New Internationalist

Ten Ways To Get Cancer

August 1989

This feature was published in the August 1989 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

TEN WAYS TO GET CANCER

If you are really determined to get cancer here's how you can increase your chances.

1. Catch some rays

Woman in bikini sunbathing to get cancer

If you are fair-skinned, spend lots of time in the sun and by all means avoid using any sun block lotion. If you live in a rainy or cold climate take lots of vacations in tropical sunspots. And make sure you spend all your time on the beach.

2. Smoke till you choke

Person smoking cancer-inducing ciggarettes and wearing a leather jacket

Don't listen to the wimps who tell you not to smoke. Tell them that 'everything causes cancer' and we all die sooner or later anyway. Low-tar cigarettes or filters will protect you. Gutsy people who live life to the full are smokers. Smoking has the added benefit of exposing friends and family to lung damage.

If you live in the Third World you'll want to disassociate yourself from boring traditional culture. The easiest way of appearing modern and 'with it' is to have a cigarette dangling from your lips.

3. Junk food

Woman eating carcinogenic junk food

Try to avoid eating fresh fruit and vegetables (especially organically-grown ones) and stick to a fatty diet: lots of meat and dairy products like butter, cheese and cream. It is especially important not to eat yellow vegetables - like carrots, squash and yams. And make sure you avoid vegetables such as brussels sprouts and cabbages. These trouble-makers are known to spoil the development of an otherwise good cancer-causing diet. Try to eat as much smoked or salted food as possible and don't spare the nitrites. Salami, smoked meat and hot dogs should be regular fare. Also avoid too much vitamin C and other vitamins.

4. Friendly neighbours

Woman digging allotment next to industrial cancer scape

See if you can find a house near a nuclear weapons factory or at least near a petro-chemical complex like that in the 'cancer alley' section of Louisiana. Better still, see if you can find a place to live near an open-pit asbestos mine. If some activist tries to organize the community against local factories tell them pollution is not a problem, and the country's prosperity depends on business being given a free hand.

5. Toil and trouble

Man carrying a big pile of tires

Get a job that exposes you to a regular dose of strong chemicals. Working in a tire factory or near a coke oven would do. But you could also pump gas, install asbestos insulation, pick fruit sprayed with pesticide or make plastics from vinyl chloride. If your boss provides safety equipment, don't use it. Avoid meetings of the union health and safety committee. You have better things to do with your time.

6. Trust the system

Woman sitting on bed taking the pill (which may cause cancer) with child in background

What you don't see can't hurt you. Maybe meat is pumped full of hormones - and they say the oestrogen in those birth control pills increases the risk of uterine cancer. So what? They wouldn't sell such things if they were really dangerous.

And if there were the likelihood of naturally-occurring radon gas building up in the cellar, people would have told you about it. You shouldn't bother to check it out yourself.

7. Chewing power

Some houses Indian man with female health visitor in the background

If you live in India or Sri Lanka make sure you ignore the district health worker who tells your fellow villagers about the dangers of chewing tobacco and betel nut. There are lots of diseases around that people weakened from malnutrition are dying from every day. Life is difficult enough without giving up a pleasure that is cheap and easily available.

8. Zap the pests

Farmer spraying carcinogenic pesticides onto some crops

If you are a farmer, make sure to drench your fields with pesticides and herbicides. Cancer risks are a small price to pay for the most up-to-date approach to agriculture. Biological forms of pest control seem old-fashioned and much more labour-intensive. In the Third World it is best to use the kinds of pesticides (i.e. DDT or Parathion) that have been banned in some Western countries as these are cheaper and really do the job. This way both workers and consumers can be exposed to risk by the food you grow.

9. Showcase medicine

Evil businessman with a scientist in the background

If you live in the Third World and you are rich then you should support politicians and experts who want the latest medical technology from the West for the big new hospital in the capital. Then you and the occasional Western tourist who falls ill will be able to get the most modern health-care. You should avoid spending money on a regular cancer screening program for poor women. This will ensure that those who suffer three-quarters of the world's cervical cancers continue to do so.

10. Ignore the signs

Woman in sunglasses walking away from a sign pointing towards a clinic

Avoid regular medical check-ups. If a mole has begun to change shape or there is persistent swelling and soreness in your breast, ignore it. Put it down to the aches and pains of getting older. Don't bother with cervical smear tests, and don't pay any attention to unexplained growths and changes in your body. And above all don't take responsibility for your own health; it is up to the medical profession to fix your body if it goes wrong.

Illustrations: Clive Offley

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