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Breast Cancer Overview


Breast cancer is caused by a genetic abnormality, a “mistake” in genetic material. But usually, not an inherited mistake, meaning not something in the genes you got from your parents. Inheritance accounts for perhaps just 5 percent of the breast cancers. Most breast cancers are caused by genetic abnormalities triggered by environmental influences placing stress upon genes, causing them to malfunction.

Normal cells have a finite lifespan - they divide many times, do what they are supposed to, and then die by committing cell suicide (apoptosis). Cancerous cells have mutated and do not follow the rulebook. They don’t die; they divide endlessly and wander where they are not supposed to go. They are uniquely adapted to thrive in today’s high-sugar diet and acidic internal environment.

When cells divide, their DNA is normally copied with mistakes. Nature handles this by supplying proteins to fix those mistakes. The mutations that cause cancer disable the fail-safe mechanism of the proteins.

When a tumor is forming, it develops its own blood supply to feed its accelerated growth. This increased blood flow can increase the surface temperatures of the breast. Thermography measures the skin’s autonomic response to that inflammation - its “heat signature”. The technology converts infrared radiation emitted from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color.

he overwhelming majority of breast cancers are “Ductal Carcinoma in Situ,” or DCIS. Abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts. A lump in the breast is usually this kind of cancer. In the majority of cases, tumors in the breast grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for 10 years. This is why thermography, which can detect suspicions of cancer formation 10 years earlier than mammography, is a superior tool for early detection. Also, thermography is safer because it does not use cancer-causing radiation or painful compression.

Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells from inside the sacs that produce milk (lobules), or abnormal cells from the milk ducts break out into nearby breast tissue. Cancer cells then spread to the lymph nodes and, in advanced stages, to organs like the liver, lungs, and bones. The process of spreading is called metastasis.

Inflammatory breast cancer is the rarest form; it is an estimated 2 percent to 5 percent of cases. This type of cancer does not produce a lump. Instead, cancer cells infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast. When the lymph vessels become blocked by the breast cancer cells, the breast typically becomes red, swollen, and warm. This type of breast cancer often breaks out through the skin, looking like angry cauliflower. Typically, it grows fast and requires aggressive treatment.

The reason you hear so much about early detection is that the survival rates are much, much better for cancers that have not metastasized.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we feel the best course of treatment in most cases is Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT). It is a smart way to approach cancer based on what makes cancer cells vulnerable - sugar.

breastcancer4Otto Warburg, MD, was awarded the Nobel Prize in the 1930s for discerning that cancer cells run on sugar; they need a whole lot more of it than healthy cells. Cancer cells are designed with extra insulin receptors to help them get more sugar than healthy cells; insulin draws the glucose inside the cell.

With IPT, we combine insulin and sugar water (glucose) with a very low dose of chemotherapy. The cancer cells, always ravenous for sugar, take in the drugs along with the glucose. It is as if we ambush just the cancer cells. They don’t see the chemo coming. They take it in along with the sugar they so desperately crave. Healthy cells are not ambushed. It is a targeted approach.

IPT uses about one-tenth the dosage of a conventional chemotherapy regime, and no radiation. IPT provides a safer alternative to conventional chemotherapy. It is tough on the cancer, but much gentler on the body than conventional therapy. When combined with complementary therapies to nurture the liver and rebuild the immune system, we feel it is also more effective.

Patients undergoing IPT typically do not go bald, do not have damaged livers and digestive tracts, and do not experience “chemo brain” for a year after treatment has stopped. We feel that IPT offers a much higher quality of life while undergoing treatment, and prospects for a long life after treatment, compared to conventional, full-dose chemotherapy and radiation.

Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Rachel Carson wrote the landmark environmental book Silent Spring in 1962. She reminded us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world, subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Carson died of breast cancer in 1964.

Cancer is an environmental disease. Yet, we don’t hear much about that from the mainstream media and cancer organizations. They are still searching for “the cure” when, in great measure, we already have it.

Breast cancer incidence rates in the United States increased by more than 40 percent since 1973. Experts point out that this parallels the rise in chemicals in our environment, and the decrease in the quality of our diets. Given that cancer takes a decade or two or three to manifest - it takes time for genes to mutate and overwhelm the immune system - this suggests that the post-WWII increase in chemical exposures and processed food came with a price tag we did not initially recognize: cancer.

