I thought I might have it, judging by a headline this week. “Higher breast cancer risk in white women ‘is due to lifestyle’”, proclaimed The Times. The paper was quoting research from the University of Oxford which has found that South Asian women are 18 per cent and black women 15 per cent less likely to acquire the disease than white women, findings representing data taken from a million UK women over the age of 50.
But what interested me was that the research actually admitted that breast cancer is not just a genetic disease, important for some people though that can be. Nor is it just about what we eat. “Black and Asian women also tended to drink less, have more children, breastfeed more and use less hormone replacement therapy, all of which reduce the risk of breast cancer.” So, at last it is there in black and white: having children is good for women, and so is breastfeeding them.
The list isn’t complete, of course. Hormone replacement therapy uses a fraction of the hormones included in the Pill, that much more carcinogenic drug. And what about abortion? It is now well known that abortion, especially of first pregnancies, is connected with breast cancer.
I read on. “Every year 49,500 women are given a diagnosis of breast cancer and 11,600 die of the disease.” This is a serious killer in our country, and it is no wonder that Cancer Research UK, a well known and funded charity over here, should have helped to commission the Oxford research.
“Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Women can reduce their risk by cutting down on alcohol, keeping a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and by keeping active.”
Oh, so we are back to that mischievous silence again, back on that safe territory about healthy eating and taking exercise.
Now, I thought to myself as I left my breakfast paper and sat crossly in the car, you don’t have to be very clever to work this one out. Every woman, and even surely every man, knows that the breasts are integral to a woman’s reproductive system. What is going to have more impact upon their health: a rude interruption in nature’s design (be it by closing down the entire reproductive cycle through powerful drugs, the interruption of pregnancy, or the shutting out of their feeding function) or diet, weight and exercise?
So many women have already suffered for want of true advice. How sad that, even when their own research points to true answers, our cancer specialists still pander to feminist sensibilities rather than admit the truth.
Louise Kirk is UK Co-ordinator of the character education programme Alive to the World. Last year she produced her own book Sexuality Explained: a Guide for Parents and Children which has already sold 1200 copies.