how much benefit from fixing cancer?

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sun Jul 16 2000 - 21:51:59 MDT

At 06:02 AM 16/07/00 -0400, CYMM wrote:

>Remember if you lick atherosclerosis and cancer - you add years to your

Hmm. In LAST MORTAL GENERATION, I quoted this estimate:

< Resolving all cases of cancer (a very difficult task, since there are
many different ways in which tissues can become cancerous) would add an
average three years to human life expectancy >

That's surprisingly little apparent benefit (unless, of course, you've
*got* the filthy disease). But this ignores the status-quo basis of the

Since cancer results from the accumulation of five or six independent
mutations or damage events in a given cell, it tends to afflict the elderly
preferentially. Once we correct senescence mechanisms and extend expected
life span, there'll be much longer opportunities for trillions of somatic
cells to run amok. Especially, of course, if part of defeating senescence
turns out to involve reactivating telomerase genes, one of the steps
required to sustain a hearty tumor.

Even so, at the moment, fixing cancer would not have a drastic impact on
life span - just (just!) on relief of suffering, and on costs of medical
care (assuming prevention is cheaper than cure, which it might not be if
applied to the whole population in a form other than a simple vaccine or

Damien Broderick

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