a joker, he will go down in history not merely as the Conservative mayor who twice won Labour London, but as the Tory Prime Minister who turned Bolsover blue.

As I wrote at the outset of the campaign, Mr Johnson has a remarkably classless appeal, reminiscent of past Tory showmen such as Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli. He cheers people up, makes them laugh, rouses their spirits and reflects their patriotism.

And although high-minded snobs sneer at him as a vulgar demagogue — just as their predecessors sneered at Disraeli and Churchill — he has been proved triumphantly right. All his life he has gambled, and time after time he has won.

And if his opponents insist on underrating him — as they underrated Margaret Thatcher, another modern Tory populist — there is every chance he will keep on winning.

But winning elections is not the same thing as governing wisely. This is his task now, and it could hardly be more urgent.

His first priority is to get Britain out of the EU. It seems certain we will leave on January 31 — and despite the fact that I voted Remain more than three years ago, I will be heartily relieved when we are out.

Yes, trade talks will drag on for months, perhaps years. But as Mr Johnson remarked yesterday, there is no doubt that Brexit is the 'irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people'.

The ultra-Remainers have lost. There will be no People's Vote, no second referendum, no revocation of Article 50. It is over.

Perhaps, in the future, some Remainers may have the humility to ask themselves why they failed so abjectly. All those marches, all those court cases, all that screaming, sobbing hysteria — and it was all for nothing.

As Mr Johnson's consigliere Dominic Cummings remarked, the self-styled intellectuals 'should have taken a deep breath and had a lot of self-reflection [on] why they misunderstood what was going on in the country. But, instead, a lot of people just doubled down on their own ideas and f****d it up even more.'

Will they learn? I doubt it. If they didn't learn after 2016, why would they now?

Thanks in part to Brexit, the landscape of British politics has fundamentally shifted.

The Conservative Party now represents the working-class North and Midlands as well as the middle-class South: a party of Bolsover, Bridgend, West Bromwich and Wrexham.

As the PM recognised in his victory speech, many working-class voters' hands 'will have quivered over the ballot paper' before they put their crosses in the Conservative box.

They cannot be taken for granted. The Government must listen to their concerns, reflect their values and rebuild their communities, which have been neglected for so long.

Mr Johnson was right, then, to emphasise his One-Nation credentials. He must reassure his new supporters that they belong inside the Conservative tent, and the only way to do that is to govern in their interests.

That might sound tricky, given that the Tories are often caricatured as a rich Southern party. But are working-class and middle-class interests really so different?

After all, history shows that from Disraeli to Thatcher, the Tory Party is most effective when it appeals to working-class families who want a patriotic, competent government, delivering safe streets, decent services and a chance to get on.

Mr Johnson is, I think, well placed to play that part again.

We sometimes forget that as London's mayor he cut a remarkably consensual, moderate, artfully classless figure, appealing to thousands of traditional Labour voters.

At last the years of squabbling and uncertainty are over. Britain has a sense of stability and direction, reflected in the surging pound and buoyant stock market. We have a Prime Minister who is not afraid to take decisions, and a Government that can and will govern.

Above all, the election has been a reminder of the most essential, enduring element in our political constitution: the fundamental decency and common sense of the British people.

Like many people, I turned on the television just before 10pm on Thursday with a terrible sense of dread. Was Britain really going to elect a man who sympathised with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Soviet Union and the IRA? Were voters really going to fall for the bribes and lies of the most cynical, fanatical and dishonest Labour leadership in history? And would the British people really reward a party in thrall to bigotry, Marxism and vicious anti-Semitism?

I need not have worried. The British people aren't fools.

This was Labour's most pitiful defeat since the 1930s, worse than Michael Foot's showing in 1983.

And so Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, their mad manifesto and their crazed cultists have ended up where they always belonged, in the dustbin of history.

In the weeks ahead, commentators will spill torrents of ink poring over the results. But if you want a very simple explanation of the election, it is this.

Deep down, we are a patriotic, small-c conservative nation. We are cautious, grumpy and suspicious of change, but we are also honest, pragmatic and tolerant of difference. We hate being patronised, nannied and told what to do.

We despise ideology, we don't like being bribed and we hate being taken for fools. We despise bigots and bullies, even when they dress up as high-minded martyrs.

And though we like to moan, nobody should doubt that we love our country.

Jeremy Corbyn never understood that. But Boris Johnson did. And that, above all, is why he won.


The Left wanted a second People's Vote... and they got the one they deserved


This wasn't just a defiant reaffirmation of the EU referendum result, it was a damning repudiation of those who have spent the past three and a half years trying to Stop Brexit.

It also served as a timely reminder that there is life outside the Westminster bubble, that social media is not the real world.

As late as Thursday lunchtime, political commentators were confidently predicting a hung parliament on the evidence of a handful of photos on Twitter showing a few dozen young people queueing at polling stations in London.

Like children chasing a football round a school playground, they all rushed to follow the herd.

We were told that not only would the Conservatives fail to secure an overall majority, but there was a real chance Boris Johnson would lose his own West London seat.

