Blood group differences - Thai and Farang
A couple of weeks ago, a call went out
to the farang population in Thailand for some Rh negative blood. This
happens around three times a year, and each time this stimulates some of our
more public spirited foreigners to ask why there is a shortage, and what can
be done about it?
The basic problem does come down to some of the many differences between
Caucasian races and Asian races, and I’m not talking about cultural
differences here. Just as there is a difference in hair types and skin
types, there are differences in blood types as well.
The question is often asked as to why the blood collection agencies just
don’t stock up on the rarer groups, so there is always some to call upon.
Unfortunately it isn’t that easy, as the ‘shelf life’ of blood is only
around 30 days.
Blood transfusions and blood banks only came about in the 1930’s with Sergei
Yudin of Russia organizing the world’s first blood bank at the Nikolay
Sklifosovskiy Institute, which set an example for the establishment of
further blood banks in different regions of the Soviet Union and in other
countries. By the mid-1930s the Soviet Union had set up a system of at least
sixty five large blood centers and more than 500 subsidiary ones, all
storing blood and shipping it to all corners of the country.
News of the Soviet experience traveled to the United States, where in 1937
Bernard Fantus, director of therapeutics at the Cook County Hospital in
Chicago, established the first hospital blood bank in America. In creating a
hospital laboratory that preserved and stored donor blood, Fantus coined the
term ‘Blood Bank’. Within a few years, hospital and community blood banks
were established across the United States and in 1940 Willem Johan Kolff
organized the first blood bank in Europe.
With the discovery of blood groups, generally classified by the ABO system
(so we are generally either A, B, O or AB) it was soon apparent that there
were differences in their distribution in the world. There are many reasons
for this, including susceptibility to disease of various blood groups,
population drifts, inter-marriage and others. However, the end result is
that simplistically the Asian population has a different distribution of ABO
groups from the Caucasian population; for example, blood group B is far more
predominant in the East than in the West.
When you look at one of the other blood typing systems, the Rhesus grouping
into Positive or Negative, even greater disparities become apparent. The
Asian population has very little Rhesus Negative (0.3 percent), compared to
the Caucasians (15 percent). For interest, 50 percent of Basques are Rhesus
Negative, one of the highest in the world.
Recently there has been the discovery of another blood type called the
Bombay group. This is a version of O +ve, that was not compatible with the
usual O +ve blood. First identified in Mumbai, from which the group derives
its name, so far there have been just 179 such cases reported in India.
However, even in India, there have been cases where doctors could not find a
donor for transfusion of the Bombay group blood that would have been
necessary. Even though it has first been identified in Mumbai, the city is
now believed to have just 35-40 people with the group.
Consequently, you can see that when there is a need for blood for a number
of injured Caucasians in an Asian country, the chances of there being
sufficient blood stocks are virtually nil.
If you are a farang resident in Thailand, please have your blood grouped and
if you are Rhesus Negative, go on a register at the local Red Cross, or even
the nearest large hospital, so that you can be called upon in emergencies.
Currently, post disaster (or ‘between disasters’) there is no desperate
shortage, but since blood does not keep ‘forever’ there will be times in the
future when we will need Rhesus Negative blood, so don’t spill it in the
streets, spill it at the Red Cross!
My hospital has regular donation days in conjunction with the Red Cross, so
keep that in mind too.
Is Cancer just “Bad Luck”?
The January 2 edition of the journal
Science was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the USA, and
based on a statistical model that includes many types of cancer in a range
of human tissues. Its conclusion was that cancer is often caused by the “bad
luck” of random mutations that arise when cells divide, not family history
or environmental causes.
However, it did not include breast cancer, which is the most common cancer
in women, or skin cancer which is the most common cancer in men, followed by
In the adult cancers they did measure (and not a very comprehensive list
either), about two-thirds of these could be explained by random mutation in
genes that encourage tumors to grow, while the remaining one third was due
to environmental factors and inherited genes.
“This study shows that you can add to your risk of getting cancers by
smoking or other poor lifestyle factors,” said study author Bert Vogelstein,
a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“However, many forms of cancer are due largely to the bad luck of acquiring
a mutation in a cancer driver gene regardless of lifestyle and heredity
He added that people who live a long time without getting cancer, despite
being long-time smokers or being exposed heavily to the sun, do not have
“good genes.” “The truth is that most of them simply had good luck,” he
Now, don’t get me wrong, Johns Hopkins is a well known and respected
university, but this study, as reported in Science January 2, is not well
enough documented. How many cancers did they study? Especially having
excluded the major cancers, how many were left? To my simple mind, looking
at a small percentage of the whole and drawing conclusions from it is risky
to say the least.
