Can you catch cancer?
Is the water safe to drink?
An article by Andy Ho in the Straits Times drew a rebuttal from a professor and lecturer in cancer biology in the ST Forum today, and fellow-Clearthought bloggers at Fresh Brainz and Vexillum II have written on the topic too.
For once, angry doc is inclined to disagree with the expert and his fellow-Clearthought bloggers - he thinks that Andy Ho's message that you *can* catch certain forms of cancer is basically correct.
As Ed has shown, sharing food with a patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma is unlikely to increase your chances of having the cancer yourself significantly; but can that be said of all cancers where infection by a micro-organism plays a significant role in the pathogenesis?
angry doc is thinking specifically of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium mentioned in passing in Andy Ho's article but not addressed by Professor Featherstone.
H. pylori is now known be "a strong risk factor for non-cardia gastric cancer" that in one study was found to have "increased risk for the disease nearly eight-fold".
Given the fact that H. pylori is an important risk factor for non-cardia gastric cancer, and that it is "thought to be spread either through contaminated food and water or through direct mouth-to-mouth contact", is it correct for Professor Featherstone to say that "there is not a single malignancy that can cause someone to 'catch' cancer in any meaningful use of the term"?
(What, for that matter, does "meaningful use of the term" 'catch' mean?)
Or is Andy Ho correct when he advised: "Don't be politically correct unto death"?
Well, is the water safe to drink?