Commonsense precautions can reduce your risk dramatically.
Posted August 3, 2012
People are living longer than they did a hundred years ago.
One major reason: far more effective control of infectious disease. In the early part of the last century, TB killed about one in seven people. The great decreases in death were wrought by public health measures—sanitation, clean water, nutrition, education, and vaccination, and lifestyle changes.
But have we tamed infections?
Consider these facts:
- One in six cancers in the world are caused by infections.
- Two-thirds of children’s deaths before the age of 5 are due to infectious disease.
- New antibiotic creation is not keeping up with antibiotic resistance; tens of thousands of Americans die from antibiotic resistant infections each year.
- Fewer people now have their children immunized, leading to new outbreaks in the U.S. of diseases like whooping cough.
Infectious Causes of Cancer
Americans generally don’t believe that infections can cause cancer—with the exception of AIDS. But Kaposi’s sarcoma and AIDS related tumors have drastically fallen with the advent of effective anti-AIDS agents and the use of condoms and public health surveillance.
The real infectious cancer killers now are papillomavirus and Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B can produce about 100 billion new viral particles in a day. Billions can exist in a single cubic centimeter of blood. At least 300 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B. That more of them don’t die is a tribute to human immunity—it’s ability to beat down an extraordinary variety of viruses that live within us—and can mutate within hours.
How do people get papillomavirus? Sex. How do people get hepatitis B? Sex and blood. Hepatitis C? In this country, mainly through blood and transfusions.
But there are effective vaccines for both papillomavirus and hepatitis B.
Vaccines and Health
Worries brought on by absolutely falsified science—including the nonsense propagated that standard childhood vaccines cause autism—has convinced many people not to have themselves or their offspring vaccinated. Sometimes they “protect” their children by avoiding vaccines through the legal means of religious exemption—which some indeed do for religious reasons, with others using it as an excuse. Othertimes they refuse vaccination because such vaccines contain mercury based thimerosal or other “noxious products”—many of which are no longer in vaccines.
The truth is more complicated. They are really hurting themselves and their communities.
Humans have survived through herd immunity. If enough of us have an effective immune response to an infectious agent, the rest of us don’t get it. The epidemic dies out—or never starts. Vaccines work because whole societies get vaccinated.
What happens to your friends and neighbors eventually affects you. That fact is true whether you’re developing community immunity to whooping cough or trying to clear pollutants and drugs from food and the air.
Countries with “universal health service” have little trouble setting up cheap, effective measures public health measures—like vaccinations—that save many lives and many dollars. It’s cost effective—and good business for everyone.
America is the only developed country lacking universal health care—one reason why we have to personally get ourselves as healthy as we can, as our health care “system” fails before our eyes.
What To Do
To avoid infectious cancers for yourself, think of these simple measures:
- Get vaccinated. There are specific age guidelines form papillomavirus; vaccination for hepatitis B makes a great deal of sense for many people.
- Whenever there is any question of infectious agents present, always use condoms when having sex. Getting AIDS is one thing; getting cervical cancer, hepatitis B and liver cancer another. All can occur through sexual contact. The long and ugly list of sexually transmitted diseases should be taught in every high school.
- Get as healthy as you can in natural ways. Eat whole foods; walk when possible; socialize with people you care about. The healthier you are, the better your chance of fighting infections and tumors that might harm or kill you—or the people you love.
Dr. Matthew Edlund, M.D., M.O.H., is an internationally recognized expert on rest, sleep, and body clocks. His books include The Body Clock Advantage, Designed to Last, and Psychological Time and Mental Illness. His new book, The Power of Rest, shows that rest is a skill that rebuilds, renews, and rewires mind and body, and can increase productivity, health, and pleasure. For more information, visit his website, TheRestDoctor.com. You can also subscribe to his new Fitcast via the iTunes Store.