The Cancer Chronicles
Unlocking Medicine's Deepest MysteryBook - 2013
When the woman he loved was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. What he discovered is a revolution under way--an explosion of new ideas about what cancer really is and where it comes from. In a provocative and intellectually vibrant exploration, he takes us on an adventure through the history and recent advances of cancer research that will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease.
Deftly excavating and illuminating decades of investigation and analysis, he reveals what we know and don't know about cancer, showing why a cure remains such a slippery concept. We follow him as he combs through the realms of epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments, and scientific hypotheses--rooted in every discipline from evolutionary biology to game theory and physics. Cogently extracting fact from a towering canon of myth and hype, he describes tumors that evolve like alien creatures inside the body, paleo-oncologists who uncover petrified tumors clinging to the skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient human ancestors, and the surprising reversals in science's comprehension of the causes of cancer, with the foods we eat and environmental toxins playing a lesser role. Perhaps most fascinating of all is how cancer borrows natural processes involved in the healing of a wound or the unfolding of a human embryo and turns them, jujitsu-like, against the body.
Throughout his pursuit, Johnson clarifies the human experience of cancer with elegiac grace, bearing witness to the punishing gauntlet of consultations, surgeries, targeted therapies, and other treatments. He finds compassion, solace, and community among a vast network of patients and professionals committed to the fight and wrestles to comprehend the cruel randomness cancer metes out in his own family. For anyone whose life has been affected by cancer and has found themselves asking why?, this book provides a new understanding. In good company with the works of Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Abraham Verghese, The Cancer Chronicles is endlessly surprising and as radiant in its prose as it is authoritative in its eye-opening science.
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Corrections on the earth's cumulative population by the author:
By 1 A.D. experts estimate that there were at least 45 million people in the Roman Empire. Extrapolating upward, Haub put the world population back then at roughly 300 million. Based on various assumptions about birth rate and the impact of infant mortality, infanticide, and the Black Death, it took until 1650 for the number to reach half a billion, surpassing 1 billion only in the 19th century. Today the population is 7.1 billion and rising, but the total accumulation of people, living and dead, has reached 108 billion.
Actual quote on page 57 of hard cover (corrected by author in e-book):--- A demographer at the population reference bureau made a rough calculation. By A.D. 1, the earth' s cumulative population had already approached 50 billion (???), and the number had nearly doubled to 100 billion by 1850 (????). I was surprised by the magnitude.
A 25-year retrospective on “The Causes of Cancer” (published in 1981, Doll and Peto’s) still attributed 30 percent of cancer to tobacco. Obesity and lack of exercise were believed to account for 20 percent, diet for 10 to 25 percent, alcohol for 4 percent, and viruses for 3 percent. Far down on the lists are occupational exposure and pollutants.
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