Correlation vs causation of Illness

In 2014 I will be  writing about the The myth of Physical Stress, Cancer and Anxiety – Importance of mind and spirit.

News on the TV portrays people’s opinions more often than fact. On the news the other night, there was a story which mentioned Breast Cancer and the importance of more research. However, the news linked the cause of cancer with genetics only without mentioning any other factors. In watching this you could get the idea that they need to find the gene that causes breast cancer and control that and then no more breast cancer.

However, what they presented was just half the story. The news report tells people what they want them to understand. It is much easier to talk about physical causes, than mental, emotional or even spiritual causes.
The same happens for advertising. I had a client in my hypnotherapy practice come to me for quit smoking. At his second of three sessions he explained he was still smoking. As I explored the situation, I found that he was at work in a very stressful environment. He said “I felt like a nicotine hit and so needed a cigarette.” I asked him how he knew it was a nicotine hit? You see he had already stopped for three days so the nicotine was well and truly out of his system. But due to advertising he put 2 + 2 together and came up with 5! He thought, as he had a desire for a cigarette, it must be the nicotine, rather than other mental, emotional or stressful causes, that made him want the cigarette. When I asked what action he took, he said “I went outside and had a cigarette by myself and felt much better.” I believe he did. My question to him and you is: was it the cigarette that made him feel better; or was it simply that he got out of the stressful environment and had a break that made the difference? This is the impact of incomplete TV news reports or advertising.

According to epigenesist Dr Bruce Lipton, Biology of Belief, his comments about the media are “What about all those headlines trumpeting the discovery of a gene for everything from depression to schizophrenia? Read those articles closely and you’ll see that behind the breathless headline is a more sober truth. Scientists have linked lots of genes to lots of different diseases and traits, but scientists have rarely found that one gene causes a trait or a disease.”

Just like the news story I mentioned above, Dr Lipton’s comment was made in 2008. The focus of the media has not change much in 6 years.

What Dr Lipton suggests is that the media repeatedly distort the meaning of two words which means that we get the wrong story. Those two words are: correlation and causation. It’s one thing to be linked or correlated to a disease; it’s quite another to cause a disease. It has been described in many research papers that specific genes are correlated to the behavior and characteristics or an organism related to a disease. But these genes are not activated until something external to the cell triggers them, i.e. it is not that you have the gene that results in breast cancer, it is that something external to the cell triggers it. The news often replaces correlation with causation.
The cancer council of Australia has started a research study called The Australian Breakthrough Cancer (ABC) Study. It will be working with over 50,000 Australians to investigate the causes of cancer and other diseases. This study will investigate the roles that our genes, lifestyle and environment play in the development of diseases to better understand the ways that they can be treated or prevented. So they will not assume and just focus on the genetics of the diseases, but take into account other physical, mental and emotional causes of lifestyle and environment.

What is meant by lifestyle and environment? Are they just the physical factors of life that they want to explore? According to, Lifestyle means “a set of attitudes, habits, or possessions associated with a particular person or group.” This means that it deal with the mental side of a person (i.e. their mind), as well as the psychical life they lead. According to, Environment means “external conditions or surroundings, especially those in which people live or work”. It encompasses all the external conditions affecting the person, which could be the weather, noise, people, family, as well as mental and emotional concerns like stress, anger and grief.

So, for our quit smoking person above, it means that his stressful environment, as well as his mental attitudes and mental habits, are what would influence whether he got cancer if he continued to smoke, rather than just his genetics.

In your life what beliefs are you building from the News, advertising rather than your environment or lifestyle that could impact your health? Are the beliefs you are building supporting you? Are they based on actually fact or based on another person’s assumption, limited beliefs or even their opinionated research?

Sit down tonight and as you watch TV advertising or the News, take note of what you are picking up and consciously check whether it is beneficial for you to believe it.

Think about your lifestyle and environment, it is positive and productive, or destructive? What genetics could your lifestyle and environment be de-activating for health or activating for disease for you?
If you satisfy the requirements for the Cancer Council of Victoria research study then register your interest at: The requirements are:

  •  You’re must be an Australian resident
  •  Between 40 to 74 years of age,
  • Never been diagnosed with cancer, other than non-melanoma skin cancer,
  • And have a history of the disease in your family.

If you need help in checking or changing your beliefs, NLP and Hypnotherapy can assist quickly and easily.


David Donahoo

Intuitive Hypnotherapist, NLP Trainer, Author, Lecturer and Psychic Medium

References:  Lipton Ph.D., Bruce H. (2008-09-15). The Biology of Belief (Kindle Locations 731-740). Hay House.

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