Friday wasn't a good day for feeling positive. A newspaper front page screamed that ONE IN EIGHT WOMEN WILL GET BREAST CANCER – and the accompanying news story helpfully extrapolated new statistics to show that every single day in the UK, 130 females are diagnosed with the disease – 47,000 a year – a figure that has doubled in 30 years. And, if you haven't been struck down by the big C, then another grim fate could await you, according to the same paper – BRITISH WOMEN ARE NOW THE MOST OVERWEIGHT IN WESTERN EUROPE. Since the early 1980s, our average weight has ballooned from 64kg (just over 10st) to 71 kg (11st 2lb). In three decades, judging by this information, British women have turned into fat, waddling drunks with a very strong chance of being struck down by a life-changing disease.
I sat eating my (healthy fruit, low-fat yoghurt, brown toast and honey) breakfast, counting the number of friends and relatives who have had cancer. There were a lot. Am I next?
I turned on the radio as a cancer expert was saying something along the lines of: "It's women in their fifties and sixties we are concerned about the most... there are lifestyle factors which increase the risk of developing cancer: having babies later, not breast feeding, obesity and increased levels of alcohol consumption." I've had no children. I drink more than one unit of booze a day. I'm in my sixties. Luckily, I exercise a lot and eat fruit and veg – but does the good side of my lifestyle cancel out the bad? I feel as if I'm taking part in a lottery, and I may or may not win that cancer prize. The odds aren't good, on current evidence.
But should we believe the evidence? My friend Linda McCartney died from breast cancer and she shunned meat, ate organic fruit and vegetables, loved riding and hiking and was very fit. She did smoke dope. My sister died from brain and lung cancer, but she smoked. My friend Lucy died from breast cancer – she smoked, but was thin. My pal Sam had cancer twice – she's a yoga fiend and a healthy eater, and is fully recovered. I can't go on, making a chart of friends and family, ticking off who has died, who is in remission and who is still in treatment. It's demeaning to those concerned to enter them into some kind of pie chart to work out my own chances of being struck down.
We know that cancer is top of the health agenda – so more people are diagnosed. The number of people who refer themselves to A&E departments because they think they might have cancer, has doubled, from 70,000 in 2000-01 to 140,000 in 2008-09. Jade Goody's death hugely increased the number of young women who have cervical smear tests.
Awareness of the disease is at a record high, so how worried should women be about their fat, boozy lifestyles? The British Journal of Cancer doubts that eating fruit and veg makes any difference, and its researchers have studied data going back 10 years. They say losing weight and cutting back on booze is more important. The truth is that we're living longer, and that means more of us will get cancer, no matter what.
What I find repulsive is the insidious cultivation of a climate of fear about women's health. It's enough to make you have another drink. Talking about cancer and obesity in such doom-laden terms doesn't necessarily encourage women to change their lifestyles. And why should they?
A new comedy series started on More4 last week, The Big C, starring the wonderful Laura Linney as Cathy, a suburban teacher who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Some have found it patronising, others doubt that cancer can be funny. One critic said the show isn't about facing death, but a cosy look at a put-upon woman becoming assertive. I found it pretty entertaining – at least Cathy is not a victim. I'll watch it again.
I don't think I can face reading one more doomy medical story about cancer, one more warning about how inevitable it is. Amid all this negativity, at least Cathy is a ray of sunshine. Cancer is messy, and this show is too tidy – but at least it's a start.
At least you can put a cloth over a parrot
Sally Bercow gives feminism a bad name. When I dared to criticise her addiction to inane tweeting, I was accused of being a fuddy-duddy trashing an attractive, ambitious woman trying to get a foothold in local politics.
OK – but how many of the new female MPs resorted to posing naked except for a sheet to get some publicity? Sally, married to the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, failed to get elected as a Labour councillor and now describes herself as a "writer and broadcaster" as well as mentioning she's been compared to Carla Bruni! Judging by her pitiful appearance on Have I Got News For You, Sally is on the nursery slopes of her new career.
Of course she's not just an appendage to her husband – and I don't doubt her intelligence. But I would have loved to have overheard Mr Bercow's reaction when he saw her nearly starkers in the London Evening Standard magazine last week, waffling on about how their living quarters in the Palace of Westminster were "sexy" and how many times women hit on him now he's the Speaker.
Then she went on Radio 5 Live, not to apologise but to complain that "everything I do gets into the media"– AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE, SALLY? Surely that picture you posed for semi-naked was taken by a newspaper? Put a bag over her head, John.
Y'all hear – JR is back. Again!
Hoorah! Dallas is returning. The US network TNT is filming a new series, with many of the original characters. JR (Larry Hagman), Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Sue-Ellen (Linda Gray) have signed up, to be joined by a new generation of Ewings, almost 30 years after the original show ended. The producers promise the mix as before – bitter rivalry, feuds, and money. I can't wait.
Larry Hagman is fabulous company. He once told me, when cast contracts were up for renewal, the stars held on to each other, so they were always on-screen, and camera operators had to widen their close-ups to include two people. But the producers stepped in and the backslapping stopped.
Top Gear food gag's in bad taste
The BBC has apologised to the Mexican ambassador after oafish comments by Top Gear presenters about Mexican food, described as "refried sick". There would be no complaints, they said, as the ambassador would be "snoring in front of the telly".
His Excellency called this "xenophobic and offensive". A Mexican student is thinking of suing the BBC under the equality laws.
This follows another apology after Stephen Fry's insensitive remarks about the survivor of nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died of cancer at 93. Are on-screen jokes in bad taste less bothering than the sexist musings off-camera at Sky Sports, whose staff describe a macho environment where women are routinely treated as fluff?
And it's just as bad at Top Gear.