Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lifestyle Cancers

(a letter printed in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday August 11th, 2007)
Graph inset to show relationship between incidence of all cancers and age of onset.

Smoking BansSir - The notion that half of all cancers are caused by lifestyle factors is nonsense. Cancer is overwhelmingly a disease of old age, and because we are living longer the incidence of cancer is increasing.

What the "experts" ignore when discussing health statistics is that we all die. If one cause of death decreases, another must increase. Deaths from so-called lifestyle diseases have increased as deaths from accidents and infectious diseases have declined. That does not mean that our lifestyles are killing us, but that we now die of diseases related to age.

The cancers quoted in your report (August 9th) - mouth, kidney, womb and malignant melanoma - account for a total of perhaps 25,000 cases a year, affecting around 0-03 per cent of the population. This is a tiny percentage and demonstrates how unlikely it is that our modern lifestyle is primarily responsible.

Tim Hammond
London SW6