Cancer here today gone tomorrow or?

From the National Cancer Institute. http://pre...

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I recently lost someone important in my life and have left my blog unedited lately.  For that I am sorry.  My mother passed away after many years of struggling with her illness.  It was not cancer and this is a cancer information blog, so I wont dwell on her condition here.  But, may she forever rest in peace….something she has deserved for a long time.

Can we eradicate cancer?  Can we cure cancer?  those of you who follow my blog know that I am a bit pessimistic at the power we have over cancer.  So, you will not be surprised at what I am about to say.  For those of you know do not know me and who have not read my blog, please do know that I am a trained cancer researcher and medical educator and thus do have some background in the subject (before you dismiss what I am about to say).

Let me be frank…we can not and will not eliminate cancer.  Cancer is normal…please see my cancer made simple ( web page which will provide educational material on cancer (why I say that cancer is normal from a biolgical point of view).  Cancer is scary and it kills people and that I understand.  However, one must understand that it is something that exsists in nature in plants and animals.  Cancer is a result of mutations and these are constant in our biolgical lives.  These can not be escaped.  Thus, if we can’t escape the cancer causing mutations, it is hard to see how we can avoid getting cancer and thus hard to see how we can cure cancer.  Futhermore, as we age and live longer and longer, cancer tends to rear its ugly head….just part of the natural process….we are not meant to live forever.

However, let me clarigy a few things before you start throwing things at me and telling me how mean I am to steal hope away from people, etc.  Cancer will never be gone from human lives, but DEATH from cancer can be reduced and prevented, but probably nor eliminated.  1) There are many things that we know are strongly and weakly linked to cancer:  cigarettes (strongly) and red meats (weakly), both which can be removed or reduced. 2) There are many chemicals that are known carcinogens that we can avoid or reduce in our lives. 3) We are getting better and better at treating certain forms of cancer and at detecting cancer earlier so that it can be treated better.  4) We are begining to understand the molecular biology of cancer and of how our body defends against cancer and thus how we can prevent and treat cancer using various methods.  

So, cancer will not go away, it is part of normal life.  As humans we are so luck to be in control of so many things; including what we eat, where we live, and so forth.  However, the downside of being human is that we are susceptible to certain ailments including infections and cancer.  That is the tradeoff.  We are complex systems and cancer is complex.  So, we will probably never fully expell cancer from our lives.  

So as a cancer advocate and educator, it is important to promote cancer awareness and understanding, even if it means being starkly frank about the facts.  It is also important to point out that we can and should do things in our lives that promote healthier living and to seek treatment when we get sick…both of these can help to keep cancer at bay.  And when we do get cancer, it is important to note that there are many treatments that can help remove it or reduce it.  But, unfortunately that is not possible for many who still die of cancer. 

Dr. Charles


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