A vast number of animal, human, laboratory and field studies, dating from the 1930s, continue to provide incontrovertible evidence for the role of man-made environmental agents in human diseases such as breast cancer. These are agents that can be reduced, modified or eliminated. According to a 2009 report in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

“A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that exposures to common chemicals and radiation, alone and in combination, are contributing to the increase in breast cancer incidence observed over the past several decades. ... A review of the scientific literature shows several classes of environmental factors have been implicated in an increased risk for breast cancer, including hormones and endocrine-disrupting compounds, organic chemicals and by-products of industrial and vehicular combustion, and both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.”[1]

Frustration Builds with Mainstream Information

According to mainstream sources, can breast cancer be prevented?

The American Cancer Society says, “There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer.” Drugs and surgery are their primary tools of choice to lower risk:

“For women who are or may be at increased risk1. Genetic testing: Recently the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made [a recommendation] that only women with a strong family history be evaluated for genetic testing for BRCA mutations. This group is only about 2% of adult women in the United States.

2. Breast cancer chemoprevention: Studies have shown that women at high risk for breast cancer are less likely to get the disease if they take tamoxifen. Another drug, Raloxifene®, has been approved to help reduce breast cancer risk in women past menopause…

“Preventive surgery for women with very high breast cancer risk

1. For the few women who are at a very high risk for breast cancer, preventive surgery such as double mastectomy may be an option.

2. Preventive ovary removal: Women with (BRCA mutation) who have their ovaries removed may reduce their risk of breast cancer by half or more.”

Preventive surgery is an extreme measure. Not a whisper about learning of environmental toxicity. And the recommendation for tamoxifen meets with dropped jaws in some quarters. Consider Dr. Sherry Selman’s comments:

“Despite tamoxifen’s supposed ability to reduce recurrence in postmenopausal women, major studies have shown that tamoxifen reduces death from breast cancer only marginally. The majority of women who take tamoxifen live no longer than women who refuse it. It is with great alarm that researchers are finding that some breast cancers actually learn how to use tamoxifen to stimulate their growth ... In September 2000, The Lancet reported a study which showed that the drug tamoxifen increased the risk of developing endometrial cancer.”[2]


Suzanne Somers’ 2009 book about cancer entitled “KNOCKOUT” quickly became a best seller. She was attacked by Newsweek Magazine and others, but the public welcomed her like a breath of fresh air. Many people agree with her message about curing cancer:

“The present template of medicine is not working... the public needs to know there are real alternatives to chemo, radiation and surgery, and that a world without cancer is possible today. You have options.”

The Spin

When you look at the array of organizations that concern themselves with cancer, you see a lot of emphasis on “awareness” and “finding the cure.” For example, the National Breast Cancer Foundation says its mission “is to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need. The best way to fight breast cancer is to have a plan that helps you detect the disease in its early stages.”[3]

So, “fighting breast cancer” has nothing to do with prevention. It’s all about early detection. And that would be a money-making annual mammogram with an annual blast of cancer-causing radiation.

“Awareness of breast cancer”: We are awash in pink ribbons every fall. Is anyone not aware breast cancer is a problem?

“Through education”: That means an explanation of the signs, symptoms, and stages of breast cancer, according to their website. This is merely cancer 101, textbook information about the mechanics of cancer. There is nothing about how to prevent breast cancer, almost nothing about the environmental connection.

“Providing mammograms”: The only cause of cancer officially recognized by the American Cancer Society is radiation - the same type of radiation ACS, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen organization recommend women expose themselves to in annual mammograms.

Mixed Messages

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® calls itself “the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested nearly $1.5 billion since inception in 1982.” In 28 years, it has not found anything close to a cure. Many feel they are looking in the wrong place.

“We have become the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world,” Komen proclaims on its website. Fight? We don’t need to fight breast cancer. We need to stop it, and we can if we educate about the carcinogenic chemicals in cosmetics, in household furnishings and cleaners, in our cars, in the pesticides we use around every building, in the PAHs created in fried foods, etc.

But wait a minute, SGK endorses PAHs. In the Spring of 2010, Komen teamed up with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to sell pink buckets of grilled and Original Recipe fried chicken. Komen got 50 cents for every pink bucket sold.

KFCpinkWhen foods are overheated, as is the case with fried chicken, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. Some grilled chicken products may also contain a dangerous carcinogenic compound called PhIP. In 2009, a report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found “PhIP, a chemical classified as a carcinogen” and related to “heterocyclic amines (HCAs), has been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, in dozens of scientific studies. No safe level of ingestion has been identified. Every sample [of KFC’s Grilled Chicken] also tested positive for at least one additional type of HCA.”[4]

Another study done in conjunction with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation reported in 2010 that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as a young adult appears to increase breast cancer risk. So how does it make sense to campaign against breast cancer with a food that promotes breast cancer?

