A cure for cancer is something of a holy grail in medicine, and many people would have you believe that we’ve already found it, but it’s existence is being hidden and suppressed by greedy companies who only care about profit. These people are, however, wrong, and a cure for cancer is just as mythical as the holy grail itself. Indeed, as I will explain, this conspiracy theory fails at every level. It has no supporting evidence, it is entirely an assumption, and it makes no sense scientifically, logically, or economically.
A single cure is scientifically implausible
First, it is absolutely crucial to realize the cancer is not a single disease. Rather, there are many different types of cancer, each of which behaves differently, and each of which will require a unique treatment/cure. Once you actually understand what cancer is and how it behaves, it quickly becomes clear that the very notion of a single cure for cancer is absurd. It is highly unlikely that there will ever be a single solution to all cancers. Rather, there will be different solutions for the different types of cancer. So, right off the bat, we can see that this conspiracy theory is bunk, because it completely ignores the complexity of cancer and proposes the existence of an implausible solution.
Why wouldn’t a cure be profitable?
This conspiracy theory postulates that companies are hiding a cure for cancer because a cure isn’t profitable. That premise has, however, never made the slightest bit of sense to me. How on earth would a cure not be immensely profitable? Purveyors of “natural remedies” already make a fortune off of “cures” that don’t even work, so why wouldn’t pharmaceutical companies be able to profit from an actual cure?
Some people try to counter this by claiming that companies make more from treating cancer than they would from curing it, but couldn’t a company simply charge the same amount for a cure that they currently charge for a full course of treatment? This argument seems to assume that cures would be sold for reasonable prices, but given that pharmaceutical companies have a long history of charging exorbitant prices for products that are relatively cheap for them to make, that assumption is clearly ridiculous. Further, never forget that there are multiple pharmaceutical companies that compete with each other. So, if one of them came out with a cure, they would have a monopoly on the market. How could that possibly be anything other than immensely profitable? Additionally, even beyond the direct profits from the monopoly on the cure, just think about how much good publicity that company would get, and think about investors. Who wouldn’t want to invest in a company that just announced a cure for cancer?
At this point, I usually find that people invoke planned obsolescence and the concept that a cure would be such a great product, that it would quickly put the company out of business. The idea of planned obsolescence is basically this, if you make a product that is really good and lasts forever, you’ll quickly saturate the market and have no one left to sell to. If, for example, you make a microwave that lasts forever, then once everyone has one, you have no one left to sell to. Thus, some companies design their products to eventually fail, that way there are always people who need the product.
I don’t deny that planned obsolescence is a real thing that companies do, but it has absolutely no bearing on the topic of cancer cures, because there will always be new cases of cancer. In other words, this isn’t a situation where once you’ve cured everyone’s cancer, there will never be more cases of cancer. Rather, there will always be new cancer cases. Indeed, over 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer annually in the US alone. Worldwide, that number is closer to 15 million. That’s a pretty steady income stream if you have a cure. Further, having a cure gives you repeat customers, not only for cancer, but also for countless other medicines that pharmaceutical companies produce. After all, who are you going to sell Viagra to if everyone is dying of cancer before they need it?
Cures and preventions already exist for many conditions
The next critical flaw in this conspiracy theory is the fact that many cures already exist for various conditions. Take antibiotics, for example. According to the argument that a treatment is worth more than a cure, a prolonged hospital stay from an out-of-control infection is surely worth more to pharmaceutical companies than a simple course of antibiotics, so why do they sell antibiotics? Similarly, the HPV vaccine actually prevents some types of cancer and costs only a tiny fraction of the cost of treating cancer! So if this conspiracy was true, then why on earth do pharmaceutical companies produce that vaccine?
Why do companies invest in cancer research?
In my opinion, this is one of the best pieces of evidence against this conspiracy. Pharmaceutical companies invest billions of dollars in studying cancer. Why would they do that if they already have a cure that they have no intention of ever using? How is it profitable to spend billions of dollars looking for something that you already have and will never use?
I’ve yet to have someone give me a reasonable answer to this, but I want to briefly talk about a response that I’ve heard that always amuses me. This response suggests that companies do this to keep their competitors from getting the cure, but if you think about that for five seconds, an obvious problem emerges. Keeping your competitor from having the cure only makes sense if your competitor can profit from it, so if they can profit from it, why can’t you? In other words, this response acknowledges that a cure would actually be profitable.
There are lots of independent scientists studying cancer
I don’t understand why conspiracy theorists never seem to realize that there are thousands of independent scientists who aren’t beholden to companies and who have absolutely no reason not to go public with a discovery like a cure for cancer. Do these people know about the cure? If so, why aren’t they telling anyone? Further, if the cure is as simple and obvious as most proponents of this conspiracy theory seem to think, then if these scientists don’t know of the existence of the cure, why haven’t they discovered it themselves?
