While reading an article in the Globe and Mail about skin cancer, something about the article combined with the graphic for “What is the likelihood that you will get cancer?” bothered me. The bottom of the graphic emphasized lifetime probability of dying from cancer, 24% for women and 29% for men. The implication is that too many people get cancer and we need to reduce the number of people dying from cancer.
Here’s the problem: everybody dies eventually. Everybody. You can kind of pick what you are more likely to die from from but immortality is not an option. Reducing the number of people dying from one cause will increase the number dying from another. I found a CDC graph which perfectly illustrates this.
If fewer people die from infectious diseases, more will die from heart disease. If fewer people die from heart disease, more people will die from cancer.