Monday, April 25, 2005


Do you ever check the Google news page? If you do, do you scroll down to the health news, for example? I do this regularly, first with the U.S. Google, then with the Canadian and the U.K. ones. There are some major differences in which news are picked up in each. In general the U.S. news are more wingnutty, with lots of emphasis on dangers of drug addiction or sloth or greed (such as obesity studies or sermons about people not exercizing enough). The Canadian and the U.K. health news are somewhat less focused on this "moral" dimension.

The U.K. Google news even report findings such as this one:

Putting your baby in daycare in its first year could mean it is less likely to develop childhood leukaemia, researchers said yesterday.

Exposure to other childhood infections among other infants might prime the immune system and sometimes prevent the second half of the "double whammy" that scientists believe is needed for the cancer to develop.

A 15-year study of childhood cancers in Britain, said to be the biggest in the world, suggests that infants who have been to formal daycare in their first 12 months are half as likely as those with no socialising to succumb to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common form of leukaemia in the young.

The idea is that it may be good for babies to be exposed to germs early. Some supporting evidence for this comes from a comparison of childhood leukemia rates between West and East Germany before unification:

The former East Germany, where infants went into childcare at three months, had a leukaemia incidence a third lower than that in the former West Germany. But since reunification and the end of such universal care, the level had become the same across the whole country.

I have no idea whether these results are valid but I suspect that the U.S. Google will not report on them for a while. Because they are not of the "right" kind.