Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm getting rant-y about cancer!

An article that supports one of my rants!

Breast cancer stuff frustrates me. This is not because I think that breast cancer research is bad or unnecessary or frivolous. However, many many more women and people die of lung cancer than breast cancer. The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is worse. And heart disease is the leading killer of women overall (though that changes by age group).

A chart of causes of death by age group.

A less detailed page, compliments of the CDC. (The first link is actually on this website.)

According to "Women are at risk for heart disease and heart attacks, just like men. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women over 65. American women are 4 to 6 times more likely to die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Heart disease kills more women over 65 than all cancers combined." (my emphasis)

Do you hear about heart disease? Not so much. Symptoms for heart attack in women are different than they are in men, though many doctors tell both genders to watch for the same symptoms. Most women don't have chest pains. Women are also less likely than men to survive a heart attack.

OK, so am I trying to start a panic? No :) I'm just (highly) frustrated with the skewed coverage of women's health issues.

Another of my cancer rants:

There are walks, runs, golf outings, drives at the grocery store, and a gajillion other ways that people raise money for cancer research. People turn out in droves for these things, fundraise lots of money for them. Many many people are involved. I don't know anyone who would not like to see a cure for cancer.

Of those zillions of people who actively participate in these events (I won't even count people who just give money, even if it's a lot of money), how many of them have changed their lives? My doctor told me that two-thirds of cancers are lifestyle related.

Two-thirds of cancers are lifestyle related.

That means that if everyone who had known carcinogenic habits changed them, well over half of the incidents of cancer would (should) disappear.

That makes me angry. It makes me angry because it's another example of an external locus of control that seems to have invaded our collective mindset. "This is such a horrible disease. Why can't they fix it?" (puff puff on a ciggy)

Now, I certainly don't begrudge research and have benefitted greatly from it. Research enables me to be sitting here typing to you instead of being in an urn on Tom's mantle (or wherever). And even if two-thirds of cancers went away, one-third would still exist (including mine).

"But it's so hard." Uh-huh. So is hearing the words, "You have cancer" ... and then dealing with everything that comes after it, presumably for the rest of one's life (though I can't report on that yet for sure).

"It won't happen to me." Uh-huh. I didn't sign up, either.

(I had other things I was going to list here, and I've forgotten what they all are...)

Anyway, what is carcinogenic? A whole hell of a lot of things.

•plastics: they say only plastics with PBAs in them, and that you shouldn't store stuff in them or use them in the fridge/freezer/microwave. I don't trust any of it — a couple of years ago, none of it was dangerous... They (whoever "they" are) did research on breast cancer, and they dissected a whole bunch of breast cancer tumors. Know what they found inside them? Plastic. Except for dry goods in the pantry, I've sworn off plastic (almost) completely. This means that I've given up yogurt (if you ever see it in a container that's not plastic, let me know) and, for the most part, cheese. Can't buy cheese in not-plastic, either.

• grilled meat: lots of crap in there. Meat in general is not recommended for a healthy diet, and grilling it actually creates carcinogens in the meat. Lots of them. It's unfortunate, as many people turn to grilled meat as a "healthy alternative" to meats cooked in other ways. Better for your arteries, but not better for other things.

• pesticides: I read a piece that explained that the best fruits to buy organic are the ones where you eat the skin. Strawberries washed 12 times still had traces of chemicals on them. We've started buying some organic fruits and vegetables, though we haven't been able to find organic red delicious apples anywhere nearby.

• tobacco: duh

• obesity is almost as large a risk factor for cancer as smoking. And we're so used to looking at overweight people and damning the supermodels that we have an unhealthy view of what healthy looks like. (I am not in any way saying that we should strive to look like supermodels!!) I have about lost count of the number of people who have called me "skinny." I'm not skinny. My upper arms and legs still jiggle. I'm not fat any more, but I'm not skinny. It's not a matter of appearance — it's a matter of health. (Of course, there are many many other unpleasant diseases that obesity increases your risk for, but I suspect you know about those already.)

• one of the artificial sweeteners (I think it's aspartame) when it heats up. In a soda, if the soda is stored somewhere hot, that'll do it. Also not good to bake or otherwise cook with in place of sugar. I've sworn off artificial sweeteners altogether, as they have a variety of health issues beyond cancer. I'm working on weeding out the sugar, too, but I can only do so much at one time :) And people keep buying me tasty treats, ones that they know I really like :) One day soon, I'm going to put out a request for that not to happen any more.

• the sun: as just about everyone knows, I've become obsessive about wearing sunscreen, and about what kind of sunscreen I wear. This is mainly because "melanoma is a common secondary cancer" and I could see myself turning pink very quickly, even in indirect sun. I suspect that by the time next summer rolls around, I will still be cautious about wearing sunscreen outside, but I won't be so gunshy about being in the sun. Regardless, wearing sunscreen helps prevent wrinkles, too, as cellular damage can happen even without a burn.

• cell phones?: I read two articles (that I will post if I can find them) about cell phones. One indicated that men who carry their cell phones in their pockets tend to have less sperm than those who don't. I realize that this is, at best, correlated and not necessarily causative, but still. The other talked about how, while there is no cancer link between cell phones and cancer, there is abnormal cellular activity within 10 minutes (I think) of talking on a cell phone (that is, talking for 10 minutes or more). So maybe or maybe not carcinogenic, but I like my cells to be normal and happy :) So I use my hands-free when I talk on my cell phone for more than a minute or two. And if possible, I don't leave it in my pocket.

OK, that's enough of the rantiness for now. I am curious to opinions, however, if you'd like to share them...

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