No, that’s not a front page headline from an upcoming edition of the Daily Express. Rather its an actual newly published essay in an oncology journal, ‘The Breast Journal’, which is published by Wiley-Blackwell with the following promotional blurb:
The Breast Journal is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary source devoted exclusively to all facets of research, diagnosis, and treatment of breast disease. The Breast Journal encompasses the latest news and technologies from the many medical specialties concerned with breast disease care in order to address the disease within the context of a woman’s total health. This editorial philosophy recognizes the special social, sexual, and psychological considerations that distinguish cancer, and breast cancer in particular, from other serious diseases.
It is, in fact, the official journal of the American Society of Breast Disease and the International Society of Breast Pathology, both of which appear to eminently respectable professional associations and the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Shahla Masood MD (University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville) is the Founding President of the ISBP and has a very respectable 69 PubMed-listed papers/articles to her name.
So, in common with Neuroskeptic, I’m somewhat perplexed as to exactly how it is that what looks to be an eminently respectable, if slightly low-key, medical journal has managed to publish a paper – An Essay on Sexual Frustration as the Cause of Breast Cancer in Women: How Correlations and Cultural Blind Spots Conceal Causal Effects – which advances what can only be described (politely) as extremely eccentric hypothesis on the cause of breast cancer:
…My thesis is that breast cancer is essentially caused by sexual frustration. The focus of this hypothesis is aimed at the (un)consciously experienced tension and sexual dissatisfaction between the chosen mate based on socio-economic, intellectual, ethnic or cultural motives and the nonchosen potential mate who has more appealing sexual incentive properties.
In most western societies the improved economic independence of women has not changed to such a degree that long-term partners are chosen entirely according to sexual incentive properties. If the selected partner has no or weak sexual incentive properties for the other member of the couple, it is likely that sexual frustration will follow in the long run (6), which ultimately will cause breast cancer in some women…
M’kay… and our intrepid author, a Jerry Stuger CFA (drs), has a number of other interesting hypotheses:
WHY HIGHER SOCIOECONOMIC GROUPS OF WOMEN ARE MORE AT RISK
…higher socio-economic group of women pay more than average attention to the assets or status of the potential partner(7)….The chances of some women from higher socio-economic classes to ﬁnd a sexually compatible mate are considerably reduced. This is due to an often self-imposed very limited range of potential partners. In this group of women, high status of the potential partner compensates for the acceptance of physically less attractive men (9)…
HEIGHT AS RISK FACTOR IN BREAST CANCER
…These women have a disadvantage because they have a smaller pool to choose from if they want a man they will not tower over. This increases the chances to settle for a sexually incompatible partner…
If any of this is true then it would suggest that Bernie Ecclestone is potentially the most carcinogenic substance known to man, or rather woman, but as Neuroskeptic points out, a highly speculative ‘thesis’ containing 15 citations relating to sex research and nothing whatsoever relating to cancer rather suggests that Bernie’s in the clear for the time being.
There is however, much to be said for Neuroskeptic’s observation that:
If I had published there, I’d be a bit miffed that my work was appearing in the same pages. Thankfully I haven’t but as a scientist I’m still insulted that this has been published in a scientific journal, and will be appearing on the shelves of libraries around the world under the heading “science”.
Not least as even a cursory investigation conducted via the office of Chief Inspector Google throws up some obvious red flags which raise significant questions about the provenance of this particular paper.
To begin with, there’s the stated credentials of the author, Jerry Stuger.
Drs is ‘Doctorandus‘, a Dutch qualification which is broadly equivalent to an MA or MSc, so our author claims to be educated to a level at which, in the Dutch system, he would be able to crack on with his independent research and dissertation without the need to complete any further coursework or take any further examinations. Unfortunately, this provides us with absolutely no information about the exact nature of Stuger’s degree level studies – he could quite easily have a masters degree in Golf Course Management for all that his credentials tell us anything of value about his academic background.
CFA is, however, perhaps a little more illuminating as it means ‘Chartered Financial Analyst‘, a very respectable qualification to have if you work in investment management but, quite obviously, not one that high on the list of priorities for most budding oncologists.
Beyond that we have an email address for correspondence at yahoo.com and an empty Scribd account and a Facebook profile with the right name, and a photograph, but no other biographical information and, so, no way of knowing whether or not this is our guy – although the only other Jerry Stuger I could find any reference to is in his seventies and living in Nevada – but, otherwise, nothing to indicate any current academic or professional associations. There’s also a real world address for correspondence but this is a residential address – a mid-rise apartment block – in the Buitenveldert suburb of Amsterdam which, if you don’t know the Dam, is a garden suburb that began development in late 1950s and is roughly equivalent to Letchworth or Welwyn Garden City.
On the face of it, this looks very much like a very basic peer review failure on the part of the journal as neither the paper or the author appears to have any kind of credible provenance.
As for the paper itself, there is the possibility that this might just be another Sokal-style hoax or even just a shits and giggles joke, all of which which would be rather embarrassing for the journal but, for my money, nothing like as embarrassing as the other obvious possibility; that what the journal has actually published is nothing more than the bizarre ramblings of some random bloke who, on the face of it, seems to trying to provide ‘scientific’ validation for possibility the worst chat-up line in human history*.
* If I were in a particular cruel mood, I might speculate that the author’s thesis looks suspiciously like a badly put together post-hoc rationalisation of his own persistent failure to get laid, but that would be cruel, wouldn’t it?
Hilariously, Stuger follows his bizarre line of reasoning all the way to the following ‘recommendations’:
Epidemiologists should evaluate breast cancer risk based on cultural female attitudes towards sexually related issues. Female mate choices should be examined for (un)conscious cultural, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic pressure to make a thorough assessment of breast cancer risk.
Or you could just apply Occam’s razor and ask women whether they own a vibrator, I suppose.