I knew this would be trouble. As I slipped the needle into her breast I could feel it scrape up against the lump. It was hard and made a sound like a knife scraping against a rock. I could not penetrate the lump nor draw back that reassuring fluid, indicative of a benign cyst. This one was cancer. She was 43. I knew that she would be facing months of what one patient described to me graphically as “slice, burn and poison” as she underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy in a valiant attempt to subdue this savage interloper. But why her? She didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. She didn’t drink or smoke, though, much to her chagrin, her husband smoked throughout their 21-year marriage. She exercised regularly, was not overweight and usually ate sensibly. Could she have caught this cancer? Was it just bad luck? Could her husband have given her breast cancer? Yes… possibly he could have!

The evidence is mounting that second hand smoke has a causal relationship with breast cancer. The latest of several studies done on the carcinogenic effects of second hand smoke indicated that not only does the risk of breast cancer increase, but even premenopausal breast cancer (normally only 10% of all breast cancers) doubles in the face of second hand smoke.

Can your spouse actually be the cause of your cancer? The sobering answer is, yes.

And not just from second-hand smoke.

Cervical cancer claims the lives of 5,000 North American women each year.

The omnipresent Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is rampant in those who are not monogamous. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus which an estimated 20% of those who are sexually active harbor in their genital tracts without knowing it. Condoms often do not prevent HPV transmission. Over 60 strains of this virus exist. Some strains are responsible for the nasty genital warts that are so difficult to treat and so aesthetically unpleasing. Other strains of HPV, however, are the cause of changes in the cervix that leads to cervical cancer. HPV has become so prominent that vaccination against this virus is being considered, as cancer prevention!

Nuns, being celibate, NEVER get cervical cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. Non- nuns, however, can “catch” cervical cancer. The risk factors are as follows:

1. Becoming sexually active at a young age.
2. Having herpes or genital warts.
3. Smoking.
4. Being promiscuous or having been with a partner who was promiscuous.

We live in a society where some 200 types of cancer roam our world and our bodies. Cancer is the second leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease being the first. As more is discovered about the genetic, environmental and even infectious predisposition and causes of these cancers, we need to be aware of what we can do to lessen the risk, not only to ourselves but also to those around us. So, if you don’t become a nonsmoking nun, at least marry one.

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