i hope that something good comes of the NIH’s new cancer initiative. it looks to be a pure research project aimed at understanding the disease, as opposed to developing drugs or therapies that create measurable tumor-shrinking results for patients who are already terminally ill, which is where the vast majority of research money goes.
cancer kills 25% of americans, and a majority of those cancers are lifestyle-related diseases. treatment hasn’t improved much since nixon declared a national war on cancer, and so the best therapy until they discover a cure is to do whatever you can to not get it. (or barring that, detecting it early). from the national institutes of health:
The most consistent finding, over decades of research, is the strong association between tobacco use and cancers of many sites. Hundreds of epidemiologic studies have confirmed this association. Further support comes from the fact that lung cancer death rates in the United States have mirrored smoking patterns, with increases in smoking followed by dramatic increases in lung cancer death rates and, more recently, decreases in smoking followed by decreases in lung cancer death rates in men.
Additional examples of modifiable cancer risk factors include alcohol consumption (associated with increased risk of oral, esophageal, breast, and other cancers), physical inactivity (associated with increased risk of colon, breast, and possibly other cancers), and obesity (associated with colon, breast, endometrial, and possibly other cancers). Observational evidence shows associations between excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and obesity and increased incidence of certain cancers. More research is needed to determine whether these associations are causal and thus whether avoiding these behaviors would actually reduce cancer incidence. Other lifestyle and environmental factors known to affect cancer risk (either beneficially or detrimentally) include certain sexual and reproductive practices, the use of exogenous estrogens, exposure to ionizing radiation and ultraviolet radiation, certain occupational and chemical exposures, and infectious agents.
there is a lot of detailed information available out there on how to decrease your chances of getting cancer, and having watched my father die in a pretty grisly way, i can say that i encourage everyone i know and don’t know to educate themselves. i for one am not always perfect in my lifestyle habits, but i try to keep myself informed and follow recommendations. going to a doctor regularly and communicating clearly with him/her is also important.
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