In the event, Boris romped home, not just in Uxbridge, but across the country, in constituencies which had never previously returned a Conservative MP.

The Corbynistas were crushed. The self-deluding Remain Alliance, which thought it could bully the British people into reversing the referendum result, was routed.

That gurning gargoyle John Bercow, the ex-Speaker who has done more than most to frustrate the will of the people, turned up as a pundit on Sky News.

When the official exit poll predicting an 80-seat Tory majority dropped at 10pm, he looked as if he'd just heard through his earpiece that his wife was having an affair with his cousin Alan.

Bercow, nominally a Tory, appeared devastated by the scale of the projected Conservative victory. He wasn't alone. The outcome of this election was an even greater defeat for the forces of Remain than the original referendum in 2016.

They didn't see the Leave vote coming, but once the initial shock subsided they were able to regroup and move heaven and earth to overturn it, at little cost to themselves. After all, they argued, the result was merely advisory.

This time it was personal. This time they were on the ballot. They had everything to lose. And lose they did, on a spectacular scale. They didn't just lose a referendum, they lost their jobs. They had it coming.

Grieve, Gauke, Soubry Loo and the rest were all sent packing. Not a single one of the turncoat Tory MPs who rebelled against their own government over Brexit managed to retain their seats.

Nor did any of those who resigned the Labour whip to join Change UK or the Lib Dems, Chucky Umunna included. What an ignominious downfall for the man dubbed (by himself, probably) Britain's Barack Obama.

But if there was a Portillo moment, it had to be the defenestration of Liberal leader and self-proclaimed 'next Prime Minister' Jo Swinson. The woman who promised to abort Brexit without so much as a second referendum couldn't even hold on to her own constituency.

(I'm no fan of Wee Burney [Nicola Sturgeon], but the SNP leader's animated celebration when she heard Swinson was dead meat was a joy to behold.)

Did Swinson really think that the British people were going to take her threat to cancel the result of the biggest-ever popular vote in favour of anything lying down?

The most ludicrous argument put forward by Bercow and the Stop Brexit crowd as they paralysed Parliament to prevent Boris's withdrawal agreement being passed was that they were 'defending democracy'.

Democracy? They don't understand the meaning of the word.

Swinson was still at it yesterday, blaming the people for their stupidity in voting Tory.

For the past three and a half years, the mantra coming from the Remain camp at Westminster has been that Leave voters are thick racists, who didn't understand what they were voting for.

Now the People have taken their revenge.

Labour, in particular, has paid the price for prevaricating over Brexit and reneging on its repeated promises to honour the referendum result.

The Blyth spartans have spoken. So have millions of other former Labour voters across the party's traditional heartlands in the North-East, the North-West, North Wales and the Midlands.

Presumably, Labour didn't think the people of Sedgefield were all morons when they kept sending Tony Blair back to Westminster.

They can't all be thick racists. They are just sick and tired of being ignored, insulted and taken for granted.

In an election which we were told was about trust, voters have decided to put their trust in Boris Johnson and the Tories on everything from Brexit to the NHS.

They certainly didn't trust Corbyn and Labour further than they could throw them.

But Corbyn still doesn't seem to understand the calamity he has visited upon his party — or the reasons why. Yesterday he was grumbling that the problem was the election had become all about Brexit.


Without the gridlock over Brexit, caused by Corbyn and Labour, there wouldn't have been an election. Since it was called, they've tried to make it about anything but.

Voters had other ideas, fortunately. They saw through Labour's Fantasy Island giveaway manifesto, and the lies about selling the NHS to Trump. Getting Brexit Done became an article of faith.

This was as much a vote for the sacred principle of democracy as it was for the Conservatives.

It helps that Corbyn himself was unelectable — although it is frightening to think that millions of people, particularly in London, were prepared to vote for a party led by a Seventies throwback, Marxoid, terrorist-loving, anti-Semite.

And if the post-mortem is anything to go by, the broadcast media still hasn't come to terms with what's happened.

Most of the analysis has concentrated not on the reasons why Boris won such a spectacular, historic victory, but on nauseating navel-gazing about how Labour can be saved for the nation. Who gives a monkey's?

Forget about Labour's troubles and concentrate on what this means for Britain.

The great news is that, yet again, the British people have resoundingly rejected Left-wing extremism. The ruinous notion that the citizens of this ancient democracy are gagging to live in a highly-regulated socialist utopia has been tested to destruction.

Thanks to the Tory landslide, we shall soon be free of the shackles of the sclerotic European superstate. And don't believe the naysayers who are already demanding an extension to our membership and trashing our chances of ever agreeing a free trade deal with Europe.

We've heard it all before. Under a united Tory government with a massive majority, we hold the trump cards in any upcoming negotiations with Brussels.

This was undoubtedly a personal triumph for Boris, but more importantly it was a glorious victory for freedom and democracy.

On the day after the referendum in 2016, I quoted G.K. Chesterton's line about the 'secret people of England who have not spoken yet'. We have now.

They wanted a second People's Vote. They got the one they deserved.


