Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cancer Deaths


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.

8 comments:

Chrish said...

Hear, hear, wisely spoken! been saying this for years but then again, people like to be scared ;)

Neal Asher said...

Do people like to be scared? Is it more the case that they're accustomed to the negativity of our TV news - the idea that news isn't news unless it's bad? Also that news gatherers, reporters and presenters are habituated in searching for the negative? Y'know, I'm back to reading science articles and every morning one of them presents a 'wow' moment - something utterly positive. Occasionally these items are fitted into the TV news whenever there's room between bickering politicians, bombs and murders.

xwifflebottom said...

This is why I read Scientific American and the tech columns a hell of a lot more than the general news, particularly the BBC.

Chrish said...

Perhaps I should refrase, it's not so much that they 'like to be scared' but that they are so much used to being scared that it becomes their normal human condition. Of course you are right about the negativity poured over us day after day and as I told you before I read no papers or watch the news, better for one's mental health :) (just a quick glance in the morning at Dutch c-fax of course to verify if the Germans are not gathering again at our eastern borders hahahaha)

Neal Asher said...

xwifflebottom, I made a conscious decision last year to concentrate more on science articles than political stuff and general news. I did this because a) reading that stuff is good for what I do - grist for the mill b) avoiding the other stuff is good for my sanity.

Chris, of course highlighting lung cancer has to be a good thing. It's a cancer that doesn't receive enough attention because it is always associated with smoking and the attitude is 'let the dirty filthy smokers die'.

Interesting article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101153559.htm#.UJN_FCv6ud4.twitter

Chrish said...

Yes interesting article indeed, but they give mice a placebo????? We all know why people get a placebo but mice? hahaha!
Btw, I personally believe that as soon as they find a cure for lungcancer another sort of cancer will take over, in other words, it is a useless battle....

Neal Asher said...

I don't agree at all, Chris. We could have taken the same attitude to tuberculosis and many of us still dying before our fiftieth birthday. There will be something else and generally as we knock the cancers on the head that something else is dementia, which is being worked on of course. Yeah, something will get you in the end, but we all want later rather than sooner. (Though I have to add in my case that if it was choice between lung cancer and dementia I'd rather have the first)

Chrish said...

Of course you are right about diseases such as tuberculosis I think.....on the other hand looking at it on a larger scale, it all depends on one's outlook on matters as health and illness. Is a disease a bit of bad luck? a punishment from the gods? a result of an unhealthy lifestyle? resulting in an action of nature to correct an imbalance? a wiping out of the weak to strenghten the species? I tend to think it's mainly the last three.....on a personal scale becoming ill is a disaster of course.....but on the other hand, with the sophisticated methods of dealing with diseases we have in our time we kept people alive that perhaps were not fit to live in the first place....but then again, if I would fall ill tomorrow I would beg and scream for a cure hahaha!