They reported that the team sought to look at cancer in a new light, by
searching the scientific literature for information on how many times stem
cells divided over the course of an average person’s lifespan.
This process of self-renewal occurs naturally in the body and helps
repopulate cells that die off in a specific organ. However, I would point
out that this self-renewal is not 100 percent, otherwise we would all live
for ever as there would be no kidney disease, for example, as all you have
to do is sit tight and wait for spontaneous cell renewal.
They also claim that researchers have long understood that cancer can arise
when stem cells make random mistakes, known as mutations. (Note the use of
“can” arise and not “will” arise.)
But the study represents the first attempt at comparing how many cancers
arise from this process, compared to family history or environmental
Some 22 cancer types arising in 31 tissues studied could be traced back to
random mutations, the study found.
The other nine “had incidences higher than predicted by ‘bad luck’ and were
presumably due to a combination of bad luck plus environmental or inherited
factors,” the university said.
These nine types included lung cancer and skin cancer - which are influenced
by exposure to smoke and sunshine - as well as some cancers known to be
The findings mean that an even greater emphasis should be placed on early
detection of cancer and research that could detect these harmful random acts
before they lead to widespread cancer.
“Changing our lifestyle and habits will be a huge help in preventing certain
cancers, but this may not be as effective for a variety of others,” said
biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti, an assistant professor of oncology at
the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of
“We should focus more resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at
early, curable stages.” Breast and prostate cancers were not included in the
study because the literature did not show reliable stem cell division rates
in those areas of the body, the authors said.
So, because these major cancers did not fit in with their study, they left
But I do agree with the concept of early detection to get the development of
cancer at the early stages.
Do you mind if I smoke in here?
How many times have you been asked, “Do
you mind if I smoke in here?” Most of us, being peaceful animals will then
lamely say, “It will be OK, but perhaps if you could go out into the garden
would be better.”
Really, it is the same as someone playing with dynamite and asking if it is
OK, because when you are exposed to second hand smoke, you might just be
lighting the fuse for a cancer.
Face facts. Tobacco is the number one cause of cancer in this world. It is
top of the WHO Code which was drawn up by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health
Tobacco has been in the code since its earliest version in 1987, but even
here there are new adjustments. Tobacco is the number one cause of cancer,
so this has to be re-emphasized over and over again for successful
prevention, but for the first time we are emphasizing the importance of a
smoke-free environment in the workplace and at home, which contributes to
helping people to stop smoking and also, of course, reduces the risk of
Smokers are not creatures of habit, smokers are people caught in the
clutches of addiction. A prime example is one of my friends who is on a
vigorous exercise regimen and vegetarian diet as he wants to get fit - but
is still smoking. He may as well eat anything he wants, because the
cigarettes will kill him before any silly diet does.
To give up cigarettes there are many, many ways, ranging from acupuncture,
hypnosis, the I Ching, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT), chewing gum,
patches, nasal spray, amulets and many others all the way through to cold
turkey and now the e-cigarettes. Hop onto the internet and you are besieged
with offers, all of which will make it ‘easy’ for you to stop smoking, and
all of which will cost you money! Let me state again, it ain’t easy!
What you have to realize is that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. I
know that’s probably hard to believe, but that really is the crux of the
matter. You take nicotine into all of your metabolic pathways until you
“need” to have nicotine to be able to function. Nicotine becomes part of
your metabolic chemical chains, and they don’t work properly without it. Now
you can see just why you feel so dreadful when you go without cigarettes
(nicotine) for any period of time.
Let’s deal with the e-cigarettes straight away. These are not harmless
substitutes for the ‘real thing’. No matter how much the smoker will try and
convince himself (and me). Toxins and carcinogens are not completely absent,
the potential negative health effects are still unclear, and the lack of
regulation makes it difficult to determine safety risks.
So to the best way - cold turkey. The proof is in the numbers. There has
been enough research done and the prime factor is that the quitter has to be
committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker. Doing it (quitting) for
somebody else, because you are being nagged into it by your wife,
girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to failure, I am afraid. This is something
which requires your total commitment. When I gave up 40 years ago, I thought
it would be a bad scene for a couple of days, but then found that it was a
couple of weeks of torture. Here I am many years later and I could begin
smoking again tomorrow. One of my friends even dreams that he cannot find
his cigarette packet and he has been a non-smoker for 10 years! It requires
dedication and commitment. Yours! No one else’s!
So, I admit that those who go cold turkey may go through a rough time with
withdrawals initially, but the majority are still non-smokers after one
year. The same cannot be said for the others. The “hard” way is ultimately
the best way.
You have to make the decision to quit. You set the day. You tell all your
friends that you are now a non-smoker - and you stick to it!
Become a non-smoker for 2015!