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How Cancer Becomes Us

S. Lochlann Jain


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (10/15/2013)


Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life. Through a powerful combination of cultural analysis and memoir, this stunningly original book explores why cancer remains so confounding, despite the billions of dollars spent in the search for a cure. Amidst furious debates over its causes and treatments, scientists generate reams of data—information that ultimately obscures as much as it clarifies. Award-winning anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain deftly unscrambles the high stakes of the resulting confusion. Expertly reading across a range of material that includes history, oncology, law, economics, and literature, Jain explains how a national culture that simultaneously aims to deny, profit from, and cure cancer entraps us in a state of paradox—one that makes the world of cancer virtually impossible to navigate for doctors, patients, caretakers, and policy makers alike. This chronicle, burning with urgency and substance leavened with brio and wit, offers a lucid guide to understanding and navigating the quicksand of uncertainty at the heart of cancer. Malignant vitally shifts the terms of an epic battle we have been losing for decades: the war on cancer.

Praise For Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us


— Barbara Kiser

"A whip-smart read."

— Becky Lang

"A dark journey into cancer as it is understood, diagnosed and treated in America today."

— Kirkus

"The book effortlessly combines the author’s roles as a first-person participant in cancer diagnosis and an anthropological authority on why we Americans tolerate high rates of cancer."

— Public Books

"Malignant is a wonderful book... In this candid and critical analysis, [Jain]...  eloquently captures the ambiguity and uncertainty that undergird every aspect of cancer."

— Journal of Anthropological Research

University of California Press, 9780520276567, 304pp.

Publication Date: October 15, 2013

About the Author

S. Lochlann Jain is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University and author of Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States.