OK, you're thinking of recent generations. Like also my grandfather who dropped dead of a heart attack, after working at the shipping docks in Glasgow.
I was thinking older, hunter gatherers. For example, albeit a random google: hunder gatherers living to their 70s:
But just going back the the book I mentioned, what you were saying about cancer being a whole bunch of different things, and so successes being slow and gradual, and it being somewhat just part of the ageing process, well see that's exactly the conclusion which that book questions. It asks, have we come to that conclusion scientifically just because the science went down the wrong path early on, albeit the best path at the time?
If I recall, the book talks about "shocking" new experiments. They take the nucleus from a cancer cell, put it into healthy cells (replacing their nucleus) and find that none of the mice developed a tumour. Then they took the mitochondria from cancer cells, put them into healthy cells, and 97% of them develop tumours. So it looks like cancer is about damaged mitochondria and metabolism, not about genetic damage. And the reason we see so much genetic damage anyway is because the mitochondria, which is in constant communication with the nucleus, is causing that damage, ie. it is a side effect. And so that side effect damage to the nucleus is pretty random and so cancer looks like a whole bunch of different conditions, if you assume cancer is genetic. It is like firing a shotgun at a wall, seeing lots of damage all over the place, and concluding it must have been caused by lots of different pistols.
Anyway, I'm sure researchers just have to keep doing what they are doing, following the paths they have funding for, and so on. So one book won't change anything, and being just one book, hey should be discounted off the bat. But that doesn't preclude that "shocking" experiments have been done, as this book describes. I think that's just that scientists have a day job which requires them to focus on their specific research goals, and highly unusual findings are not going to change those goals in the near term.
My interest is just as a member of the public, and where the oncogenes stuff suggests hey, old age will screw me one way or the other, if it turns out that the science did take a wrong turn and ended up pursuing a side effect, whilst some of the science suggests that diet and energy and mitochondria are the real culprits, at least that's something I can work into my lifestyle anyway. And part of that is revisiting this question, do humans really just drop dead at 35 if they are on the Savannah hunting and gathering? Too often we accept what we hear because "it makes sense", not because we're tried to ask how that conclusion was actually arrived at, and what other conclusions could also have been arrived at but were overlooked.
Tripping Over the Truth: The Return of the Metabolic Theory of Cancer Illuminates a New and Hopeful Path to a Cure