Every day, 1500 Americans die of cancer, and yet for most of us this deadly disease remains mysterious. Why is it so common? Why are there so many different causes? Why does treatment so often fail? What, ultimately, is cancer? In this fascinating new book, a leading cancer researcher offers general readers clear and convincing answers to these and many other questions.
Mel Greaves places cancer in its evolutionary context, arguing that we can best answer the big questions about cancer by looking through a Darwinian lens. Drawing on both ancient and more modern evolutionary legacies, he shows how human development has changed the rules of evolutionary games, trapping us in a nature-nurture mismatch. Compelling examples, from the King of Naples intestinal tumor in the 15th century, through the epidemic of scrotal skin cancer in 18th-century chimney sweeps, to the current surge of cases of prostate cancer illustrate his thesis. He also shows why the old paradigms of infectious diseases or genetic disorders have proved fruitless when trying to explain this complex and elusive disease. And finally, he looks at the implications for research, prevention, and treatment of cancer that an evolutionary perspective provides.
Drawing on the most recent research, this is the first book to put cancer in its evolutionary framework. At a time when Darwinian perspectives on everything from language acquisition to economics are providing new breakthroughs in understanding, medicine seems to have much to gain from the insights provided by evolutionary biology. Written in an exceptionally lucid and entertaining style, this book will be of broad interest to all those who wish to know more about this dread disease.
The more you read of this, the harder it is to put down. Nursing Standard This is a most engaging and accessible book... There are plenty of books on cancer as a disease, but this book is unusual in its focus on the underlying biological principles. Journal of Biological Education Thoroughly recommendable. Microbiology Today
PART I: CANCER - ANCIENT LEGACIES AND MODERN MYTHS
1: Perplexed? You should be
2: The King of Naples and other silent witnesses
3: Questions and answers
PART II: EVOLVING CANCER
4: Clones, clones, clones
5: The way we are: risk and restraints
6: How cancer cells play the winning game
7: Green-eyed mutations?
8: Blind chance - and ultimate extinction?
PART III: PARADOXES OF PROGRESS: INDECENT EXPOSURES
9: Is cancer an evolutionary inevitability?
10: And then you set fire to it?
11: Women's troubles
12: Men's troubles
13: Cancer a deux
14: Other ways of getting bugged
15: Travelling light
16: Dying for a living
17: Collateral damage
18: Finale: compounding risk with bad luck
PART IV: FINESSING THE CLONE
19: Treatment: the blind marksman
20: Epilogue: cancer in the 21st century