In the last two days, I had a fascinating conversation and heard a very interesting story on the radio about cancer and its connection with diet and environmental toxins. The conversation was with a young woman with whom I volunteer at the food justice non-profit People’s Grocery. She had just heard that an acquaintance of hers was diagnosed with cancer. I told her that I know two young women, both in their twenties, who battled cancer. Our acquaintances are of an age formerly thought to be too young to be concerned about cancer.
My fellow volunteer commented that the statistics are such that now nearly every American has either had cancer or knows someone who has been diagnosed with it. This startling increase in the incidence of cancer – especially among younger people – seems to be due at least in part to environmental factors like chemicals in foods, beauty products, and plastics, GMO foods, industrial runoff and much more.
The conversation I heard on KPFA radio discussed the difference between the view of cancer taken by the American medical society and that taken in much of the rest of the world. In the U.S., the story asserted, we tend to see cancer – with the possible exception of lung cancer – as just being the result of bad luck. We don’t tend to look more deeply into the causes of it. And we’re afraid to admit just how toxic many of the chemicals we’re exposed to in daily life really are.
So I’d like to take this chance to affirm that cancer is a real threat, but one that we have the power to address. We should acknowledge that environmental toxins truly can lead to cancer. Those stories in the news about carcinogenic Teflon are not just hype. But rather than becoming immobilized by fear, we should realize that we have some control in determining our likelihood of contracting cancer. We can make healthy decisions for our own lives – and vote with our dollars in the process.