Guardian Weekend readers’ letters on cancer as ‘the new normal’

Photo: Jon Soper

Letters from the Guardian weekend page on last week’s Siddhartha Mukherjee’s article on cancer as ‘the new normal’.

If cancer is “normal”, there is no justification for describing it in semi-fundamentalist terms (“strange stigmata”, “ghostly pains”, “the liquid that welled out of Carla’s veins”). How is any newly diagnosed person going to feel on reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s piece? I and my twin brother both had testicular cancer a few years ago and now live happy, healthy lives. I am happy to accept the evidence of a genetic susceptibility and that lifestyle can increase the risks, but why overdramatise? Many people get cancer, get treatment, then carry on with their lives.
Stephen Mattinson
Steyning, West Sussex

Rising cancer rates are not just down to an ageing population: a 2006 European study of cancer in children found it has been rising at 1.1% a year over two decades; and a 2007 study found that the average age of onset of prostate, breast and cervical cancer is decreasing. Our charity monitors the scientific literature for studies linking disease to exposure to pollution and chemicals, and hardly a day goes by without another coming to our attention. Consequently we do not accept cancer as “normal”.
Jamie Page
Chief executive, The Cancer Prevention & Education Society, London E14

The article was intelligent and measured, so why a cover depicting cancer as some kind of fashion choice? Watching my brother dying never felt “normal” to me. Life after his death does not feel “normal”, either.
Lucy Marcovitch
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

It would appear from your cover that being white is the new normal, too.
Craig Cheetham
Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Who while on chemotherapy (at the stage of hair loss) is well enough to go supermarket shopping? Who would want to risk exposing their weakened immune system to a potentially deadly infection in such a crowded place? How many people undergoing chemotherapy do you see with no head covering? This bad taste image must have been produced by a chain of people whose lives have fortunately not been touched by cancer. 
Dr Annette Hurst
Bollington, Cheshire

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