Global Cancer Scare – Article by Bradley Doucet

Global Cancer Scare – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
December 29, 2013
The coverage of the World Health Organization’s latest data on global cancer rates in today’s Globe and Mail was typical of the media in general: “the disease tightened its grip in developing nations struggling to treat an illness driven by Western lifestyles.” And a glance at the WHO’s GLOBOCAN Cancer Fact Sheet maps seems to confirm that “Western lifestyles” are the culprit, since living in a wealthier part of the world increases your risk of getting cancer. But what’s wrong with this picture?

The main problem is that it makes it sound as if life in developing nations is getting worse as it becomes more like life in the wealthier parts of the world. This is pure hogwash. The WHO’s own data shows that life expectancy at birth rose from 2000 to 2011 in all regions of the world. Globally, it rose from 66 to 70 years; in Africa, from 50 to 56. People may be dying more than they used to from various cancers, but they’re clearly dying less from other causes, and the one more than makes up for the other.

Don’t get me wrong: Helping people afflicted with cancer in poorer parts of the world is a fine thing to do. But the best way to help in the long run is to help them get richer so they can help themselves. This undoubtedly would make them even more like us in terms of “lifestyle” and would undoubtedly lead to even higher rates of cancer. But it would also lead to less dying from other causes, and longer life expectancy overall. I’m willing to bet that’s a trade every person living in the developing world would be happy to make.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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