Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Trade Offs

One of our first readers discussed the positive correlation between higher caloric intake and higher likelihood of developing cancer. He also summarized that greater caloric intake leads to more energy being put towards reproductive processes and sex hormones. This well-illustrates the trade-offs mentioned in the article "Evolutionary Foundations of Cancer in Biology." I would like to expound upon that notion even more.

Nesse originally gives us the example of fast wound-healing and its downside, higher susceptibility to cancer. The same phenomenon comes from the fact that an organism with fast-growing cells also allows its cancerous cells to also quickly grow. Knowing this, we can better understand why higher levels of reproduction would have the same effect. At least for women, it takes a lot of energy and cell growth to develop a fetus, so naturally, women who can more easily have children would have more fast-growing cells, and likewise higher susceptibility to cancer.

Another first reader brought up cancer prevention. After understanding that there are trade-offs, we should first ask ourselves if we really want to interfere with our bodies in such a way that prevents cancer if it reduces our hormone levels (assuming we have the technology to live with cancer in a way that it does not kill us). Right now we do not yet have that perfect technology, but at some point we may need to ask ourselves this question.

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