George Johnson, Inquiring Minds, Cancer, Evolution

I keep having to come back to this episode of Inquiring Minds. I keep having to refer back to it over and over in conversation because people just want to believe that living better will keep you from getting cancer. I get so much pushback from people who want to believe that this or that strategy will keep them from getting cancer that I’m going to backdate the episode to the the blog with some descriptive text that didn’t get pulled out in the blurb, but does state the point I keep having to make.

Mother Jones, Inquiring Minds #7, George Johnson – Why Most of What You’ve Heard About Cancer is Wrong

In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body’s cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we’ve evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn’t be who we are today. “There’s something unfortunately natural about cancer,” explains Johnson. “It’s a natural tradeoff of evolution.”

Paraphrasing the pertinent quote from this episode If you live long enough you will eventually get cancer. The errors in cell replication that lead to cancer are the same errors that allow for genetic diversity. We get cancer because evolution occurs even within our own bodies, and most evolution produces bad outcomes. Cancer is definitely not the result of poor diet or GMO foods. Cancer is a natural process gone horribly wrong, a side effect of living so long that the evolutionary process takes place inside your body. For those of you who deny evolution, think of this as payback from mother nature for doubting that her mechanisms exist. Mutation is how we got from single celled organisms to humans in 3.8 billion years. Mutation which frequently shows up as cancer in the individual. Them’s the breaks.

Expanded Facebook comment