Born and raised in Suffern, NY, pretty much everyone I knew was touched somehow by breast cancer. If it didn’t affect you personally, either your friend or aunt or mother or sister or grandmother seemed to be struggling with the disease. There was the routine of chemotherapy, hair loss, mastectomy, and on… it almost seemed as common as dealing with the removal of wisdom teeth. Just take a look at the incidence in Rockland County over 4 years (click here for the expanded list):
Later in Maine, the wife of a professor in my department was diagnosed with the same condition. Many peers had not encountered breast cancer personally until then and I realized my county was unusual. I also learned the couple coincidentally used to live on the street where I grew up.
So what’s going on in Rockland? Some local doctors wonder about environmental toxins and others suggest that the particular genetic make-up of residents may make the population more susceptible than average. Speculation abounds, but there are no answers.
This afternoon I’m concerned about yet another friend having a biopsy. Meanwhile CNN reports on the troubling new trend of younger women getting the disease. The incidence is still quite low, but we ought to be paying close attention. As National Breast Cancer Awareness month draws to a close, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there were 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and 1,910 in men last year in the United States. Rates in this country are among the highest in the world. (Statistics are available to download here).