Cancer is Normal in a Healthy Body
This is not a new argument; I remember reading something like this in one of Richard Dawkins books, or it may have been Steven Pinker. Next time I catch the quote I’ll update this blog.
In the meantime today’s Toronto Star has a link to a healthzone.ca article “ Don’t let fear of cancer stop you from fighting back “.
Disclaimer: If you have lost someone close to you through cancer, so have I. I am not belittling your loss, merely embedding it in some logic.
Back to the healthzone article which states in part:-
Indeed, as we live longer, we give cancer more and more opportunity to intrude and to flourish. “It becomes common only when all other killers themselves have been killed,” explains Mukherjee.
Consider this: Thousands of years ago humans died younger, around age 40. Right at the end of women’s reproductive cycle. Men failed to outrun tigers. And humans died of various diseases, infectious and not.
Then we started recognizing solutions to some healthcare problems; those of us who might have died from dehydration after dysentery survived by drinking lots of water; those of us who might have died from smallpox were inoculated and survived.
As the years went by, more and more killer-diseases were, have been, thwarted. Wonky heart? Get a replacement. Blocked arteries? Cut down on fats, exercise, and take these pills.
Little by little causes of death have been eliminated or postponed to the point where we now expect to live to be 70 or 80.
And causes of death we never experienced thousands of years ago (when we toppled at age 40) are now uncovered.
I am reminded of the wheat belt of Western Australia where, year by year, the soil blows away, the ploughs dig deeper, and mallee roots continue to erupt from the ground to be stacked and burned.
It can be argued that cancer is the number one killer nowadays because all the other obstacles have been removed.
And what when we “defeat” or “solve” the cancer problem?
There’s going to be another major hurdle. We may not meet it until we all start living past 150 years or 200 years of age, but it will be there.
Cancer used to be a minor disease. It tends not to kick in until we are after 40 (Snap quiz: List the age of every person known to you who has died of cancer; I mean known to you, not read-about-in-the-paper).
Now that we live until well after 40, cancer moves into the footlights.
Cancer can now be seen as a perfectly normal consequence of living past 40; just like baldness or sterility.
Disclaimer: If you have lost someone close to you through cancer, so have I. And so has everybody. The time will come when we all die of cancer, or perhaps some of us will be taken by an as-yet undiscovered disease before cancer grabs us.
Then the new disease will be given the aura that cancer has today.
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