When Is the Fear of Cancer Worse than Cancer Itself?

When it comes to cancer, there may be more to fear than fear itself, but our negative emotions do have an adverse impact on our health, says risk analyst David Ropeik. 

What's the Latest Development?


According to a recent Harris poll, cancer is the most feared disease in America. That fear is reflected in our health policy, which allocates twice as much funding to cancer research as it does to heart disease, even though heart disease kills more people annually. And fear itself can have dire health consequences, whether it means patients submit to unnecessary treatments (for the sake of ridding their body of non-life-threatening cancers), or live under the stress created by fear which can contribute to the spread of their cancer. For this reason, some doctors have recommended that slow-growing prostate cancer no longer be labeled as a cancer. 

What's the Big Idea?

David Ropeik, an instructor in the Environmental Management Program of the Harvard Extension School, says our national fear of cancer has been, in part, historically determined. During the 50s and 60s, cancer came to occupy a central position in the public's consciousness. That time period also coincided with the Cold War, and as the fear of a nuclear strike was due in part to the cancer-causing radiation of an atomic blast, the fear of cancer took on over-sized proportions. While Ropeik acknowledges that emotions influence our health decisions, he urges patients to consider the real risks of a given disease. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less