Every October since 1985, pink ribbons are displayed in posters, magazine advertisements, and proudly adorn women's lapels heralding Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The multitudes of runs, hikes, walks, and other fundraising events raise hundred of millions of dollars to conquer that dreaded scourge of the modern woman, breast cancer. High profile companies like Avon, Lee Denim, and Revlon have joined ranks along with the Susan G. Komen Foundation's "Race for the Cure", and the City of Hope Hospital's "Walk for Hope". Popular celebrities lead the charge.
Each year, 180,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 44,000 will die of the disease. The US has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world. Fifty years ago the incidence of Breast Cancer for a woman's lifetime risk was one in twenty. Now it has skyrocketed to more than one in eight. Clearly the so-called war on cancer has not even made a dent in the breast cancer epidemic as the rates continue to climb at the rate of one per cent per year.
The motto of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is "Early Detection is Your Best Protection". The National Cancer Institute stated in 1995 that "Breast cancer is simply not a preventable disease". This tune was reiterated in 1997 by the American Cancer Society who also announced that "there are no practical ways to prevent breast cancer -- only early detection." So mammograms are the front line of defense. Celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell offer free t-shirts with the honorable words "I've Been Squished" if you'll make a date with your local x-ray department.
So let's all join in and wave our pink ribbons and don those running shoes and take to the roads, right? Wait! Before you get swept up by the emotional frenzy of this call to arms, there is something you should know.
Who Profits from Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer Awareness month's primary sponsor and mastermind of the event in 1985 was Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, now known as AstraZeneca. Zeneca is the company that manufactures the controversial and widely prescribed breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen. Did you know all TV, radio, and print media campaigns are paid for and must be approved by Zeneca.
It is less known that Zeneca also makes herbicides and fungicides. One of their products, the organochlorine pesticide, Acetochlor is implicated as a causal factor in breast cancer. Its Perry Ohio chemical plant is the third largest source of potential cancer causing pollution in the U.S., spewing 53,000 pounds of recognized carcinogens into the air in 1996.2
Why The Breast Cancer Increase?
When it comes to environmental toxicity, carcinogens found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and other toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer -- especially breast cancer -- there is booming silence by all Breast Cancer Awareness Month programs. Did the alarming increase of breast cancer rates just mysteriously happen? Or perhaps, the focus on the cure has conveniently ignored the cause? After, all it wouldn't really be good PR for Zeneca to have it known that their chemical products directly contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.
Many experts predicted as far back as 30 years ago that cancer rates would increase, citing an explosion of synthetic chemicals. From 1940 through the early 1980's, production of synthetic chemicals increased by a factor of 350.
Billions of tons of toxic substances that never existed are now released into the environment. Yet only 3 percent of the 75,000 chemicals in use have been tested for safety.3 These toxic time bombs are found in our water, air, and soil. Women who live near toxic waste dumps have 6.5 times the incidence of breast cancer.
A survey conducted by Dr. Mary Wolff of Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York found that women with breast cancer had four times the levels of DDE found in non-carcinogenic tumors.4 Also, another study investigated why upper class women in the community of Newton, Massachusetts had higher breast cancer rates than the lower economic women.5 The researchers attributed the increase to greater use of professional lawn care service and more dry cleaning.
Pesticides & Breast Cancer
The pesticide breast cancer link was stunningly highlighted in research from Israel which linked three organochlorine pesticides detected in dairy products to an increase of 12 types of cancer in 10 different strains of mice. After public outcry in 1978, the Israeli government was forced to ban the pesticides Benzene Hexachloride, DDT, and Lindane. Interestingly, breast cancer mortality rates which had increased every year for 25 years, dropped nearly 8 per cent for all age groups and dropped more than a thirty-three percent for women ages 25-34 in 1986.6
The American Cancer Society was founded with the support of the Rockefeller family in 1913. Members of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry have long had a place on its board. Could that have something to do with the fact that the American Cancer Society's latest report on cancer prevention makes no mention of environmental factors?
Tamoxifen: Cure or Cause?
