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Are non-communicable diseases communicable?

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#1    pantodragon


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Posted 25 March 2013 - 05:24 PM

Are non-communicable diseases communicable?

Conditions such as heart disease, cancers etc are considered by the medical profession to be Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).  This is highly questionable.

Consider the communicable disease smallpox.  When the Conquistadors arrived in the Americas in the 15th/16th centuries, they took with them diseases like smallpox.  The native peoples had not developed immunity to smallpox and dropped like flies when exposed to infection.

As to NCDs, it is a well known phenomenon that when so-called “primitive” peoples adopt the lifestyle of people in the developed world, they fall prey to the diseases which afflict the adopted culture.

So, for example, I have just been hearing how the people of Papua New Guinea (PNG), having largely abandoned their “primitive” way of life in favour of a society like our own, are consequently falling prey to a host of new diseases: the NCDs which afflict us in the developed world.  So cancer is now rife, heart disease is now rife, as are many of the other nasties that afflict us.  Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like the smallpox example above?  Yet how can this be?  Cancer and heart disease are NCDs, yet they are behaving as if they are communicable?

The above observation begs the following question: might there not be OTHER channels through which diseases are communicated?

For example, when looking at the demographics of disease and seeing changes such as in Papua New Guinea, it may be more relevant to consider what is happening to the immune system.

When the people of PNG adopted a Western lifestyle, then it came at the cost of a degraded immune system.  For example, at the very simplest of levels, it is a well known fact that stress (a Western lifestyle is extremely stressful, as is adapting to a new culture etc) degrades the immune system.  Cancer is an NCD which is linked to high levels of stress.

So while one cannot “catch” cancer or heart disease by physical contact with people, one can “catch” these diseases by adopting the lifestyle of a culture in which they are prevalent.

Another suggestion: just because NCDs are not apparent in an area (such as Papua New Guinea in the early 60s) doesn’t mean that they are not there.  It could equally mean that the local population had immunity.  Another possibility, therefore, is that diseases such as cancer and heart disease are there in all people, but held in check by the immune system.  If the immune system is degraded, then the body cannot cure cancer and heart disease, and so the incidence of NCDs rises in such an area.

So,are non-communicable diseases communicable?

#2    Ashotep



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Posted 25 March 2013 - 05:35 PM

I don't think so, I think its more their diet and lifestyle has changed.  However the Tasmanian devil has a face cancer that is spread between animals so who knows.  Diseases do change and evolve.

#3    Child of Bast

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 07:22 PM

So you're changing the definition of communicable?

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness. ~ Aristotle

#4    ealdwita


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Posted 25 March 2013 - 08:35 PM

 Lady Kasey, on 25 March 2013 - 07:22 PM, said:

So you're changing the definition of communicable?

Save your breath, Kasey!

"Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel, ac gecnáwan þín gefá!": "Fate goes ever as she shall, but know thine enemy!".
I can teach you with a quip, if I've a mind; I can trick you into learning with a laugh; Oh, winnow all my folly and you'll find, A grain or two of truth among the chaff!
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