Editor-At-Large: Spare me the pine nuts. I'm sick to death of cancer cures

When you think of the diet that our parents had - loads of stodge, potatoes and red meat washed down with beer and followed by a pack of Woodbines - I just don't know how they made it past 40
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The Independent Online

Want to avoid getting cancer? Then stop smoking, drinking, having unprotected sex, eating chips, sitting on the sofa and watching television hour after hour. Switch from shovelling down pork pies, steak and chips and profiteroles to a diet of super-foods like pumpkin seeds, bilberries, broccoli, garlic, spinach and oranges. I'm not quite sure whether coffee is allowed or not, but I'm sure it will have to be in moderation.

Scientists have declared that until they come up with a cure for cancer almost 2.5 million deaths could be prevented if we radically change our lifestyles, exercise more and eat differently. This followed a report that coffee and caffeine were either good or bad for you, depending on what set of tests you read about, and whether you are pregnant or not. Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency is seriously considering introducing a "traffic lights" system of food labelling in order to encourage us to adopt a healthy diet. Products high in salt, fat and sugar would be marked red as a dire warning. Confused? It's enough to make you reach for a bottle of wine and rip the wrapper off a large bar of Fruit and Nut.

We are obsessed with cancer. Not a day goes by without some female or other treating us to her chemo diary in print, complete with hair-loss, nausea, lack of energy and general depression. Even my ex-husband was the cover story in a rival Sunday newspaper's colour magazine, revealing all about his prostate cancer surgery. It's not hard to see why the big C is instilling the same fear in the straight community as Aids did for homosexual men in the 1980s. Cancer will kill seven million people worldwide this year, and at the current rate, doctors predict it may take up to 20 years to make it a controllable disease. At present, tests are continuing to develop a vaccine against certain types of cancer, but none is yet licensed for use.

It may take 10 years to develop a blood test to predict the likelihood of developing the disease. Even if everyone stubbed out their cigarettes, there would still be cancer in 20 years' time. During this period of intense medical research for a cure, contradictory facts and figures seem to be spewed out by competing research teams every day. No wonder most of us feel under threat. We all know someone whose has had cancer, and when you get to my age - your 50s - plenty of your friends have actually died from it.

I can see that smoking is a bad idea but, honestly, can we really be expected to lead our lives according to some ludicrous set of rules in which everything we eat or drink is subjected to intense scrutiny, not to mention colour coding and special labelling? When you think of the diet that our parents followed - loads of stodge, potatoes and red meat washed down with beer and followed by a pack of Woodbines - I just don't know how they made it past 40. I've spent the last 10 years eating low-fat spread, only to read that it might contain something carcinogenic. Perhaps artery-clogging butter is the lesser evil. I've been told to shun citrus fruit, champagne and white wine because of muscle pains at night. Combined with pumpkin seeds and broccoli, that's a depressing regime. I immediately went out and bought two fruit cakes to get me through the current cold snap.

And yet government health initiatives seem to have little or no effect. New Labour has legalised 24-hour drinking in pubs, but it counsels moderation. It wants us to stop smoking, but needs the tax to balance the books. It wants us to exercise, but it doesn't force car-manufacturers to produce cars that run on green fuels. Consequently, our children have asthma.

It's just not joined-up thinking. The budgets for school meals remain pitiful, despite Jamie Oliver's influence, so how will the next generation enjoy super-foods and fight off cancer? Just thought I'd ask.

Charmless but famous? Come and live in the UK!

Today, the Home Office starts to forcibly return to Iraq Kurdish asylum-seekers who have failed in their attempt to remain in this country. Since last summer, Iraqi asylum-seekers have been systematically rounded up and placed in detention, with recent raids taking place in Suffolk, Liverpool and Newcastle. It's clear that their homeland is neither safe nor welcoming, but most of the 20,000 Iraqis who have fled to Britain in the past three years have had their applications to stay rejected. Clearly, the Home Office considers them to be worthless potential British citizens, unlike Makosi Musambasi, the charmless "star" - if that is the right word - who made her name with her sexual exploits (including same-sex snogging) on Big Brother. Makosi breached the rules of her work visa by leaving her job as a cardiac nurse in High Wycombe in order to seek fame via a television reality show. Her application for asylum was rejected earlier this month, but now her lawyers have successfully argued that she is so internationally famous it would be unsafe for her to return to Zimbabwe, where she would be attacked for her sexuality. What a load of tosh! I'd swap a plane-load of Kurdish refugees for Makosi any day. That trollop has no intention of working as a nurse again, and every intention of cashing in in any way she can. How can being a celebrity possibly be a justification for citizenship?

Tory tales #1: The party has a talent (which is not for winning)

William Hague's earnings top £500,000 a year from writing books and newspaper columns, making speeches at £10,000 a pop, and television appearances. Sounds like a pretty busy agenda, yet he's still got the gall to draw his MP's salary, and let it be known he's available for a plum role in the Shadow Cabinet. Funny how ex-Tory ministers such as him and Portillo are really good at feathering their own nests, but pretty useless at coming up with a strategy that would get them back in power.

Tory tales #2: David v David - this is no game for women

Neither of the two Tory leadership contenders opt for positive discrimination for female candidates, so why should women bother to vote? According to the Hansard Society's "Women at the Top" report, Britain stands at the shamefully low position of 51st in the world-wide table of political representation. Less than 20 per cent of our MPs are female. In Rwanda the figure is more than 48 per cent. In Sweden 45 per cent of the government is female. And in Iraq 32 per cent of MPs are women. A laughable 9 per cent of Tory MPs are female, which shows just how in-touch they are.