A visit with Dr. Janette Sherman’s new book

A well informed academic recently expressed disbelief that there were established causes of cancer beyond diet and exercise! Should said professor read Life’s Delicate Balance by Dr. Janette Sherman, his ignorance would be quickly dispelled. Considering that “traditional” risk factors account for no more than 30% of breast cancers how do we explain the causes of the other 70%? It is always more convenient to “blame the cancer victim” while obscuring the effects of pollution from radiation, carcinogens and unregulated drugs in our air, food and water.

Dr. Sherman has assembled abundant evidence to substantiate the causes of the increasingly high rate of breast and other cancers. With scientific acumen, political insight and emotional outrage, she documents a world spinning out of control. Sherman builds on the groundbreaking work of Rachel Carson and the research which highlighted the death-dealing effects of pesticides on birds, fish and humans. Her book supports the work of Dr. Sam Epstein on breast cancer prevention and Dr. Susan Steingraber’s ecological study of industrial related cancers. BCAM audiences have met two of these writers in past years and will be privileged to meet Janette Sherman at our 10th Anniversary celebration this coming April.

Janette Sherman is a medical doctor, scientist and passionate humanitarian. Her work abounds in scholarly documentation for those who can absorb it and is within reach for the average reader. This is a book to refer to again and again as the movement to curb environmental excesses escalates. The challenge is to transform this information into action so that it does not lie dormant for another thirty years (as was the case for Rachel Carson). The book contains chapters on chemical carcinogens, radiation (nuclear and x-ray), endocrine and hormone disrupters (in humans and animals), tamoxifen studies, the ramifications of genetic research, cancers in men, and an examination of the cancer movement in North America (or the wars we have not won). Also included is an extensive resource list of information and options for citizen action. Dr. Sherman does not profess to have all the answers, but she asks many probing questions, questions which need to be answered if we are ever to get at the root causes of breast cancer. Accustomed to reductionist methods (studying one chemical, virus or bodily function in laboratory isolation) science now faces the complex task of studying the toxic blend of chemical, biological and genetic variables. There will be no simple answer!

Sherman questions the excessive amount of hormonally active chemicals already downloaded upon an unsuspecting population and environment. Could it be, she asks, that growth hormones administered to cattle just prior to slaughter pass into commercially sold meat, milk, cheese or yogurt? Might this indiscriminate use of hormones in animals also cause unnatural growth and obesity in humans? Could those who enjoy wine, beer and liquor be absorbing excessive amounts of pesticides sprayed on grain and grapes, thus damaging cell growth? These are but a few of the questions that require answers. They point to the urgent need for more research money into primary causes, more dedication to unbiased investigation and a transformation of societal and planetary values.

Janette Sherman is brimming with ethical, moral and political indignation at what she has learned. She goes further than most authors in placing the blame on corporate greed and government capitulation. As the global marketplace races toward greater profits and merger takeovers it sacrifices the health, education and the welfare of all. The sad realization is that medical, pharmaceutical, chemical, and agricultural conglomerates are organized to sell products and to maximize profits. Human beings are valued as mere consumers and clients. Prevention is costly and antithetical to the “bottom line.”

Nature’s delicate balance has been upset. Cancer and immune deficiency diseases are on the rise. Like drops of water eating away at stone, each of us must contribute toward a readjustment of environmental priorities.

Reviewed by Lanie Melamed