The main news story on breakfast news this morning is about lung cancer now being the main cause of cancer death in women. This is obviously a terrible thing, isn’t it? A doctor came on explaining the demographics: many decades ago more men than women smoked and now we are seeing the results of women catching up in that respect. He pointed out that there is usually a large delay between smoking and this kind of cancer death, though neglected to mention that the delay is often a life-long one. Deep in this blog you’ll find a graph with lung cancer deaths along one axis and age along the other. People can die of it at any age, but the bulk of them die when they’re over 70. Now, while death of any kind is a terrible thing, are these new statistics a terrible thing too?
That many people die of cancer now is because they’re not dying of the killers of the past. Anyone who has done some research into family history will know about that. Consider for a moment the possibility that an increase in lung cancer deaths in women in the above demographic might be because many of them are not dying of something else. In fact the woman they had on the show had been cured of breast cancer before her lung cancer was discovered. Breast screening, smear tests and the resultant treatments have hammered those kinds of cancers and, of course, the most difficult one to cure remains. Life is 100% fatal – remember that next time some of these TV dipsticks start shouting statistics at you. It is arguable then, that this increase in deaths from lung cancer can be seen in a positive light.
Let me illustrate: Kevlar vests are introduced during a war. Statisticians bemoan the increase in the number of deaths from head wounds.