Is cancer a rich person’s (or country’s) disease?

Is cancer a rich person's (or country's) disease?

Photo by Will Keightley (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

Capitalism has brought millions of tons processed foods to billions of people. But it may have unintentionally brought millions of cases of cancer to countries with Westernized diets (i.e.diets high in white sugar, white flour, red meat, animal fats, etc.).

In Anticancer: A New Way of Life, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber writes of the research of Dr. Annie Sasco, who spent twenty-two years compiling cancer statistics for WHO’s International Agency for Cancer Research. She compiled these statistics into maps of the occurrence of various cancers in countries throughout the world. Comparing cancer patients of the same age groups with breast, prostate and colon cancers she concluded that these are diseases primarily of industrialized countries and especially Westernized countries.

Could it be our genes? Studies have linked up to 15 percent of cancers to genetic causes. But the spike in cancer over the last several decades can’t so easily be explained away.

While doing her survey in Mainland China Dr. Sasco noticed that she saw few cases of breast cancer. She asked a Chinese colleague why this was. With a smile he responded that she would find plenty of breast cancer in Hong Kong: “It’s a disease of rich women.” Residents of prosperous Hong Kong have a much richer diet and access to more Western processed foods than do their countrymen in the Mainland.

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June 28, 2013 · 4:16 pm

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