Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hard Living Didn't Kill the Bambino

Turns out that Babe Ruth didn't die of throat cancer after all:

Everybody who knows anything about baseball history and the lore of the Yankees knows about the death of Babe Ruth and his bittersweet farewell to the Yankee faithful.

Stooped and frail, the Yankee legend came to the Bronx ballpark in 1948 wearing his pinstripe uniform to hear the cheer of the crowd one more time. He died two months later at age 53, reportedly of throat cancer, brought on in part by a fondness for tobacco and liquor.

But that's all wrong, says an Ossining dentist who spent a year researching the circumstances of Ruth's death.

Dr. William Maloney uncovered little-known information about the experimental treatment that the doomed baseball titan agreed to take part in, the way Ruth conducted himself during his final days and the rare form of cancer he actually died from, nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
According to Wikipedia -- upon which I base all of my medical information, treatment, and prevention practices, by the way -- nasopharyngeal carcinoma is caused by:

. . . subtypes of NPC to infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which has also been implicated in the development of other cancers such as Hodgkin's disease, Burkitt's lymphoma, and HIV-associated lymphomas. There is some evidence that genetic factors, such as HLA type may play a role in the susceptibility of certain ethnic groups to NPC. Finally, dietary risk factors, such as the consumption of salt-cured fish high in nitrosamines, may play a role in the Asian endemic regions. Well-differentiated NPC, with a microscopic appearance most similar to other squamous cell cancers of the head and neck may be more closely associated with the standard risk factors for that disease, such as cigarette smoking.
Upshot: while there's a small chance that smokes and booze did the Bambio in, it's way more likely that (a) he had the very common Epstein-Barr virus at some point; (b) his genes did him in; or (c) he was actually Asian, and had a diet which consisted primarily of salt-cured fish.

I'm hopin' for (c). Wouldn't that be a humdinger?

UPDATE: I didn't see that BTF had a thread on this until after I posted, but it's here. My guess is that you'll get a much livelier discussion over there than you will here.

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