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Cancer: The Evolutionary Legacy
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...
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.
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