FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

For Angelina Jolie, Mutilation Amounts to Prevention

by KRISTINE MATTIS

The world exploded with praise and awe when actress Angelina Jolie announced – via op-ed in The New York Times – that she had undergone double-mastectomy as a preventative measure after discovering that she possessed the mutant BRCA1 gene. A mutation to either the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 (both named for BReast CAncer) genes seems to confer an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in its carriers.

As the scourge of cancer has permeated the American landscape – one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetimes – diagnosis and treatment have become the sole allowable precautionary procedures. Every day we learn more about the myriad of known and probable human carcinogens saturating our built environment. In addition, scientists are continually revealing the long-term, intergenerational, and epigenetic health effects of exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals. Yet, on our insidiously poisoned planet, our insistence to continue with business as usual has led us to a form of collective insanity. We now choose bodily mutilation as a means of dealing with the diseases of our global industrial culture, rather than confronting the root causes.

In a 2003 study published in the esteemed academic journal Science, researchers found that among women carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, cancer “risks seemed to be increasing over time.”[i] In other words, those born before 1950 only had a 24% risk of developing breast cancer by age 50, while those born after 1950 had a 67% risk. These statistics indicate that the cancers are not at all caused by these genes; merely, these genes enable certain environmental factors to affect those who carry these genes. Moreover, these environmental triggers of cancer have become more prevalent in recent years. And though the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene carriers do individually possess a higher risk of cancer, they comprise less than 5% of breast cancer cases.[ii]

Consequently, inherited genetic traits cannot be deemed causal factors in the genesis of the vast majority of cancers. Furthermore, inherited predispositions or susceptibilities only exist in the sense that there must be an environmental exposure to elicit the genetic response. Remove the exposure and you remove the predisposition.

Clearly, the environment is the key piece to solving the cancer puzzle. Yet rather than disrupting the corporate capitalist consumer culture that incessantly disseminates its toxic pollutants throughout our land, water, and air, we choose the path of least resistance. Instead of removing carcinogens and other substances such as endocrine disrupting chemicals from our environment, we irradiate, poison, or mutilate our bodies to permit global industrial capitalism to continue unabated. And though at times these primitive procedures allow us a productive life after they take arduous and torturous tolls, other times they may just prolong or even hasten the inevitable.

As a victim of cancer myself, I comprehend the current need for treatment. But as one of the innumerable many who have lost loved ones to the illness, it is the lack of effort to truly reject this preventable harm to which I demur. Angelina Jolie’s choice of “prevention” – one that remains unaffordable and unavailable to most women who suffer at the hands of our corporate health insurance and medical system – is a rather extreme measure which has nonetheless become all too acceptable.

While I do not begrudge her personal decision, I begrudge a society that chooses to tolerate its women undergoing amputation and excision as routine procedures. As anthropogenic alterations to our world render it more and more inhospitable to life, will we continue to abide increasingly insane actions to maintain our existence, or will we ever relinquish our short-term superficial conveniences for long-term genuine life?

Kristine Mattis is a teacher, writer, scientist, activist, and agitator. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a reporter for the congressional record in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a schoolteacher. She and her partner blog when they can at www.rebelpleb.blogspot.com


[i] King, M.C., Marks, J.H., and Mandell, J.B. (2003). Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risks Due to Inherited Mutations in

BRCA1 and BRCA2. Science. 302(5645).

[ii] Pasche, B. (2010). Cancer Genetics. New York: Springer.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher. She can be reached at:  k_mattis@outlook.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail