HAVANA TIMES — In 2012, cancer was reported to be among the main causes of death in Cuba, after several years of a less disquieting trend. It is frightening to think that one out of four Cubans currently die of this condition. The World Health Organization claims we are one of the most severely affected countries in Latin America.
Something is obviously changing in our day to day lives, something which leads to a growing exposure to carcinogenic substances, radiation and other risk factors. What is it? Can we be confident the country’s health authorities are looking into the root causes and approaching the problem adequately? I did not have reasons to doubt that before coming across the recent declarations (1) offered the press by government officials and leading cancer specialists.
From my point of view, these technocrats and science bureaucrats (particularly Dr. Romero, head of the Independent Cancer Control Section) have consciously and systematically lied about the current state and causes of the “pandemic.” As we are dealing with a delicate issue, I will transcribe those statements that have been less than truthful:
- “Cancer became one of the chief causes of death in Cuba at the close of last year, because good work was done in terms of controlling risk factors connected to cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, the consumption of salt and others.”
- “That cancer should be the first cause of death in the country poses a problem to public health and public happiness, because health is general wellbeing. But that does not mean the trend cannot be controlled. In fact, it has already begun to show a negative (thought subtle) tendency – negative 0.04 growth rate – and this trend has recently become systematized.”
- “[Death due to cancer] has experienced slight, though not always sustained, decreases (in 2011, for instance).
Let us have a closer look at each of these fallacies:
First: Cancer is the first cause of death in Cuba not because the total number of deaths caused by this condition has increased but because the number of deaths caused by cardiovascular pathologies has decreased.
False. The fact cancer has become the chief cause of death isn’t ONLY because the number of deaths caused by cardiovascular conditions has decreased (which is true), but also because the number of deaths caused by malign neoplasias has gone up. If anyone has any doubts about this, have a look at the graphs.
Second: cancer is under control.
False. In view of the above, it is evident that the “epidemic”, responsible for 25 percent of all deaths in Cuba, isn’t even remotely under control. In fact, it became worse after Dr. Romero affirmed just the opposite. It is clear that the actions undertaken to reduce its incidence have not yielded results.
Third: Cancer has begun to show a negative tendency and has evinced a slight decrease in incidence.
False. Only in one year (2011) did the number of deaths decrease. This isolated trend is not enough to affirm a DECREASING TREND or to speak of slight decreases, in the plural. From 2011 to date, cancer has struck back with particular brutality.
At this point, it would be worthwhile to ask ourselves why these public officials and high-ranking specialists would risk lying to the public about such delicate issues.
A clue as to why they did so can be found in the first paragraphs of the interview offered by Dr. Romero to the on-line news page OnCuba:
“Cancer has been a hot topic in Cuba this year. In the last quarter, the country announced it had registered the drug Racotumomab (Vaxira), the second lung cancer vaccine produced in the country, the result of the work of the Molecular Immunology Center (CIM). Promising developments at Cuba’s Labiofam labs was reported with the announcement of a new medication which, in contrast to cytostatics, only attacks malignant cells (an anti-tumor peptide).
“(…) we heard reports that the said condition became the chief cause of death in our country, over and above cardiovascular conditions (…) This last piece of news could be cause for concern and lead to the belief that the incidence of the condition is growing. In this sense, it appears contradictory to link it to the other two announcements, which are irrefutably positive.”
Could it be that commercial interests and reasons of State have “invited” specialists to lie? Could it be they seek to hide the scant or non-existent effectiveness of the medication Cuba has recently placed on the international market with a great song and dance? I call on anyone competent to reply to rectify the official information immediately, to abandon all false optimism and to fully revise the perspective from which the fight against this condition has been approached. Failing to do so would be almost criminal.
I believe we should place far more emphasis on and devote more resources to prevention than to the development of sophisticated biotechnological products.
In my next post, I will continue analyzing the dangerous lies and half-truths told by high Cuban officials in connection with the causes of cancer in the country.
Note 1: The statements made by Teresa Romero and others can be read here:
· Cáncer, la primera causa de muerte en Cuba (Xinhua 16/5/2013).
· Cáncer, primera causa de muerte en Cuba (Prensa Latina 21/5/2013).
· Cambia el cáncer en Cuba (OnCuba 21/8/2013).
· Combate contra el cáncer en Cuba (Cubadebate 17/6/ 2014).
· El combate contra el cáncer (resumen de la Mesa Redonda efectuada el 18/6/2014).
Note 2: The data was obtained from the Annual Health Statistics Report, a yearly, official report available at www.sld.cu/sitios/dne/
Note 3: The US commercial embargo on Cuba makes the purchase of medication and supplies used in the treatment and diagnosis of malign neoplasias more difficult. In this sense, it is an obstacle to the enormous effort that is indeed being made in the country to prevent and combat the condition.