Cancer. The sibilance of the word itself conjures up a sneaky, conniving beast intent upon destroying your cells, your organs, your very life. The American Cancer Society predicts that 12,760 Kansans will be diagnosed with cancer during 2007. During your lifetime, you or somebody close to you will be diagnosed with some type of cancer.
The good news? Breathtaking developments in detection and treatment during the last 20 years have dramatically increased the survival rate for cancers. It's being detected earlier and treated more effectively because of research into how cancer grows and changes in the body.
Science writer Carl Zimmer has written extensively about cancer. Zimmer has the rare ability to write about complex scientific topics in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Here are links to a few of his posts on the topic:
- The Accidental Tumor
- Cancer: An Evolutionary Disease
- Here's a podcast about this January 2007 Scientific American article by Zimmer as well.
Natural selection is not natural perfection. Living creatures have evolved some remarkably complex adaptations, but we are still very vulnerable to disease. Among the most tragic of those ills—and perhaps most enigmatic—is cancer. A cancerous tumor is exquisitely well adapted for survival in its own grotesque way. Its cells continue to divide long after ordinary cells would stop. They destroy surrounding tissues to make room for themselves, and they trick the body into supplying them with energy to grow even larger. But the tumors that afflict us are not foreign parasites that have acquired sophisticated strategies for attacking our bodies. They are made of our own cells, turned against us. Nor is cancer some bizarre rarity: a woman in the U.S. has a 39 percent chance of being diagnosed with some type of cancer in her lifetime. A man has a 45 percent chance.Read, listen, learn. Be able to make informed decisions when the time comes.