Breast Cancer Awareness Month Misleads Women

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Misleads Women

CHICAGO, Oct. 16 (AScribe Newswire) — Following is commentary by Samuel Epstein, M.D., and Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D.

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In 1984, the American Cancer Society (ACS) inaugurated the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), with its Oct. 17 flagship National Mammography Day. The NBCAM was conceived and funded by the Imperial Chemical Industries, a leading international manufacturer of petrochemicals, and its U.S. subsidiary Zeneca Pharmaceuticals. Zeneca is the sole manufacturer of Tamoxifen, claimed to reduce risks of breast cancer, even though it is toxic and carcinogenic.

The NBCAM assured women that “early (mammography) detection results in a cure nearly 100 percent of the time.” More specifically, the NBCAM is primarily directed to claims for reducing the incidence and mortality of breast cancer through early detection by annual mammography starting at age 40.

Still unrecognized by the ACS, and also the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is strong evidence that mammography poses significant risks of breast cancer. The routine practice of taking four films annually for each breast results in approximately 1 rad (radiation absorbed dose) exposure, which is approximately 1,000 times the dose from a single chest X-ray. Each rad exposure increases risks of breast cancer by about one percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade’s screening. Moreover, the premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation. Not surprisingly, premenopausal mammography screening is practiced by no nation other than the U.S.

Risks of premenopausal mammography are some four-fold greater for the one to two percent of women who are carriers of the A-T gene (ataxia telangiectasia), and highly sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radiation. By some estimates, this accounts for up to 20 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed annually.

Compounding these problems, missed cancers are common in premenopausal women due to the density of their breasts.

That most breast cancers are first recognized by women was admitted in 1985 by the ACS. “We must keep in mind that at least 90 percent of the women who develop breast cancer discover the tumors themselves.” Furthermore, an analysis of several 1993 studies showed that women who regularly performed breast self-examination (BSE) detected their cancers much earlier than women failing to examine themselves. The effectiveness of BSE however depends on training by skilled professionals, enhanced by annual clinical breast examination by a professional. In spite of such evidence, the ACS and radiologists dismiss BSE, and claim that “no studies have clearly shown the benefit of using BSE.”

A leading Massachusetts newspaper featured a photograph of two women in their twenties in an ACS advertisement that promised early detection by mammography results in a cure “nearly 100 percent of the time.” An ACS communications director, questioned by journalist Kate Dempsey, responded in an article published in the Massachusetts Women’s Community’s journal Cancer “The ad isn’t based on a study. When you make an advertisement, you just say what you can to get women in the door. You exaggerate a point … Mammography today is a lucrative [and] highly competitive business.” She just couldn’t be any more correct.

With this background, it is not surprising that the NBCAM neglects to inform women how they can reduce their risks of breast cancer. In fact, we know a great deal about its avoidable causes which are trivialized or ignored by the ACS. These include:

– Prolonged use of the Pill or estrogen replacement therapy.

– High consumption of meat which is heavily contaminated with potent natural or synthetic estrogens, or other sex hormones, implanted in cattle in feedlots prior to slaughter to increase muscle mass.

– Prolonged consumption of milk from cows injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone to increase milk production. This milk is contaminated with high levels of a natural growth factor, which increases breast cancer risks by up to seven-fold.

– Prolonged exposure to a wide range of unlabeled hormonal ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

– Living near hazardous waste sites, petrochemical plants, power lines, and nuclear plants.

– Occupational exposures of over one million women to carcinogens. These include benzene, ethylene oxide, methylene chloride, phenylenediamine hair dyes, and agricultural pesticides, including DDT residues.

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– Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.; Professor emeritus, Environmental & Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition, Chicago, Illinois; / 312-996-2297;

– Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D.; Former President of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Toronto, Canada; Regent of the International Physicians for Humanitarian Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland;

NOTE TO EDITORS: The above commentary is available for free and immediate use. If used, please contact Samuel Epstein, M.D., as a courtesy to the contributors.


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