The Most Dreaded Disease.
For Americans in the 1950s, there was no diagnosis of illness more feared than cancer. Heart disease killed twice as many people annually, but it did not cause the pain or fear of malignant tumors. In 1958 Science Digest reported that there were 450,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed each year and that at any one time about seven hundred thousand cases of cancer were being treated in America. In 1958, according to Patterns of Disease, a publication by Parke, Davis, one woman in four under the age of thirty-five could expect to get cancer, and one in seven would die from it; one man in five under the age of fifty would be afflicted, and one in eight would die.
At the beginning of the 1950s some physicians considered cancer to be incurable, and many hospitals considered it their duty to guard their cancer patients from intrusions by researchers. Two groups...
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