A recent hilarious article in The New Yorker teased how scientists are usually going back and forth on their word, whether a certain thing is carcinogenic or not. But jokes aside, there is plenty of truth to the satire. A quick search on the net will reveal that tea is responsible for giving you cancer while, at the same time, being responsible for curing your cancer too. Cancer research has many complications and one of them happens to be the fact that it is among the vanguards of science.
The frontiers of science mark the boundary of unknown for all of us. Therefore, whenever we come up with hypothesis for a possible explanation, most of them will fall short. Even the premises that do pass the test of time are usually incomplete and are somehow modified later on.
Therefore, when a scientist says that something causes cancer, it is a venture into the unknown, other scientists are perfectly ‘OK’ with it. Why? Because that’s how science works, they make hypothesis and then test them, if the hypothesis stands then it is valued, but that does not mean that it can bear the burden of all possible future scrutiny. The moment scientists find evidence to the contrary, they discard their initial hypothesis.
All the same, cancer research appears to have exceptionally high rates of retraction in the media. But then again, that’s only because cancer news sells. Every time a hypothesis gets postulated or disproved, it gets coverage. People simply don’t show equal amounts of interest in other advancing sciences, for example the alkaline hydrothermal vent theory vs the probiotic soup theory; even though the latter two tackle with the beginning of life as compared to cancer, which deals with its demise.