Most Surprising Facts About Cancer

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16. Chemotherapy may not be more effective for a majority of women with breast cancer

In a recent trial supported by the NCI called TAILORx, 70% of women with the most common type of breast cancer showed no benefit from chemotherapy. In the trial, women with a specific hormone receptor who met other conditions received treatment after surgery. Those who received both chemotherapy and hormone therapy did not benefit more than those who received only hormone therapy.

In a press release, Dr. Joseph Sparano, associate director for clinical research at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center and Montefiore Health System in New York City, said the data will enable clinicians to recommend more personalized treatment plans to their patients.

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17. 15,000+ children in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer in 2017

Cancer cases among children account for less than 1% of total cancer cases in high-income countries compared with 4% in low-income countries. There are several known causes of childhood cancer, including radiation, contracted viruses, and genetic makeup. Over half of children with cancer in the world have one of three cancers: leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. Last year, an estimated 15,270 children (19 years and younger) in the United States were diagnosed with cancer. Nearly 1,800 kids died last year of the disease.

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18. The first known description of cancer is over 3,000 years old

The first description of cancer can be found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, one of the oldest Egyptian medical textbooks, dating back to around 1,500 B.C. One section of the text describes eight different cases of ulcers and tumors in the breast that were removed by cauterization with a tool called the fire drill. The papyrus states, “There is no treatment.”

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19. Naked mole rats may be immune to cancer

The naked mole rat appears to be immune to cancer. This subterranean rodent native to East Africa is resistant to cancer in part because of a substance called hyaluronan that accumulates between its tissues. The rodent acquires a molecularly denser form of hyaluronan than humans and mice. Hyaluronan also likely stops the growth of cancer — when it was removed in a study, the rodent developed tumors.

Other research shows the naked mole rat is able to build proteins through a process called protein transcription with minimal errors. Researchers believe the accuracy in transcription may contribute to its long life span and could play a role in its immunity to cancer.

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20. The last major environmental carcinogen was discovered in the 1980s

In the 1980’s, scientists determined tobacco was a carcinogen — a substance capable of causing cancer. That discovery, roughly four decades ago, was the last time a major human carcinogen was discovered.