BMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6955.680 (Published 10 September 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:680

Women develop lung cancer at an earlier age than men even though they begin smoking at a later age, smoke fewer cigarettes, and are exposed to fewer occupational carcinogens (American Journal of Epidemiology 1994;140:185). Furthermore, more women than men with lung cancer are lifelong non-smokers. The implications for the next century are all too clear.

Japan has never licensed the use of steroid hormones as oral contraceptives, though many women take as contraceptives hormone preparations approved for menstrual disorders. A review in “Science” (1994;265:1048-51) quotes a recent comment by an American journalist in Tokyo: “Japanese feminists sound as if they think repetitive abortions are less dangerous for women's health than the pill.”

A vast study by E G Knox of 9406 cases of childhood leukaemia and non- Hodgkin's lymphomas found 264 pairs or larger clusters. When these were plotted on large scale maps they showed several associations with geographical features, including both churches and railway lines (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 1994;48:369-76). The link with railways seems likely, says the report, to be due to their association with oil and petrochemical installations. Minerva will continue to watch and wait for the answer to the longstanding mystery …

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