Since Zeneca researched and patented the most popular breast cancer treatment, Tamoxifen, grossing 500 million dollars a year [Tamoxifen is actually the generic name. The brand name is Nolvadex.], perhaps we can forgive their involvement with carcinogenic chemicals... Perhaps not. On May 16th, 2000, the New York Times reported that the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences listed substances that are known to cause cancer. Tamoxifen was included in that list!!7
It is known that Tamoxifen causes uterine cancer, liver cancer, and gastro-intestinal cancer. After just two to three years of use, Tamoxifen will increase the incidence of uterine cancer by two to three times. The treatment for uterine cancer is a hysterectomy. In addition, Tamoxifen increased the risk of strokes, blood clots, eye damage, menopausal symptoms, and depression.
The biggest shock of all is the fact that Tamoxifen will increase the risk of breast cancer! The journal Science published a study from Duke University Medical Center in 1999 showing that after 2 - 5 years, Tamoxifen actually initiated the growth of breast cancer!
Zeneca: Two Sides to the Coin
So, Zeneca, the originator of Breast Cancer Awareness month is the manufacturer of carcinogenic petrochemicals, carcinogenic pollutants, and a breast cancer drug that causes at least four different types of cancer in women, including breast cancer. I ask you to stop and think, "Is something wrong with this picture?"
So, since the Breast Cancer Awareness Month spin doctors claim that breast cancer is "simply not a preventable disease", the focus has shifted to the theme of early detection. Women are now encouraged to get their early mammogram. At one time, only women 50 years or older were told to get this screening. Now the campaign is targeting 40 year olds and even women as young as 25. However, detecting breast cancer with mammography does not protect women from breast cancer.
Mammograms: Adding Injury to Insult!
More questions are being raised about the validity of mammograms. A mammogram is an x-ray. The only acknowledged cause of cancer by the American Cancer Society is from radiation. When it comes to radiation, there is no safe level of exposure.
"There is clear evidence that the breast, particularly in premenopausal women, is highly sensitive to radiation, with estimates of increased risk of up to one percent for every RAD (radiation absorbed dose) unit of x-ray exposure. Even for low dosage exposure of two RADs or less, this exposure can add up quickly for women having an annual mammography," notes Samuel Epstein, M.D., Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. "More recent concern comes from evidence that one percent of women, or over one million women in the United States alone, carry a gene that increases their breast cancer risk from radiation fourfold."8
In addition, mammography provides false tumor reports of between 5 and 15 percent of the time. False positive results cause women to be re-exposed to additional X rays and create an environment of further stress, even possibly leading to unneeded surgery.
"Furthermore," says Dr. Epstein, "while there is a general consensus that mammography improves early cancer detection and survival in post-menopausal women, no such benefit is demonstrable for younger women." Still, the American Cancer Society recommends annual or biannual mammography for all women ages forty to fifty-five or earlier.
"Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth," says Dr. Charles B. Simone, a former clinical associate in immunology and pharmacology at the National Cancer Institute. Safer and even more effective diagnostic techniques like infrared thermography has been vigorously attacked by the Breast Cancer Awareness organizations.9
It is also noteworthy to point out that General Electric, a major polluter in PCB's in the Hudson River, N.Y. area, manufactures mammography machines.
So all the hullabaloo that comes each October, enlisting women's support and hard-earned cash does nothing to really eliminate the cause of this devastating disease. Instead, women's heart-felt desires and good intentions to find the cause and cure are usurped by the hidden agendas of major transnational corporations pushing their toxic drug treatments and diagnostic tools that are shown to contribute to even more breast cancer. It makes one wonder if the cancer establishment is really interested in a cure at all.
Can We Do Anything?
Women can make a difference. The causes of cancer are already known. Toxic diets, toxic lifestyles, toxic environments, toxic drug treatments, and toxic diagnostic techniques cause cancer. Corporations are only interested in increasing their profits and ensuring their tentacles of control, not in actual solutions. When it comes to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women must invest their time and money into projects, initiatives, and treatments that will truly make a difference.
Perhaps it is time to turn in those pink ribbons.
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About The Author
SHERRILL SELLMAN is a psychotherapist, lecturer, and Women's Health Educator. Sherrill actively writes for health magazines in over 12 different countries and presents public and corporate lectures and trainings in Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, and England. Sherrill offers a Hormonal Balancing Coaching Program by phone consultation at (918) 437-1058. For further info visit drsherrillsellman.com/