Deconstructing “The Big C”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released research linking processed meats as well as red meats to cancer. Headlines across the world read, &ldquo;Red Meat Causes Cancer.&rdquo; This &ldquo;groundbreaking&rdquo; research caused a major uproar in the news &mdash; television, newspapers, and social media alike.&nbsp; Habitual meat eaters made impromptu promises to ditch red meat all together. Pseudo-scientists rejoiced in this claim, which may back their anti-scientific claims about the causes of cancer. Vegans and vegetarians made a point of flaunting their herbivore status. The reaction has been alarmist in nature.&nbsp;</p>

To clarify: the study proposes that there is a strong link possible between red meats and colorectal cancer. According to the WHO, every 50 grams of red meat intake increases chances of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. However, the media has been using blanket statements about the relationship between red meat and cancer. Red meat does not lead to all cancers, and there are many. In fact, the findings are suggesting a strong possible link to colorectal cancer, not a direct relation. Blanket statements claiming that red meats cause cancer are simply irresponsible. Cancer is incredibly complex, and billions of dollars go into research annually. Not all cancers are alike; in fact, they are incredibly distinct. The manifestation of cancer cells varies in almost every single type of cancer. And although humans are scared to face this reality, most cancers are unavoidable and not related to lifestyle choices.

Humans are obsessively concerned with self-preservation. They strongly fear death and disease and try to live extra cautiously. However, hysteria about potential causes of cancer and the overextension of scientific facts that manifest themselves into pseudo-scientific claims about the causes of cancer are completely unproductive to society. The vast majority of instances of cancer are simply genetic mutations. There are ample amounts of science to support this claim, which the vast majority of laymen can not possibly comprehend. Therefore, we should leave the causes and treatment of cancer up to those who are well-versed in this scientific evidence: doctors, specialists, and medical oncologists. 

It is also worth noting how incredibly offensive pseudo-science on the potential causes of cancer (red meat, GMOs, Wi-Fi) are to those who have battled cancer and their families. Trying to allocate fault in lifestyle decisions that results in life-threatening disease is horribly degrading. Genetics is something largely outside of our personal control. Thankfully, with modern science doctors can treat the vast majority of cases with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 


Michelle DiFiore


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Masters of Public Service