A cure for cancer?

The internet has the power to get to lots of people very easily, hence the proliferation of spam and the like.  What if this ability to reach so many was put to good use?

If the NHS, or maybe a reputable cancer research body, sent me an anonymous questionnaire all about my life (or allowed me to access one online), then I’d be willing to fill it in, so long as I knew it would be going to the right people and used for the right reasons.  I’m thinking of quite possibly the most detailed and longest questionnaire ever.  From demographic profile to drinking behaviour, drug use, smoking history, diet (down to specific food-stuffs – do you like grapefruit, how often do you eat it), exercise patterns, work environment, home environment (proximity to traffic, power lines etc.).  All of this would cover both current behaviour and that earlier in life.

At the end (or beginning) of the questionnaire, you would then be asked about illnesses you have suffered, are suffering etc.  You could even have the option for people to update their anonymous questionnaire as they progressed through life, were struck by illness etc.

The rationale behind this is the fact that people keep linking certain food-stuffs and behaviours to diseases – farmed salmon and microwaved coffee both cause cancer, so I heard this week.  If there was a huge, reliable database containing very detailed information about people’s behaviours, then not only could such claims be validated, but more informed causes of major diseases could be made.  Cross-tabulations and regression analyses would take some doing, as the aim would be to have a very wide dataset, but computing power could deal with this.  At the moment, I assume that the only data available to researchers is test data (based on small samples of people) and data from sufferers of the disease (knowing that these people eat white bread does not prove anything, as you don’t know whether non-sufferers eat white bread too).

Thoughts would be welcomed, but I genuinely believe that this would be a useful exercise, and one that would be relatively cheap to realise.


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