You&Me—America’s Medical Magazine: fighting Internet slackness on myth at time!

Today we take on one persistently annoying myth, that the cast and crew of “The Conqueror” a bad movie made in 1956, staring Rita Hayworth and John Wayne, all died of cancer due to some unspecified “radioactive testing” in the state where the piece was filmed.

Well, you’re shocked, aren’t you? “Why I know that for a fact!” you splutter doing a spit take with your coffee. Guess again, Strawy McStrawperson. Just because something gets repeated a lot doesn’t make it true.

The Internet is actually pretty confused about just how many people are identified as working on the site, how many got cancer and how many died, but the data apparently comes from the peer reviewed science journal People Magazine (November 1980), which identified 220 cast members, 91 of which got some kind of cancer during their lifetimes and 46 died of it.

Wow, that sounds terrible. But is it unusual?

Let’s skip over a whole bunch of sciencing about what actually causes cancer, statistics, and the very complex effects of radiation at various intensities, durations and distances and cut to the chase. If there was some exceptional cancer causing thing in these people’s lives then they ought to get cancer more often than us regular shlubs, who also get cancer without the benefit of being movie stars.

In other words there should be more cancer in this group than just the baseline US cancer rate.

Below is a link to the lifetime cancer rates for 2010-12, which actually are a bit lower than earlier years, so we’ll give ourselves a handicap.

Let’s compare.

The rate for the Conqueror cast and crew for lifetime cancer acquisition 91 of 220 or 41%.

The life time cancer death rate 46 of 220 or 21%.

The basic US life time cancer acquisition rate for white people in 2010-2012: 41%.

The lifetime cancer death rate: 21%.

That’s…exactly the same.

Lessons learned. 1.) We have about a 40% chance of getting cancer in our lifetime. 2.) Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

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