David Ropeik (BSJ72, MSJ73)
In some ways our fear of cancer exceeds the risk, and the fear does great harm all by itself. “Curing Cancer-phobia How Risk, Fear, and Worry Mislead Us” explores the history and psychology of those fears, documents the massive harm they cause, and reviews efforts to reduce that harm.
Thousands are injured, and hundreds killed, by treatment for types of ‘overdiagnosed’ breast, prostate, thyroid, and lung cancer that would never harm the4 patient, frightened into more treatment than their clinical conditions require because the frightening “C word” is in the diagnosis. $5.3 b/yr is spent on this clinically unnecessary treatment.
Our fear of cancer leads millions to screen though not in the groups for which screening is recommended, even though research shows they are more likely to be harmed than helped. We spend $9.2 b/yr on this “overscreening”.
Fear of cancer leads to disproportionate government spending to reduce cancer risk compared to what is spent on other major health threats. We spend billions on products that promise to reduce our cancer risk, but don’t. Fear of cancer impedes the use of technologies that could provide great benefit, like fluoridation of drinking water and non-greenhouse gas emitting nuclear power.
By bringing this issue to public attention, “Curing Cancer-phobia How Risk, Fear, and Worry Mislead Us” hopes to help reduce all those harms.