More cancer, but less of it fatal. So should we be happy or sad?


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The Independent Online

We face a future with more cancer but less of it will be fatal. So should we be sad - or happy?

It is hard to know. On the one hand, more cancer is a marker of a society's success. Thanks to improved nutrition, housing and education we are living longer and the longer we live the greater the likelihood that we will develop cancer. It is a disease of old age.

On the other hand more cancer means more anxiety, more visits to hospital, more unpleasant treatment and more side effects such as nausea, fatigue and, sometimes, pain. The war against cancer is far from won - it still causes more than one in four deaths.   

Part of the reason for the rise in cancer is that we are detecting it earlier, which is good because that is when it is easier to treat. But it also means people are living longer under the shadow of cancer, with all the worry that brings.

What has changed for the better is that cancer is no longer a death sentence, as it once was. Today, increasingly, it is a chronic disease that people live with rather than die from.