Many women fear breast cancer more than any other disease. And we can’t seem to get away from all the pink ribbons promoting breast cancer “awareness.” But while all the attention goes to breast cancer, another far more dangerous cancer killer has crept up on women. Unfortunately, you won’t see any colored ribbons flying to warn women about it.
I’m talking about lung cancer.
Of course, lung cancer has been the leading cause of cancer mortality in American women for many years. But according to a new report, the rest of the world has caught up with us. Lung cancer is now the No.1 cancer killer of women in developed nations worldwide.
Of course, smoking rates have fallen dramatically in recent decades. So how and why is lung cancer the No. 1 cancer killer of women–at least here in the U.S.?
There’s one simple reason: The American government is prejudiced against smokers.
In fact, the government’s single-minded obsession with smoking prevention and cessation over the past three decades has resulted in abject neglect of real research into lung cancer biology. So we still don’t have safe and effective enough approaches for prevention, screening and prevention of it.
But the majority of women who come down with lung cancer are former smokers or never smokers. What does the government have to offer all of these unfortunate women?
The government’s own cancer “experts” at National Cancer Institute (NCI) even made light of the effective new CAT scan screening for lung cancer. The “experts” claimed smokers and former smokers wouldn’t get the effective screening because “they don’t care about their health.”
Finally, after years of pleading by real experts at the American College of Chest Physicians, the government has finally gone along to recommend this effective lung cancer screening and reimburse patients for it under Medicare.
So what are the actual numbers?
In 2012, 197,000 women died of breast cancer in developed countries. But 209,000 died of lung cancer. The highest lung cancer rates for women were seen in North America, Northern and Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and East Asia.
Ironically, these very same countries also poured fortunes into antismoking campaigns and lawsuits. But they still have the highest lung cancer rates in the world among women.
So–which part of the world has the lowest lung cancer rates?
I find it ironic, here again, that Africa has one of the highest smoking rates in the world. They have no time or money to spend on politically correct government campaigns. Yet they have the lowest lung cancer rates.
So, memo to the politically correct health experts at NCI: It’s not just all about smoking.
In fact, more and more researchers seem to think “bad” behaviors like smoking don’t cause the majority of cancers.
A new study out of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) highlights this point. JHU researchers said two-thirds of all cancer cases result from sheer bad luck–not “unhealthy” lifestyles, diet or even inherited genes.
To be more specific, JHU scientists found two-thirds of adult cancers stem from random mutations that occur in DNA when cells divide. They only linked one-third of cancers to defective genes, environmental factors, or lifestyle factors.
This finding suggests that targeting invasive, politically correct “behavior modification” to the whole population is a waste of time and resources. Plus, it interferes with honest, taxpaying citizens–since for the vast majority, the so-called cancer-causing behavior will never cause cancer.
We shouldn’t use half-cocked “behavioral science” to try to prevent cancer. (Clearly that approach hasn’t work out so well for the thousands of women dying of lung cancer today.) Real science should allow us to pinpoint the actual causes of cancer and the specific people who are really at risk.
Furthermore, these findings suggest men and women can’t entirely avoid cancer by altering their lifestyle. In other words, you can still get cancer if you avoid all alcohol, don’t smoke, exercise like a fiend, and avoid junk food. In fact, we all probably know someone like that who has been struck by cancer. They do everything “right” and still get cancer.
To reach this conclusion, the JHU researchers analyzed published data on the number of divisions that self-renewing stem cells undergo during an average lifetime. They looked at 31 different types of tissues in the body. Following this careful analysis, they found a strong correlation between the frequency of stem cell divisions among cells of a particular tissue type and the likelihood of developing cancer in that particular type of tissue.
In other words, the more times a cell divides, the more opportunities there are for the letters of the DNA genetic codes to become jumbled. So it makes sense that the more common cancers, like lung and skin, occur in tissues whose cells divide more frequently.
Here again, these findings provide one more reason why the vast majority of people who have a “strong” cancer “risk factor”–like smoking–still never get any cancer as long as they live.
So how can we win the fight against cancer if two-thirds of it comes down to bad luck?
Better screenings. (Until we find a cure, that is.)
With effective screenings, doctors can simply remove the cancer before it causes any problems. And we do have safe, effective screenings for many common cancers. We have the new CAT scan for lung cancer. For skin cancer, make sure to get annual physical exams. For prostate cancer, old-fashioned digital rectal exam is an effective screening. The new FIT test for colon cancer is safe and effective. And the PAP smear for cervical cancer is one of the very best cancer screenings.
An effective breast cancer screening is where we still fall short. As you know, mammography doesn’t reduce breast cancer death rates for younger women. But breast self-exam and physical exam are still good practices.
In addition, make sure to maintain optimal levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Strong evidence shows men and women who have optimal levels of these nutrients reduce their risks of common cancers. In addition, among men and women with cancer, optimal levels of these nutrients can improve survival time.
Massive, population-based “behavioral” solutions just won’t work well or efficiently for the vast majority of cancers. Plus, government efforts to “control” cancer are largely inappropriate, inefficient and ineffective. They mostly result in controlling citizens for the sake of control. But we should treat people as individuals.
The new research from John Hopkins shows that early detection with appropriate screening is the key. “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom” from cancer.
- “Lung cancer No. 1 cancer killer of women in wealthy nations,” HealthDay News, 2/4/15
- “Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions,” Science 2 January 2015: 347(6217): 78-81
- “Global cancer statistics, 2012,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, published online 2/4/2015