By Dr. Sherrill Sellman
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 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.
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.
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. 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. Also, another study investigated why upper class
women in the community of Newton, Massachusetts had higher breast cancer
rates than the lower economic women. The researchers attributed the increase
to greater use of professional lawn care service and more dry cleaning.
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?
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!
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.
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?”
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.
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.”
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. 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.
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.
Dr. Sherrill Sellman holds a Doctorate of Naturopathy and a Bachelor of Arts Degree (magna
cum laude) - Sociology and Psychology. She is an internationally acclaimed
lecturer and best selling author of “Hormone Heresy” and “What Women MUST Know To Protect Their Daughters From Breast Cancer.”
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