Lives of the Cells: George Johnson’s ‘Cancer Chronicles’

“George Johnson’s ‘Cancer Chronicles.’” By David Quammen, The New York Times.

Cancer would seem a dreary, frightful topic if it weren’t also such a universal one. In this era of longer human life spans, it’s almost as inevitable as death and ­taxes. Most of us will experience some form of cancer — if not in our own bodies then at close remove, through the suffering of loved ones — and therefore none of us can afford to ignore it. Knowledge is better than ignorant dread, and good writing based on keen reporting is far better than medical jargon, garbled hearsay or misinformation from the Web. That’s just one reason for reading George Johnson’s graceful book, “The Cancer Chronicles.” Another is that the biological details of just what cancer is and how it occurs are (forgive me for saying so) fascinating. And not just fascinating but also, as handled by Johnson, revealing of certain deep truths about life itself. More »

Summary from the BCC Bookshelf

coverThe Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery by George Johnson (Knopf, 2013) – When his wife was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. He takes readers through the history and recent advances in cancer research, illuminates decades of investigation and analysis and, revealing what we now know and don’t know about cancer, shows why “cure” remains a slippery concept. Johnson reviews epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments, scientific hypotheses, and highlights reversals in scientific understandings. What he discovered is an explosion of new ideas about what cancer is and where it comes from, including how cancer borrows natural processes and turns them against the body. Health Care–Medicine

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