Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cancer's Cruel Economics

There are two cancer risk factors about which scientists have no doubt: tobacco and age. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of cancer--90% of all lung cancers cases can be linked to smoking. Eliminate cigarettes and cancer deaths would drop by a third. Not much can be done about age, however. Our cells constantly replicate themselves throughout our lives. As they do so, tiny genetic mistakes are made. Live long enough, and these mutations accumulate until they ignite uncontrolled tumor growth. The reason cancer is expected to become the nation's biggest killer in the next decade is becuase the population is aging, thanks to the baby boomers. Also, so much progress has been made against heart disease, currently the biggest killer, that we are living longer.Hopefully more progress will be made in deciphering cancer over the next decade, and new drugs will result that can change the outlook to the point where, we can live with cancer, not die from it. In the meantime, the best way to reduce risk is to quite smoking (or don't start), lose weight, and go for regular screening.
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