Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An acceptable level of death

As I write this it was just announced that Porter Wagner, Country Music Hall of Famer, has died of lung cancer. He died of lung cancer but he was 80 years old. If he enjoyed smoking and lived to be 80 while doing so, I think he must have no complaints. Meanwhile, it was also reported that 3 year old Sebastian Ferrero died Oct. 10 at Shands at the University of Florida Medical Center in Gainesville, two days after a routine test was supposed to help doctors determine why the boy's growth was below average. He was given a drug overdose at 100 times what he should have received. Is this an acceptable death? Not to me.

Let me first remind you that I think it is vital that we continue to fund research and get early diagnosis for all types of cancer. But I also think that, for the most part, we have overlooked the true cause of cancer, living longer. Certainly there are exceptions as both my mother and my sister contracted breast cancer before they reached 35 years of age. I believe the prevalence of cancer is a factor of life span. Recent Mayo Clinic data reveals that some colon cancer is detected in 40 year olds but primarily the disease is found during or after the mid 60’s. Only 17 % of the cancer found in people under the age of 50 is colon cancer.

I am writing this with the understanding that the World Cancer Research Fund is prepared to publish its 2007 report on “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer.” This is an update to its 1997 report and will evaluate some 5,000 to 10,000 new studies on cancer completed over the past 10 years. It may turn out that most interesting component of this study is not which research was included but rather which was omitted. Left out was a Harvard pooling study considered to be the biggest study ever conducted on the association between red meat and cancer. Many of the other pooling studies were published with fewer subjects. Is it possible that results of this study were not included because they found no association or only a statistically insignificant association between red meat consumption and cancer?

We are now beginning to study water and its direct effect of cancer. Every person who has ever contracted cancer drinks water. Let’s take a quick look at recent news reports on other cancer causing agents.

CBS News published a story in December 2005 citing a study, which found a statistical link between the incidence of breast cancer in young women and the use of antiperspirants combined with frequent underarm shaving. "I personally feel there is a very strong correlation between the underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer," said immunologist Dr. Kris McGrath, the author of the study.

However, a woman's risk for breast cancer is associated with lifetime exposure to estrogen.

Lead in lipstick: Red alert or false alarm?

Body Spray Causes Cancer

Perhaps unexpectedly, the risk of developing cervical cancer was twice as high for those who had treatment between 1991-2000 compared with those who had treatment between 1958-70.

Do sweeteners really cause cancer?

Should teen use of tanning beds be regulated by the state?

No one can argue that cancer is touching the lives of every single person in this country and apparently around the world. It is also unarguable that cancer comes from a combination of factors that we still don’t totally understand. Obesity is without a doubt at the top of list but that would put the responsibility on us personally and that is not something we are happy with. We must find lower hanging fruit, something or someone else to blame for cancer. There is not one silver bullet in the prevention of cancer but we each make choices daily that can reduce or increase our risk. Avoiding the sun is unhealthy; overexposure is deadly. You decide what is proper.

The accepted level of death should be the real question we are asking. Right behind heart disease and cancer, medical error is ranked as the third leading cause of death. I value every human life. I recognize that accidents happen but I truly fail to understand why, as a society, we seem to accept the death as a result of medical error more easily than cancer. If you read a recent report in Medical News Today, it says that Medical errors remain a leading cause of death and injury at hospitals nationwide. The study finds that about 1.24 million patient safety incidents occurred between 2002 and 2004, compared with 1.14 million between 2000 and 2002, at a cost of $9.3 billion.

Let’s look at the big picture. We have doubled the life expectancy of a human being in the past 100 years. We have more people than ever recovering from cancers of all types. If we continue to fund research to assist in finding more means of early detection, there is no doubt that what might actually be accomplished is winning the war on cancer. But by all means don’t forget that on the way to the doctor to get a clean bill of health, your risk of death in a motor vehicle accident is 16 in 100,000 annually. But that is also an acceptable death rate in our society.

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