>This is sort of an urban legend as far as I can tell. See:
Thanks for pointing us to that American Cancer Society site, Dale. As
far as I'm concerned it provides the statistical basis for the 1-in-2
claim under discussion.
According to the data presented: 1.222 million cases of cancer will be
diagnosed in 1999, while 0.563 million people will die of cancer this
year. That's a net mortality rate of about 46%. Yeah, I know there's
lag time and population increase and all that stuff, but for arm-waving
discussion purposes, 46% will do.
The ACS also states that 1 person in 4 will *die* from cancer. Might be
23%, might be 27% ... who knows, but 1 in 4 is close enough.
So roughly 25% lifetime mortality rate from cancer, and roughly 46%
mortality rate from the disease itself. On that basis, the lifetime
rate of incidence for aggregate cancers is 54%. Sure looks like 1-in-2
to me --- worse even, by almost 10%.
I have not looked at earlier statistics, but a lot of cancer went
undiagnosed, or people died younger from something else. My
great-grandfather died of "urinary blockage" that was almost certainly
prostate cancer. His son was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but died
of something else (at 92) before the cancer could get him.
For me it is the former 1-in-8 rate that is doubtful. That *also* makes
the conclusion of greatly increasing cancer incidence suspect, but from
the *other* end.
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