8 Ways How Violence and Cancer Are Similar Public Health Issues

Recently on an airplane, I shared an interesting conversation with a superintendent for one of the public school districts in Montana about the Parkland shooting. That conversation, and my participation in last weekend’s March For Our Lives, got me to thinking about how similar the problems of Cancer and of Violence really are. Here are some thought-provoking parallels…


1. Both are unfortunate epidemics affecting our society today, which have been insidiously growing for decades, and associated with horrific statistics:

  • Violence:  Since 2013 there has been an average of one school shooting a week in the U.S. ?
  • Cancer:  In 2015, the American Cancer Society published a study that found that one in two Americans develop cancer in their lifetime. The same year, the British Journal of Cancer published a study that found similar statistics: more than half of all people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. ?


2. Both have proposed remedies that endanger the innocent:

  • Violence:  A conceal and carry program could stop a mass shooter, but also could harm innocent children and adults present at the scene.
  • Cancer:  Conventional chemotherapy kills cancer cells but also harms normal cells in the body, such as hair follicles (leading to temporary hair loss), blood cells (leading to anemia, susceptibility to infections, and/or risk for bleeding), and the cells lining the gut (leading to nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea).


3. While specialized programs might be more effective…

  • Violence:  Persons (not teachers!) with special defensive and crowd management training may be able to add more security to schools, and
  • Cancer:  Targeted cancer therapies lead to better outcomes for certain tumors with fewer side effects (kind of like “smart bombs”), but


…Both are expensive to implement, and are really just bandaids to a larger underlying problem.


4. Prevention programs would be far more impactful:

  • Violence:  Non-profits led by parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine victims have programs that identify troubled children before they become violent. These programs are inexpensive and are already successfully preventing both homicides and suicides on the local level.
  • Cancer:  There are ways to determine our individual cancer risk and catch “troubled” precancerous cells early. Also, healthy lifestyle practices are inexpensive and effectively decrease cancer risk. (See note below on this!*)


5. Both are complex and multifactorial in etiology (ie. there are lots of causes), and the most effective approach must address all possible pathways at the same time:

  • For Violence, this should be both early detection and prevention via behavioral health awareness and intervention, in combination with increased security and defense both at schools and in the surrounding community.
  • For Cancer, this should be risk awareness and risk-based screening and prevention (more about this below too), as well as continued therapeutic advances that eliminate cancer cells both by direct targeted kill and by strengthening the host (the newest frontier in cancer therapy is immuno-oncology, treatments that enhance the our own immune defenses to rid itself of cancer cells!). ?


...Believing that only one approach will take care of all violent or cancer events is naive, and focusing only on one strategy to the exclusion of others can hold up progress.


6. Labeling and simply getting angry is not helpful; compassionate action is necessary:

  • Violence:  Calling a troubled child a “sicko” does not acknowledge the fact that no child is born that way. Why not foster the potential in every child and support them through their troubles, before they turn to violence? And if they slip through the cracks, immediately take any tools of violence away from them while simultaneously initiating crisis intervention?
  • All Cancer cells start out normal, until cumulative insults (environmental or genetic) lead to a transformed cell that no longer functions properly and grows uncontrollably. Why not support our healthy cells before they become sick? And immediately intervene if they “fall through the cracks” and become malignant, but before they metastasize (spread beyond their site of origin)?


7. Adversity leads to opportunity, if we choose to look at the problem differently:

  • Violence:  Rather than anti-violence, we could choose to be pro- Love, Connection, and Tolerance. ?
  • Cancer:  Rather than “fighting” cancer, we could choose to Elevate Health! We can focus on wellness, instead of illness; ease, instead of dis-ease. ?


8. We are all responsible:

  • On Being Pro-Love, Connection, and Tolerance:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

           ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • On Elevating Health:

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits, and their habits decide their futures.”*

           ~ F. Matthias Alexander


What are your thoughts about these topics?? Please share them by sending us a message.


To learn about Your Personal Cancer Risk and what you can do to minimize it, please take our FREE Cancer Risk Self-Assessment.


To Your Health,

Dr. Mel

*Note: If you could use support in developing or maintaining healthy habits, let us know! Learn more HERE.


March 25, 2018 – March For Our Lives, Los Angeles


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