The Secular Trend and Failing Schools.

Teaching and breast cancer research may

both be “failing” for the same reasons.

Breast cancer incidence continues to

increase in this country and is not due to

increased surveillance or identifiable,

environmental influences. Medical

researchers have been searching

for “causes” for many years. They have

found some genes and toxins that really

increase the probability of breast cancer

in some women, but they have not produced

significantly applicable results for the

vast majority. Innovations in breast

cancer treatment are increasingly

successful but this does not slow the

incidence. Research in education has also

found some causes for learning problems,

but they have not improved the larger,

overall problem. Innovations in teaching

have slowed the declines in education but

have not stopped it.

The increase in size and earlier puberty

occurring in our children, the “secular

trend,” is real and ongoing (Archives of

Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2000;

154:155-161). I suggest the secular trend

is an increase in the percentage of

individuals of higher testosterone. They

are more aggressive and sexual; they make

babies faster. (Some say this is due to

better nutrition; better nutrition simply

increases reproduction.) As the percentage

of these people increases, their

characteristics, or “biomarkers,” increase;

e.g. size and earlier puberty. In 1994, I

suggested the biomarker and mechanism of

causation in increasing breast cancer is

increased testosterone. This past year

testosterone has been linked to breast

cancer risk: “…testosterone might be more

strongly associated with [breast cancer]

risk than estradiol.” (Journal of the

National Cancer Institute 2002; 94: 606-

616). I think increasing breast cancer

resides in increases of women of higher

testosterone within our society.

The increase in percentage of individuals

of higher testosterone may also produce

the “biomarker” of reduced ability to

learn. Earlier puberty adversely affects

final development of the prefrontal lobes,

the seat of the ability to form and manage

ideas. This would affect the ability to

learn English and mathematics and reduce

the ability to control impulses, all of

which make learning more difficult. The

biomarker of “learning disabilities” is

significantly associated with higher

testosterone (Physiology & Behavior 1993;

53: 583). I suggest the increase in

percentage of individuals of higher

testosterone within our population is the

cause of our education problems.

The increase in percentage of individuals

of higher testosterone will not be

uniform. There are areas where breast

cancer incidence is high and there are

areas where entire schools “fail.” If my

hypothesis is correct, our national

education problem will continue to worsen,

as will the incidence of breast cancer. We

must increase overall teacher salaries to

continue attracting teachers into a system

which may worsen. Merit pay may not be

appropriate because it is unlikely to be

based on teaching abilities alone.

Teachers who have classes mainly of lower

testosterone individuals may simply have

the simple advantage of location.

James Michael Howard

Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.