Preventing Breast Cancer

The Politics of an Epidemic

Posted: 22 August 2000

Author: Dr Cathy Read
Pandora, London, 1995

Over half a million women worldwide die of breast cancer each yearThis toll has crept up gradually since the early 1950s and is now of epidemic proportions, especially in Europe and North America where more than half the 900,000 women diagnosed with the disease live. Cathy Read's book is indicative of women's fight back against what seems to be an inexorable disease.

Women are not helpless in the face of rising breast cancer rates argues Read: "If the rate of breast cancer has gone up, then it can come down."

The diagnosis of Cathy Read's mother with breast cancer inspired her to write the book. A well-established science writer, she has produce an excellent and accessible reference book which addresses all the potential causes of the disease including age, family history, age of first period and menopause, obesity, a high fat diet and alcohol consumption.

Also tackled by Read are the environmental factors which are often omitted by the medical establishment when explaining the possible causes of breast cancer.

Environmental influences considered in the book include persistent synthetic chemicals including pesticides, especially those which mimic or disrupt oestrogen's action in the body, ionizing radiation, and electromagnetic radiation from power lines, for instance.

Preventing Breast Cancer puts the disease in its political and environmental context. It empowers women to deal with the causes, as many are beginning to do by campaigning for pesticide-free food and promoting organic produce and by setting up supportive and campaigning organizations.

Reviewer: Ann Link and Helen Lynn

Reviewer Info: The reviewers are respectively Science and Health Co-ordinators at the Women's Environmental Network based in London. This review was first published in The Ecologist Vol 26 No 1, 1996.