Bad luck

A story out this morning reports on a study attributing many cases of cancer to plain old bad luck:

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, oftentimes there’s not a definitive, preventable cause of cancer. Our attention in much cancer research has been on isolating specific lifestyle factors like smoking or weight gain, and then educating the public on how to avoid these triggers. But it’s nearly impossible to predict and address random mutations that affect people and predispose them to certain kinds of cancer.

When I read this report, I immediately thought about Robert Crawford’s article from the 1970s on “healthism,” an ideology that privileges the healthy and blames those who fall ill for neglecting to care for themselves and becoming a burden on society. Crawford denounces this particular “ism,” arguing that such attitudes focus too narrowly on the individual body while ignoring the whole of society. It’s convenient to point the finger at smokers, for instance, without considering the lack of regulation or cultural influences that led these smokers to pick up the habit in the first place.

I wonder what Crawford would say about the random stroke of luck, good or bad, suggested in this recent study.


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