Cancer and Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge Essay

Cancer and Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge Essay

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Cancer and Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge

“I cannot prove my mother, my grandmothers, along with my aunts
developed cancer from nuclear fallout in Utah. But I can’t prove they
didn’t.” Epilogue, Refuge

In Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge, death slowly claimed almost all of the women of her family. Death took Williams’ family members one by one just one or two years apart. In every case, the cause was cancer. Williams insisted in the epilogue that fall-out from the 1951-62 nuclear testing in Utah brought cancer to her family. Because there are many other causes of cancer, such as genetic and environmental factors, it is hard for one to insist that nuclear fall-out causes cancer. Therefore, it is important to find out how and why nuclear fall-out can cause cancer and relate it to Williams’ claim that there is a connection between cancer in her family and nuclear fall-out.

The risks that can develop cancer are complicated and complex. To indicate one single cause of cancer is hard. However, certain environmental causes are strongly interrelated with the cause of particular cancers, such as cigarette smoking and lung cancer and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer (CancerSource). It is also known that, “Ionizing radiation consists of x-rays, UV light, and radioactivity whose energy can damage cells and chromosomes. Radioactivity increases the risk of cancer.” Source to indicate the effects of radioactivity is the U.S bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After all these years, the Japanese are still suffering from all kinds of cancer caused by many long lived chemicals such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-147 from the fallout. “High rate of leukemia” was found among the people who had survived Hiroshima and Nagasa...

... middle of paper ...

... it has been established that chemicals in radioactivity cause cancer. Second, there is much evidence that many U.S civilians died from the effects of nuclear fall-out. Third, Williams’ family has no background of cancer until 1950s.

Williams claimed women in her family died of cancer. From all the evidences we have found, we can confidently insist that nuclear fall-out causes cancer. Therefore, Williams’ claim is evidently correct.


Brodersen, Tom. “Compensation available to Fallout Cancer Victims.” The Sharlot Hall Museum (August 25,2002). 11 April 2005

Dillon, Lucinda. “Toxic Utah: Ghosts in the wind.” Deseretnews (February 15,2001). 11 April 2005

Steele Dorn, Ka ren. “Time bombs keep going off for cancer-plagued families in Idaho who lived downwind of nuclear testing in the 1950s.” Downwinders (October 24, 2004). 11 April 2005

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