Breast Cancer in Cuba

Irina Echarry

Breast Cancer.  Rate per 100,000 women. Graphic by Erazmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — October 19 is International Breast Cancer Day. This terrible condition is among the first causes of death among women around the world. In Cuba, it claims the lives of more than 4 women every day. Mammary glands are the second part of the body most commonly affected by malignant tumors (after the lungs).

The phenomenon is far from stable. The trend over time describes exponential growth, as the graph below illustrates and many health authorities around the world estimate.

Till recently, this exponential growth pattern, in addition to hereditary factors and other intrinsic characteristics of the female anatomy, was owed to population habits and a number of bad habits, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption. Today, however, new factors have joined the list, and even though the news has been published, our Ministry of Public Health has not issued an official alert.

Science has revealed that a group of common substances present in one’s home can increase the incidence of the condition. Among these are parabens, used in creams, hygiene products and cosmetics (owing to their powerful preserving and anti-bacterial properties)

Biphenol A is another toxic substance found in plastic bottles, food containers and feeding bottles. It is also present in CDs, DVDs, household appliances and many other objects we live with and handle on a daily basis. The substance is targeted by environmentalists and some countries have prohibited its use. As far as we know, Cuba is not one of those countries.

Other dangerous substances we come into contact with on a daily basis are paint corrosives, some solvents and perchlroethylene, used for dry-cleaning and in pesticides.

The Cuban Women’s Federaton promoting responsible health.

The notorious and toxic DDT is making headlines again. We thought this harmful substance, used to combat malaria, was as foreign to Cuba as yellow fever. However, a study reveals that, in Cuba’s eastern provinces, it has been used to cure pediculosis. Where are they getting it from? They’ve also been testing Aedes Aegypty’s resistence to several insecticides, including DDT. We’ll have to be on the alert for fumigation campaigns.

It’s highly suggestive that the women who discovered the harmful effects of this substance, Rachel Carlson, died of breast cancer at a young age. She didn’t live to see the connection made between the insecticide and malign breast tumors.

Last but not least, we have the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, particularly diesel smoke, which has flooded our streets and lives. It’s “curious” that the organs that are most commonly affected by this substance, respiratory tracts and breasts, are the most common causes of death in our country.

When I see people enveloped by this deadly smoke, the public buses with leaks of gas that seeps inside through the windows…and the government do nothing to warn them or pass legislation in this connection, I just can’t understand it.

If you’re a woman or live with one, don’t miss this opportunity. Start doing self-exams today; make them a part of your daily routine. The technique is easy and it could save your life. Oncologists insist that women arrive at their clinics when it’s already too late.

Palpate yourself thoroughly, while taking a shower (so that it won’t take time away from other things), and, if you come across anything remotely odd, run to the hospital.