The Myths of Cancer


The number of cancer deaths in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, the American Cancer Society reported yesterday. The finding suggests that the small drop reported last year — the first in more than 70 years — was real, possibly the start of a continuing decrease and not merely a statistical fluke, researchers said.

The American Cancer Society's annual study of cancer mortality came out yesterday. And for the second year its great news.


The New York Times, though, has a tinge of pessimism in its second paragraph.
"Although the drop is notable, it still pales in comparison with the number of cancer deaths, 553,888 in 2004.....But it has taken enormous efforts and ingenuity to produce relatively small gains." And there is a graph attached to the piece which makes out that cancer mortality has rising from about 400,000 deaths in the US to about 550,000 since 1980.

Well. Although its right to be cautious, these figures should be cause for enormous cheer particularly because cancer mortality is not an isolated statistic. Since the 1980s, the rates of heart disease have declined by about 25 per cent since the mid 1980s. As the leading cause of death in the US is clattering down, people are dying of other things. And although cancer has been slow to catch up with cardiovascular treatments, it is catching up.

And more than anything this kind of statistic rebutts the widely held belief that cancer rates are increasing.

Link: Second Drop in Cancer Deaths Could Point to a Trend, Researchers Say - New York Times.


Cancer Research UK did this amazing piece of research, and they discovered that one in four people think that cancer has nothing to do with risk factors and is only down to fate.

It is amazing, after half a century of campaigning about smoking, and twenty five years about the sun, and a least a few decades about five fruit and veg a dag, how little the message gets through. In poorer areas, that number reaches almost half of the population believes its fate.

I think one of the reasons is the complete mumbo jumbo that is so often spoken about the disease. Yesterday a faith healer (admittedly quite a comic one) was on BBC2 explaining that cancer is all about emotions, and Sense About Science recently wrote about the rubbish that celebrities speak about science.

And this really affects people's lives.

It really is time to change how we think about cancer.

TESTICULAR CANCER - email of the month

I just received this rather lovely email from a patient. I'm grateful for the feedback, and also that the book can be useful to those who are younger than my father, and whose precise cancer is not described within it.

I am a 27-year-old cancer patient currently approaching the end of my chemotherapy. I had my diagnosis with testicular cancer in late May of this year only to find the cancer had spread to the back of my stomach. The prognosis is good with an excellent chance of ‘cure’ and my long-term outlook is fantastic.

I am writing to you as, I have read your book One in Three and want to thank you for providing me with a text that dispelled the myths, distortions and falsehoods that surround this disease. You’ve written a thoroughly comprehensive book that it is easily accessible, cool and collected in its approach to this emotive subject. The book has given me a good understanding of the history and science of cancer, which has definitely helped towards my feelings of empowerment over my illness. I would like to applaud your message that we desperately need to talk about cancer, without it being a dirty word. The taboo only encourages the suspicion and ignorance that surround the disease. The eventual defeat of cancer cannot just be a scientific milestone, but one of social inclusion. I’ve experienced the gob-smacking insensitivity of individuals who feel obliged to off-load their self-opinionated wacky theories, as to why I have cancer and to cure. There are a lot of well-meaning souls out there; who are actually quite dangerous, One in Three has been a fabulous anchor, when confronted by madness. I fully support any public discourse about cancer that will elevate the patient from modern day leper to a first class citizen. The prejudice surrounding cancer is just, if not more of an obstacle to its defeat, as it is a medical conundrum.