The American Cancer Society is tracking a worrisome rise in second cancers. To be clear, these are not mere recurrences of the original disease, but rather a different type of cancer in a different area. Here's a summary of the trend-line, from the linked story:
"About 19 percent of cancers in the United States now are second-or-more cases, a recent study found. In the 1970s, it was only 9 percent. Over that period, the number of first cancers rose 70 percent while the number of second cancers rose 300 percent."This raises a number of questions that might at first seem snarky but are thoroughly valid, even by the admission of some courageous souls within Cancer Inc.
1, Do we know as much about cancer as we think we do? (One is reminded of that ridiculous line from the MD Anderson ad: "Cancer, we know you even better than you know yourself.") Are these "new" and "different" cancers really entirely new forms of disease...or could they be unexpected mutations of the same cancer cells that were present originally?
2, Are some people cancer-prone? We already know that when it comes to certain types of cancer, e.g. breast cancer, the answer is Yes. But is there more to this predisposition than we realize? Can such people ever really be "cured" of cancer, or will the first cancer give way inevitably to a second?
3, To what extent are the second cancers caused by the treatment for the first cancers? This is not in any way as curmudgeonly as it sounds, but rather is acknowledged fact within the cancer community. Browse around Google and check for yourself.
Bottom line, we have even more reason to take ads like Anderson's with about a half-pound of salt. Yeah, you may—may—beat this cancer...but even if you do, that may not be the last you see of your positive-thinking pals at BS Anderson.