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Did you know dinosaurs got cancer too?

the cancer chronicles

It can be a challenge to find a book which displays both the impact cancer has on an individual as well as the science of the disease that isn’t too technique or bogged down with medical terminology.

Science writer George Johnson’s The Cancer Chronicles provides a resource to readers interested in gaining new perspectives and information on “medicine’s deepest mystery.”  Johnson delves into how cancer cells develop, how researchers came to understand that radiation both causes and destroys cancer and discusses the latest discoveries he learns while attending research conferences across the country.  The book demonstrates the struggle many survivors and caregivers have; trying to understand “why do some people get more cancer than others?”  A question that doesn’t have a definitive answer.

Here are some remarks for a window into the book:

Jurassic Cancer chapter: “Mammals appear to get more cancer than reptiles or fish, which in turn get more cancer than amphibians.  Domesticated animals seem to get more cancer than their cousins in the wild. And people get the most cancer of all.”

The Consolations of Anthropology chapter: “Metastatic bone cancer has been discovered in Egyptian tombs, in a Portuguese necropolis, in a prehistoric grave in the Tennessee River valley, in a leper skeleton from a medieval cemetery in England.  Buried near the Tower of London the skeleton of a thirty-one-year-old woman was marked with metastatic lesions.  We even know her name from a lead coffin plate: Ann Sumpter.  She died on May 25, 1794.”

Where Cancer Really Comes From chapter: “Epidemiologists define ‘environment’ very broadly to include everything that is not the direct result of heredity-smoking, eating, exercise, the bearing of children, sexual habits, any kind of behavior or cultural practice.  Viruses, exposure to sunlight, radon, cosmic rays-these are all defined as environmental.”

Nancy’s Story chapter: “What is a crisis for the patient is routine for the doctor…It was scary reading language whose nuances we were not attuned to understand…As we accumulated information we also made phone calls…(the doctor) was reassuring in his casualness, someone who had seen it all.”

Where Cancer Really Comes From chapter: “What appeared to be more new cancers (in 1973 when the Government Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) collected data from state cancer registries on incidence and mortality and compared it with earlier NCI surveys) might be the result of better diagnostics, more accurate medical records, and an ever-increasing proportion of the population seeking and receiving medical care.”

If Johnson sparks your interests while reading his book you’re in luck!  He includes over 50 references for your continued educational pleasure.

Want to know what readers thought of the book, click here for reviews.

Please leave a comment telling us what you think of The Cancer Chronicles!

 

 


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