Not every little thing needs to be about the nation

Bring back real federalism in Australia

When did everything become a national problem? Not a problem for individuals and families, not a problem for communities and organisations, not a problem for state governments or local coun-cils — but a national problem.

I was reminded of this with the release of the Program for International Student Assessment results revealing that Australia ranks 16th for reading, 17th for science and 29th for mathematics. Over a decade, our students have fallen behind close to a full year in these subjects.

Responding to the news, Labor's education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, declared it "a national problem, it needs a national approach and we need to make sure that we're working together to teach the basics well, lift entry standards into teaching, give schools the support they need".

This national approach thinking infects all sorts of areas. We have a national strategy for obesity and a national strategy for suicide prevention. The government recently created the very dubious position of National Skills Commissioner. The second Gonski report recommended a national teacher workforce strategy.

A recent report by the supposedly learned Academy of Science, titled Sustainable Cities and Regions: 10-Year Strategy to Enable Urban Systems Transformation, calls for a national vision for cities. (And don't waste your time reading it.)

Apparently, "sustainable transformation of Australia's cities and regions is being hampered by the lack of a national vision, institutional silos and perennial underfunding, and our best innovations and research break-throughs are not being shared across cities".

Last time I looked, our cities were all located wholly within either states or territories. So much for having a national vision. In any case, whose national vision? The vision of the deeply woke Academy of Science?

Economists have a framework for thinking about when a national approach is warranted and when it is not. To use the jargon, when there are significant inter-jurisdictional spillovers — meaning that what is done in one state has clear effects in other states — there is a strong case for a national approach. Otherwise solutions should be developed as close as possible to the action.

In this way, competition between the states is fostered and each can learn from the approaches others adopt. And the existence of interjurisdictional spillovers is not sufficient to justify a national approach. There are often means of handling these without a national approach. Using mutual recognition of skills and qualifications between the states is an example of this.

For several decades there has been a marked shift in the division of roles and responsibility between the federal and state governments, with the federal government winning out.

There have been some moments of hesitation. The Victorian government under premier John Brumby sought a mature discussion about the division of roles and responsibilities between the levels of government. Similarly, the then premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, was prepared to accommodate some clean reallocation of tasks between the levels of government

For a brief time, the Rudd government sought to rationalise federal-state relations, particularly in relation to intergovernmental agreements.

Once an avowed centralist; Tony Abbott as prime minister discovered the virtues of the federation and established a process to renegotiate the roles and responsibilities between the levels of government and the associated funding reforms. This was killed off when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister.

The recently released discussion paper of the NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations includes some useful information on this. In 2008, the federal and state governments signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations.

This agreement was the acknowledgment that the states have the principal responsibility for service delivery — education and hospitals, in particular. As a result, the number of agreements between the federal and state governments was reduced from 90 to six national agreements and about 16 national partnership agreements.

The new arrangements did not last, however. By 2010, there were more than 300 intergovernmental agreements. The paper also notes: "In 2018-19, there were 30 national partnerships that provided NSW with less than $10 million in funding. 25 of these were less than $5 million in funding."

So effectively where we have ended up is the federal government interfering in many areas that were traditionally the states' preserve. The funding agreements bgtween the federal and state governments come with strict and onerous conditions on how the money can be spent while failing to provide any funding certainty.

A consequence of all this has been to enfeeble state governments, which have lost significant capacity to develop policy and delivery systems. Always keen to secure additional funding, they have been prepared to go along with the bossiness of Canberra while diluting their autonomy, notwithstanding their continuing responsibility to deliver the vast majority of government-funded human services. In the case of schools, for instance, the states own and run public schools and bear 80 per cent of their costs.

Apart from enjoying a sense of dominance and illusory control, it's not entirely clear why the federal government has sought to interfere so forcefully in the realm of state government activities. It almost goes without saying that unclear accountability leads to inferior results. And does anyone believe that the federal government — including thousands of
bureaucrats in the federal departments of education and health —really has any comparative advantage in devising effective and implementable policy approaches?

Education expert Ben Jensen has observed that for too long, education policy has been dominated by a series of highfalutin, worthy-sounding national reports without real attention being paid to what does and what does not work and adjusting the approaches used to the particular circumstances. One size does not fit all.

Underpinning these dysfunctional arrangements are the funding imbalances that exist between the levels of government. Economists use the arcane term vertical fiscal imbalance. With the states raising less than two-thirds of what they spend, there is a tendency of the fiscally dominant level of government to call the shots in some detail.

The way forward involves the states standing on their own feet to a greater extent when it comes to raising revenue and for the federal government to realise that more untied funding to the states is likely, on balance, to provide better outcomes than the plethora of detailed and unworkable commands.

The federal government may also come to appreciate that the appropriate absence of national approaches in many areas eliminates the blame game for outcomes it can't really control.

From "The Australian" of 9/12/19


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

Lesson for the Elites; if you dismiss the results of a vote that went against you, and obviously hold the voters in contempt, the next vote will have people who voted in your favor the last time voting against you because they dislike would-be autocrats. Johnson's victory is not necessarily an indication that Brexit is more popular, but it IS the British people saying to their representatives "Do as you are bloody well told!"