In the course of the 20th century, cancer went from being perceived
as a white woman's nemesis to a "democratic disease" to a fearsome
threat in communities of color. Drawing on film and fiction, on
medical and epidemiological evidence, and on patients' accounts,
Keith Wailoo tracks this transformation in cancer awareness,
revealing how not only awareness, but cancer prevention, treatment,
and survival have all been refracted through the lens of race.
Spanning more than a century, the book offers a sweeping account of
the forces that simultaneously defined cancer as an intensely
individualized and personal experience linked to whites, often
categorizing people across the color line as racial types lacking
similar personal dimensions. Wailoo describes how theories of risk
evolved with changes in women's roles, with African-American and
new immigrant migration trends, with the growth of federal cancer
surveillance, and with diagnostic advances, racial protest, and
contemporary health activism. The book examines such powerful and
transformative social developments as the mass black migration from
rural south to urban north in the 1920s and 1930s, the World War II
experience at home and on the war front, and the quest for civil
rights and equality in health in the 1950s and '60s. It also
explores recent controversies that illuminate the diversity of
cancer challenges in America, such as the high cancer rates among
privileged women in Marin County, California, the heavy toll of
prostate cancer among black men, and the questions about why
Vietnamese-American women's cervical cancer rates are so high. A
pioneering study, How Cancer Crossed the Color Line gracefully
documents how race and gender became central motifs in the birth of
cancer awareness, how patterns and perceptions changed over time,
and how the "war on cancer" continues to be waged along the color
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