What if there was a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language? What if millions of people visited this website each week? What if the dedicated fans asked the comic creator the strangest questions and he applied his skills as a former NASA roboticist to deeply research the answers? And what if a book was created from the most popular answers with new material added for good measure?
What if the book were here already? Well, it is! We have the very popular science book What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe based on questions submitted to his xkcd.com website. We can read it cover to cover or we can look at one question at a time and we can do that in a random order.
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in Canada, and, after lung cancer, is the second most common cause of cancer-related death. I found some recent genomics news particularly interesting as it revealed significant developments in colon cancer research.
Links to related articles of interest bookmarked on diigo.
I found it somewhat ironic when I read a National Post article titled “Rare flesh-eating bacteria invades Florida beaches and kills two people. Swimming puts you at risk”. Since this headline came just a day after headlines revealing that two teenage swimmers lost limbs to sharks in waters off the eastern coast of the United States, I tweeted “Not just sharks, rare flesh-eating bacteria kill two Florida swimmers” with a link to the article. Within about 3 minutes I had a reply to the tweet from the Florida Health Department telling me that “#VibrioVulnificus is not a flesh-eating bacteria. For accurate information, please visit:” and they linked to their website.
If you were to spread bacteria onto a nutrient agar plate, in a short period of time the bacteria would grow to cover the entire plate surface. The only limiting factor would be the edge of the plate. Imagine if the plate were the size of a football field, would the bacteria still cover the entire surface? If you started with only one type of bacterial cell, all of the cells covering the plate would be the same. Now consider the growth of our own cells. For example, how do our liver cells know when to grow and when to stop? The liver cells receive go and stop signals from neighboring cells and when this process goes wrong, cells can grow uncontrolled resulting in cancer. Our current model of cancer is somewhat more complex than that.
The Canadian Cancer Society in a press release this week stated that over the next 15 years we can expect a 40% increase in the number of cancer cases. They were very clear in their second paragraph that: “Tremendous progress has already been made in the fight against cancer, including big gains in survival rates. But Canada’s rapidly aging population – 1 in 4 Canadians will be 65 or older by 2030 – could push the country beyond its current capacity to provide adequate care for cancer patients.” There is no increased cancer risk to the individual. Suggestions were made to change lifestyle and environmental exposure; that is not something new. The fact that Canadians are an aging population and that the risk of cancer increases with age is not new news either. The message seems to be that we as a society need to get ready for the increased numbers of cancer patients in the coming years. I had already planned to write about the current model of cancer based on the FutureLearn MOOC that I participated in. Prior to presenting the model, I want to look at a brief history of cancer.