Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Family History

No Family History: The Environmental Links to Breast Cancer is the title of a just-published book by Sabrina McCormick, who has also produced and directed and accompanying video documentary.

The book and video lay out the case that what must be done about the epidemic of breast cancer is dealing with the toxins in the environment that largely cause it.

Dr. McCormick chose where I’m from–Long Island—as the geographical centerpiece of the book and video because of Long Island’s high rates of breast cancer ranging up to 200 percent over the national average. She is the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and an assistant professor of environmental science and sociology at Michigan State University,

The key figure in the video and book is Robin Caslenova, a 44-year-old woman from West Islip, Long Island who was diagnosed with breast cancer without a family history of the disease.
Her ordeal in followed over several years—including the operation she must undergo, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction.

The video is graphic. Indeed, the announcement for the recent New York premiere of it, issued by the Suffolk County Cancer Awareness Task Force and the Huntington, Long Island-based initiative, Prevention is the Cure, noted: “This documentary contains adult material, scenes during and after a real-life surgery and its aftermath, and medical situations and discussions which may not be suitable for children or those with weak stomachs.” No matter how queasy your stomach might get, this is a video and book that are essential viewing and reading. The truth about cancer, its causes and the ordeal it puts people through, must be faced squarely.

In the book, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Dr. McCormick speaks of a “political economy of disease—a vast, powerful group of corporations protected by weak governmental practices that have shaped what we are exposed to every day…It affects everyday lives and deaths.” This “political economy...has caused us to focus on treatment, detection, and cure while missing a more difficult and political piece of the puzzle—how to prevent breast cancer.” These “institutions often prioritize major corporate interests instead of the public’s health and well-being.”

In the book and video, Dr. McCormick details how cancer-causing chemicals “permeate the planet.” Meanwhile, in 1964 one in 20 women was afflicted with breast cancer and by 2006 it “reached one in eight.” Few have a family history. Breast cancer has become “the most common killer of middle-aged women in the United States, Canada and northern Europe.”

“We exercise. We get mammograms. We also walk, shop, and race for a cure. We know what pink stands for. It means breast cancer. It means raising money. It means finding a cure. The fact is that we are missing the boat,” she writes.

She is especially critical of corporations that promote treatment and donate to cancer research while manufacturing cancer-causing toxins. For more information on her documentary and book, visit

Mrs. Caslenova, with her supportive husband and their three children, were at the premiere of the video, at which Mrs. Caslenova also spoke. Buoyant despite her travails, she told of having “a great family that lifted me up" and she declared that “prevention is so minimal” in how cancer is being challenged.

This must change as a matter of life and death.

No comments: