What is the cause of breast cancer?
It's one of those questions that I find most people ask. But the reality is, causality is very, very rarely linear when we talk about cancer.
Smoking, obesity, alcohol and lack of exercise are often paraded as causes. But they're just cookie cutter bad guys which have to be demonised for the general good.
A fat, lazy drunk sucking on a durry is doomed to die of every disease known to modern man.
Then there are genes. But did you know breast cancer is in fact way down the table when it comes to what's called 'heritability'? It's a lot less likely to be an inherited disease compared to, for example, psychiatric disorders and diabetes. Check this out:
And of course, being humans, you have to also accept that however close a cause and effect, there are no guarantees either way. Plenty of smokers don't get cancer; non-drinkers can die of liver cancer too.
I do have one theory on the cause - or should that be a cause of breast cancer.
Keeping in mind that I am a charlatan behind a keyboard, my theory is that the root cause of most diseases is actually STRESS.
Where cancer is concerned, I believe there are some scientists who suggest that we all carry a few dodgy cells. Come on - with over 37 trillion of the suckers, you surely can't believe that every single one of them is a good guy?
I therefore personally believe - based on no medical evidence whatsoever - that stress is the trigger that sends cells amok, leading to the duplication that means cancer.
Alcohol is also considered a culprit right? Well, why do people drink? They've had a hard day at work; they were stuck in traffic for an hour; they're really wound up....Stress!
Obesity is a culprit? Why do people overeat? They feel judged; they feel unloved; their mum told them they were useless. ... Stress!
Women having babies later in life and women approaching menopause are supposed to be at higher risk, right? Well, what is the by-product of all the seismic hormonal changes impacting your body chemistry? Stress!
Add in the raft of modern day stresses imposed by the hectic, competitive, confused, challenging, conflicted world of modern women wanting to do and be it all and somewhere in there is some of the answer.
Remember, stress isn't just physical. It can be psychological, emotional, financial, social or spiritual. These days we might even add a new kind of stress: Identity Stress. We all seem to be struggling more and more to describe who we are and what we stand for. Even political parties don't seem to know what they stand for. Arthur is Martha. Husbands are mothers, and mums wear the pants. We all seem to be having a crisis of some kind: a crisis of purpose; a crisis of direction; a crisis of epic what-the-fuck proportions.
So, it's actually the fat, lazy drunk sucking on a durry but who is in reality just STRESSED STRESSED STRESSED who is truly doomed.
Now the problem with my hypothesis is, of course, that of all the possible causes, stress is the hardest thing of all to identify.
Stress for all of us is, really, rarely intuited. It's like a fine dust that wafts in unseen and settles upon us in layers, compacting often very slowly until one day it combusts into a dust tsunami.
See that woman shouting abuse from her speeding car window? I call STRESS... and wonder what set her off. Is she running late for an appointment? Did her teenager shout at her this morning.
See that couple who suddenly start bickering over something petty and banal? One is shouting and storms off? Things escalate and suddenly, he's packed his gear and moved out? STRESS!
Financial worries, work problems, family difficulties, screaming kids, self esteem issues, medication regimes, aches and pains, unresolved arguments, pressing concerns, minor grievances, a sleepless night, even unaddressed childhood traumas ... in they waft - silent, colourless and odourless - settling upon us, layer after layer after layer.
Stress is all around us. But being woefully underequipped as humans we usually fail to take preventative steps, if at all, when it is just all too late.
The best we can do to mitigate it is to mindfully practice stress reduction knowing that even if we can't see the dust, as sure as eggs, it's there. (Why are eggs 'sure' BTW?)
Here are seven things that are easy to do:
- Review your current priorities and ditch anything that is just not important. Declutter your personal agenda.
- Whatever you are doing, remember to take a break. Even good stuff can be overdone. You can in fact diet and exercise your way to an eating disorder. And here in Australia we recently lost an Iron Man who died suddenly. A cardiologist confirms that over-exercise can lead to scarring of the arteries. Who knew?
- Accept that the only true thing that we can control is our own reactions and attitudes. The desire to control every outcome in our lives is the biggest cause of stress in our lives. Try a bit of que sera sera and just go with the flow from time to time.
- Give yourself permission to rest. Who said life had to be a competition? And who said you had to be first or the best all of the time? It's actually not such a bad life coming third or even last. Did you know the leader of the wolf pack is in fact the last animal in the pack? My sister Nicky, for example, is often arguing that it's the fat lazy slobs who actually seem to live the longest. I am thinking she might be onto something there.
- Remove the word 'compare' from your vocabulary. There is nothing more stressful than comparing yourself to someone else and, of course, social media doesn't help. Just go with my mantra; Nothing and No-one is as they might seem. Alll you need to be is the best version of you... for today. That's it!
- Accept responsibility for and own your own life - no ifs or buts. Blame of any kind only exacerbates stress. There is nothing more freeing than being able to say: This may be an ordinary kind of fucked-up life but hey, I created it and it's all mine!
7 Breathe - deeply and often.
What could be easier than that, eh?