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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

It Came From Outer Space

I’ve been going through some of the older papers on endometriosis recently and I’ve come across some rather peculiar reports, particularly this one, this one and this one. It would appear that years ago it was quite in vogue to get animals (monkeys in particular) and expose them to huge amounts of radiation and see what happened. Well the results weren’t that hard to predict, the animals died. However, what was interesting and slightly unexpected is that some of these animals developed endometriosis, apparently as a consequence of being exposed to radiation.

Various types of radiation were used, such as single energy protons, mixed energy protons, x-rays and electrons and the whole point of this seemed to be judging the affect of radiation exposure on women flying into space or in very high orbit around the earth. So the question to be asking really is unless you were one of these unfortunate monkeys how is a woman likely to be exposed to this radiation? Well unless you’re an astronaut or a high altitude pilot chances are you won’t get much exposure as this type of radiation can come from things called solar flares. Solar flares are massive releases of energy at the suns surface which shoot huge amounts of radiation into the solar system.

Now it’s generally thought that earth’s atmosphere protects us from the most harmful effects of this radiation, however some studies have indicated that solar activity can be related to the incidence of heart attacks and autoimmune disease. Therefore it may be that solar activity has some bearing on human health. So could it be that endometriosis is caused by exposure to radiation from outer space? Well I wouldn’t go adhering to any such theory yet. For a start I couldn’t get access to the full versions of the aforementioned papers that link endometriosis to radiation exposure, so it’s hard to judge the quality of their methods and analysis. Without being able to properly critique a study’s methods it’s impossibly to tell whether it’s worth taking it seriously or not. Nevertheless, it may be something that is worth looking into in more detail. Does anyone know where I can get a gamma ray emitter and some monkeys?

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