Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Cancer is the term used by physicians and laymen to describe a common malignant disease of man and animal. It occurs in nearly as many different forms as there are types of tissue in the body. Each cancer type usually has its own biological behavior which may vary remarkably in different persons. In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death.' At the present time, more money is being spent for research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer than for any other single disease. There are sixteen medical journals publishing articles related solely to neoplastic disease and five publications which index and/or abstract cancer articles previously published in medical journals. Despite the amazing amount of information and knowledge that is being accumulated from this remarkable effort, it is not sufficient to allow successful control of more than a few forms of the disease. The student of law and the practicing attorney will find these journals, listed in the footnotes, invaluable for obtaining scientific information on cancer. One frequently hears that "if the cause for cancer could be found, the problem would be solved." This is a categorical statement and over simplifies the problem. There are now many known causes for cancer but no single common factor has been found for all types. If such a common factor is found, it may be nothing more than the inherited capacity for certain somatic cells of the body to undergo malignant transformation. The principal intrinsic factors now known to be important are inherited patterns of proven mendelian form, age, sex and hormonal influences.

This paper is not concerned with intrinsic factors but With the known extrinsic factors that are important in the development or aggravation of cancer. Trauma (extrinsic factor) is frequently claimed by patients with cancer as a contributing influence to the development or aggravation of the disease. It is the purpose of this article to discuss the scientific basis for such claims and review, generally, those known external influences believed to be pertinent to the comprehension and understanding of this problem.