Cancer affects everyone
Nearly 40% of people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and almost everyone has lost a friend or relative to cancer. This is important, because it means that everyone involved in this conspiracy would not only have to be willing to let millions of people die annually from cancer, but they would also have to be willing to let their loved ones or even themselves die rather than letting the cure become public knowledge. That’s not likely. It’s easy to forget that big corporations are run by people, and they may be greedy, but when their spouse, child, etc. is dying of cancer, they are going to want that cure just as badly as anyone else, and they’d pay anything for it. Further, keep in mind that if a cure existed, tons of people would know about it. An entire research team consisting of numerous scientists, lab techs, interns, etc. would be aware of it. Countless people involved in budgeting and finances would be aware of it, numerous CEOs would know about it, etc. All it takes is for one of them to grow a conscience and the whole thing is shot. Yes, there would be consequences for breaching a contract, but history is full of people who sacrificed far more for far less than a cure for cancer.
Fortune and glory
Another thing that people often overlook is that fact that if a team of scientists found a true cure for cancer, they would win immeasurable fortune and glory. A cure for cancer is a guaranteed Nobel prize. It would give you a spot on any talk show you wanted to be a guest on, multiple book deals, your face on the cover of Time Magazine, etc. Further, beyond the public fame, you would be known professionally as one of the best in your field, and every university in the world would be begging for you to give guest lectures, be the head of a department, etc. Indeed, you would go down in medical history alongside the greats like Jonas Salk and Louis Pasteur. Your name would be taught to elementary school children for generations to come. Who in their right mind would turn that down? No scientist would sit on a discovery like that.
Now, you may try to counter this by saying that these scientists are under contractual obligation with the companies not to make their results public. I would respond to that by directing you to the previous sections on independent scientists and the fact that cancer affects everyone. Further, given the immense rewards for this discovery, I have a hard time accepting that most scientists wouldn’t be willing to face the consequences of breaching their contract.
Cancer treatments have been improving
In addition to everything else I’ve said, I want to point out that all of those billions of dollars we’ve spent on cancer research haven’t been wasted. Our knowledge of cancer and our ability to treat it has increased greatly. Indeed, over the past 30 years, the survival rate for cancer has increased 20–23% (depending on which ethnic group we are talking about)! That’s a huge increase. It has been particularly pronounced for certain cancers like lymphocytic leukemia, for which the survival rate went from 41% to 70%. Similarly, chronic myeloid leukemia went from a 31% survival rate to a 63% survival rate. Why are the survival rates for cancer going up? Because scientists are doing real research, and companies are marketing the results of that research. Also, let’s be clear here that many of these people were cured of their cancer. Most of them aren’t receiving life-long treatments. In other words, we already cure many cases of cancer. So if Big Pharma had no interest in curing people, then why are the rates of cancer survival going up? (stats are from the American Cancer Society’s 2016 Cancer Statistics report)
Look, science is a slow, steady process of accumulating knowledge, and the idea that it is even possible to suddenly find a magical cure for all cancer is naïve and childish. It completely ignores the incredible complexity of cancer. Remember, there are lots of different types of cancer, each of which has to be treated differently. Further, cancer is more challenging than many diseases because we have to fight our own cells. Making a cure for something like a bacterial infection is comparatively simple, because bacterial cells are chemically quite different from our cells, so we just need a drug that targets bacterial chemistry, but doesn’t interact with our cells. Cancer is more complicated because the differences between a cancer cell and a healthy cell are far more subtle. Healthy cells and cancerous cells share the vast majority of their chemistry. So figuring out a way to target cancer cells without affecting healthy cells is extraordinarily difficult. As a result, scientists have never expected to find a single simple solution. No one writes a grant application that says, “I’m going to cure cancer.” Rather, we chip away at the puzzle one little piece at a time, with each piece of evidence building on the last. We gradually accumulate knowledge and improved treatments. That is how research actually works, and that is what has been taking place.
There’s no evidence of a conspiracy
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is absolutely no evidence that a cure exists and is being hidden, and you have to have that evidence before you can claim otherwise. In other words, even if everything that I had said thus far was incorrect, even if a single cure for cancer was scientifically plausible, and even if it really wouldn’t be worth butt-loads of money, and even if scientists would be willing to pass up a Nobel Prize, and even if companies weren’t already making cures for various conditions, and even if companies were willing to waste billions on irrelevant research, and even if every single person involved with cancer research was a greedy SOB, that still wouldn’t make it rational to conclude that a cure exists. In other words, even if you came up with a compelling argument that demonstrated that a cure would be suppressed if it was ever found, that wouldn’t automatically mean that one has been found. This entire conspiracy is 100% an assumption. It is a belief that is based on people’s gut feelings, rather than evidence. It is no different than believing in alien abductions, Big Foot, or the Loch Ness Monster, and just like all of those things, it is a belief that is not rational unless you can provide compelling evidence that the object of your belief is real. You have to have evidence. That is how the burden of proof works.
- If cannabis and vitamin B17 kill cancer, why aren’t they approved by the FDA? Let me explain
- Don’t mistake an assumption for a fact
- The Rules of Logic Part 5: Occam’s Razor and the Burden of Proof
Suggested further reading
- The Credible Hulk: 10 Reasons Why Hidden Cancer Cure Conspiracy Theories Fail
- Skeptical Raptor: Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us?