Two must-read articles have turned up: one, brand new, is from The Nation’s Katha Pollitt; the other, relatively old (Harper’s, November 2001) is from that most excellent activist in so many areas, Barbara Ehrenreich.
All women, and most men I know, have one or more women friends or intimates who have gone through the truly horrifying process that is breast cancer treatment. As Ehrenreich reminds us, treatments have hardly become more tolerable, or breast cancers more survivable, than they were in the 1930s. Yet the population frequency of breast cancer in America and similar nations has grown alarmingly even in the past two decades. Ehrenreich speculates on whether there’s enough evidence (remember, she is writing in 2001) to blame environmental carcinogens; e.g., women in industrial developed societies have higher rates of occurrence, and women who move from less developed nations to industrial nations see their rates of breast cancer rise to the local rates.
If all this is true, two things logically obtain: one, there is not much an individual woman can do (healthy lifestyle choices, regular self-exams and mammograms) to improve her chances; two, if there were sensible people in charge of one or more governments, it should be possible to determine actual causes of, and/or contributing factors to, breast cancer. Let us hope this determination is made quickly, because as with most environmental toxins, the fight against whatever toxin(s) turn out to cause breast cancer is inevitably going to be a long one, opposed bitterly at every step of the way by the industry at fault. And as always, the radical Right will be in the forefront, assuring the avoidable deaths of thousands more women… just as they have been in preventing Komen from helping Planned Parenthood.