Compare and Contrast the Social Causes (I.E. the Structural Underpinnings) of Cancer and Flu.

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  • Topic: Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza vaccine
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Compare and contrast the social causes (i.e. the structural underpinnings) of cancer and flu.

In essence cancer and flu are different types of disease that are threatening billions of people’s health each year. The former is more of a lifestyle disease in which it can be accounted for by largely environmental factors, whereas the latter is an infectious disease that is highly contagious.

Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. It is harmful to one’s body when abnormal cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or tumors. In worse case, cancerous cells destroy healthy tissues and invade other cells. Although one’s susceptibility of getting cancer may depend on genetic component of the body, evidence of researches have shown that cancer is due to an estimated 80% environmental factor. In other words, the causes of cancer are largely environmental (including lifestyle, diet and work). (Benigni, R., 2007) There are more than 100 types of different cancers, each having their own specific etiology and treatment methods. To better cure cancer is by early diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment therapies.

Flu, also known as influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. It is characterized by sudden onset and symptoms of sore throat, dry cough, headache, often-runny nose and generalized pain in muscles and joints. Most influenza viruses occur naturally in birds, particularly the aquatic waterfowl, and swine. Only a few types of influenza virus have circulated widely in humans. (Bartlett, J.G. & Hayden, F.G., 2005) Bird flu, for example, refers to both the influenza in birds and the mutated avian viruses that can infect humans.

There are three influenza causative agents: influenza A, B and C. Among these, influenza A is the cause of most cases during and between pandemics. It is categorized into many subtypes based on the 2 major surface glycoproteins, the hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) proteins. Any shifts in these proteins will result in a new form of virus that confronts the population. (Bartlett, J.G. & Hayden, F.G., 2005) Thus vaccines have to be renewed constantly in order to cope with the fast-changing strain of virus.

The two seemingly unrelated disease, cancer and flu, to a certain extent could be explained by similar social factors.

Globalization has enhanced the speed and ease of spreading disease in recent decades. Attempts to contain disease within certain places became more challenging and worldwide circulation of disease is inevitable. As diseases began to strike different parts of the world, socioeconomic factors appear to play a major role in explaining and influencing health.

A lower socioeconomic status may increase one’s predisposition to cancer. According to most of the studies on the relationship between socioeconomic class and cancer that have been carried out in industrialized countries, the total incidence and mortality of cancer at all site is higher in the lower socioeconomic groups. (Tomatis, L., 1992)

People with lower socioeconomic status are usually put in a disadvantaged position. For example, in terms of use of chemicals, they are more likely to use chemicals of lower quality or even hazardous due to limited budget. Over 50 million pounds of pesticides that are either banned from use or unregistered or restricted in the United States (such as Chlordane, Mirex) were still shipped in 1990 from the United States, mainly to developing countries. (Tomatis, L., 1992) Also, less favoured socioeconomic groups are more likely to link with poorer living environment that are located nearer to polluting carcinogens-emitting factories. In recent years, hazardous industrial productions and ‘dirty’ industries have been moved from industrialized to developing countries. (Tomatis, L., 1992) People with lower socioeconomic class are inclined to work in these ‘dirty’ industries, thus exposing themselves to carcinogens on a...
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