Embark on a captivating journey that will fundamentally change how you see cancer—and perhaps life itself. Cancer is more than a disease. It is an integral part of who we are—complex biological and cultural beings with a limited life span. You will be surprised, challenged, and even amused by this eloquent synthesis of knowledge. Firmly rooted in science and the principles of evolution, this book is a must-read if you aim to understand cancer.

Publisher: River Grove Books
ISBN: 978-1-63299-761-6 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-63299-762-3 (eBook)


This remarkable book is not simply about cancer. It is a beautiful story about what it means to be human. It took me places I had never thought of and ended on a cliffhanger about the future of our civilization.
Richard Smith
former editor of the BMJ (British Medical Journal)
Breivik furnishes a remarkably accessible account of cancer in light of evolutionary theory...a model of intellectual edifying book that reveals much about cancer...including the very meaning of human life itself. An engaging book that’s both scientifically exacting and philosophically stimulating.
With his panoramic view of cancer, Breivik’s brilliant writing and thought-provoking reflections will captivate both laypeople and researchers. A must-read that skillfully connects the life sciences in an illuminating manner.
Manuel Perucho (Prof. em.)
This book grabbed me like a thriller! As a cancer patient, I have asked many questions. My father had bladder cancer, and my brother died of leukemia. This book helped me understand and accept.
Elin Schive
[A] gently provocative, highly quotable book that urges greater preventative measures and takes many unexpected turns, all while inviting in both lay readers and the science-minded alike with lucid, engaging prose…Readers who enjoy grounded-yet-bold medical research, contemplation of evolution, and in-depth scientific exploration will engage with Breivik’s searching, unexpected, powerfully argued vision.
Making Sense of Cancer is a rich book — rich in knowledge, understanding, and ideas. The author guides the reader through genetic coding, replication, epigenetics, and memes, drawing conclusions not only about familiar concepts such as life and death and body and soul, but also about biology, artificial intelligence, and technology. He tells, explains, and opines in such an engaged and engaging manner that both laypeople and scholars will greatly enjoy the book. I was impressed and convinced and almost miss not having any objection to this tsunami of knowledge.
FRØYDIS LANGMARK (Former Director of the Cancer Registry of Norway)
MICHAEL (Journal of COMMUNITY MEDIcine and Medical History)
Breivik has written a very good and thought-provoking book, which should be read by both professionals and laypeople. Professionals will be able to see cancer in a much broader perspective—and laypeople will learn something completely different about cancer than what they can read in newspapers and magazines.
NILS CHR. STENSETH (Prof. of Evolutionary Biology)
Apollon (Journal of the University of Oslo)
Making Sense of Cancer highlights the multifaceted nature of cancer. Throughout the book, the author manages to describe and explain complex topics using straightforward language. Breivik dares to challenge the understanding of cancer, and sets the stage for a continued discussion of new perspectives that will help society make informed choices.
Making Sense of Cancer uses humorous illustrations and simple metaphors to help us understand a very complex field. The good thing about researchers like Breivik is that he raises fundamental ethical and existential questions about what research is really about. Strangely enough, there is a reconciliation in this thought-provoking and insightful book.
CATHRINE KRØGER (Literary Critic and Registered Nurse)
Dagbladet (National Newspaper, Norway)


Jarle Breivik, MD, PhD, EdD, is a professor of medicine at the University of Oslo and a former Fulbright Scholar with a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. He is internationally recognized for his research on the evolutionary dynamics of cancer. His thought-provoking analyses presented in PNAS, EMBO Reports, Scientific American, Wired Magazine, and the New York Times have stimulated a profound debate about the meaning of cancer. In Making Sense of Cancer, Dr. Breivik brings it all together in a captivating story about humanity.


Why I Hope to Die of Cancer

Richard Smith, Jarle Breivik
Richard Smith's non-medical blogs
Jul. 1, 2023

The Nine Cancer Frames

Craig Murray, Nina von Possel, Hanne C Lie, Jarle Breivik
Journal of Cancer Education
Jul. 19, 2021

Reframing the
“Cancer Moonshot”

Jarle Breivik
EMBO Reports
Dec. 1, 2016

We Won’t Cure Cancer

Jarle Breivik
The New York Times
May 27, 2016

The Way We Think about
Cancer Must Evolve

Mark Wolverton
May 22, 2013

Frame that Gene

Rebecca Carver, Ragnar Waldahl, Jarle Breivik
EMBO Reports
Oct. 1, 2008

Evolved for Cancer

Carl Zimmer
Scientific American
Jul. 1, 2008

No Solution to Cancer

Science Daily
Apr. 17, 2007

Untangling the Roots of Cancer

W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American
Jul. 1, 2003



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The Norwegian Edition