[...] cancer is our "new normal". The question then will not be if we will encounter this immortal illness in our lives, but when.
The previous quote was something that one of my Lecturers at Uni, Jorge Martins, used to say quite often.
It is important not to be too glib about this idea. Certain cancers are caused largely by preventable exposures to carcinogens or viruses. Lung cancer is directly linked to smoking. Liver cancer has been long associated with inflammation and repair in liver cells caused by hepatitis B and C virus. Cervical cancer is often caused by a sexually transmitted papilloma virus. These cancers do not arise accidentally or "naturally", but are caused by particular behaviours or exposures that can be modified and changed.
But for many other cancers – many types of breast or prostate cancer, for example – there is no identifiable or modifiable risk aside from age itself. These cancers seem to arise not because we have exposed ourselves to a known chemical or behaviour, but because our genes themselves are vulnerable. Our cells divide as we age, and there are errors in copying genes from one division to the next. As mutant genes encrust upon mutant genes in our bodies, our cells are inevitably tugged towards uncontrollable growth – cancer.
This is a excerpt of a text that is published in the guardian. I was made aware of if from a tweet. It is itself a excerpt of the book Emperor of All Maladies By Siddhartha Mukherjee. It will make a good read for everyone that is interested to know about cancer.