Andrea Raider, SGK’s director of marketing and communications, admits that the charity received some e-mail messages criticizing the KFC promotion. “But for the most part, reaction in the general public has been positive,” she said. One of Komen’s motivations for doing the promotion is that it allows the charity to get its message to women in neighborhoods it normally doesn’t reach, Raider said, and 900 hundred of KFC’s 5000 fast-food restaurants are in cities or towns where the charity does not have an affiliate.

The KFC pink buckets bear the names of breast-cancer survivors and other women who died from the disease. That is the extent of the “education campaign” to women who, according to Raider, somehow managed not to hear that breast cancer is a problem. And did we mention that the lids on these chicken buckets solicited donations for Komen?

“It’s like … Smith & Wesson funding a rifle range at Columbine High School,” wrote Joe Waters, director of cause marketing at Boston Medical Center in his blog, Selfish Giving. “With 2,400 calories and 160 grams of fat, a bucket of extra-crispy KFC should include the wig you’ll need for cancer treatments after eating this crap for years.”

Follow the Money

KFC is not the only corporate sponsorship embraced by Komen. M&M candies went pink in 2009. Dove chocolates and Pepperidge Farm are among the 2010 corporate sponsors. Remember what makes cancer cells unique? Their intense need for sugar. So why is a breast cancer organization teaming up with those who encourage us to eat more refined sugar? It makes no sense if the mission is to reduce the incidence of cancer.

“Junk food” purveyors have deep pockets. Pepsi is financing a program in obesity studies at Yale, McDonald’s is a long-term sponsor of the Olympics. The ACS, Komen, and others may never “find a cure,” but their administrative structure will continue on and on, funded by those who buy the appearance of being good corporate citizens while building market share.

One in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes. How much worse does it have to get until Komen starts using its clout for stopping cancer?

We didn’t “fight” lung cancer. We insisted that the vested interests selling cigarettes finally tell the truth after 20-plus years of denial. We exposed the memos that covered up the dangers. We educated people about the harm of smoking so they would stop. We put warning labels on the cigarette packages. We stopped letting cigarettes be advertised on TV. We limited where cigarettes could be smoked in public. Because of all that, the incidence of lung cancer fell.

Taking on “Big Tobacco” was a huge undertaking. On behalf of cancer, one would need to take on “Big Food,” “Big Pharma,” the powerful chemical industry, and maybe the telecommunications industry. That’s a tall order. No wonder so many people wanted to hear what Suzanne Somers had to say about standing up to the cancer establishment.

Not all organizations follow the money. The Breast Cancer Fund, for example, is much in the forefront of reducing breast cancer. Their stated mission: “To expose and eliminate the environmental causes of cancer. We can stop this disease before it starts.” Yes we can. Kudos for staying on message and on task. It has not been easy. The article that follows gives a revealing behind-the-scenes look at why we hear so much about Komen and so little about the efforts of groups like the Breast Cancer Fund:

Extra! February 2009

Overlooking Evidence

Media ignore environmental connections to breast cancer

By Miranda Spencer

Breast cancer is now epidemic, affecting one in eight women, according to the American Cancer Society and others. The leading cause of death in women in their late 30s to early 50s, it’s estimated to have killed 40,000 people in 2008.

A growing body of private, university and government environmental health research on animals and human populations is implicating the chemicals and radiation to which women are unwittingly exposed every day. The suspects include scores of toxic and hormone-disrupting substances that are listed as known, probable or possible carcinogens-and thousands of others that (in the U.S., at least) remain untested for their safety. Among others, they include pesticides, plastics, consumer-product additives and industrial byproducts.

Moreover, science is finding the causes of breast (and other) cancers are complex and multi-factored, and the timing and pattern of chemical exposure are proving as important as dose. While these findings, focused on causes and prevention, are relatively new and few compared with much better-funded work on detection and treatment, they merit further research and a place in the headlines.

Unfortunately, Extra! has found, the major media have downplayed and frequently overlooked this evidence.

Tracking the coverage

To track the extent of coverage of environmental factors in breast cancer causation, Extra! used the Nexis database to examine a sample of the largest, most influential news outlets-those with big enough budgets to do regular science, health and environmental reporting. We studied four newspapers (USA Today, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post), three newsweeklies (Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report) and four TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN) from 2002 through 2008, reviewing coverage of environmental factors in breast cancer during an annual event, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month-October-in each of the seven years. Since its inception in 1985, this pageant of pink has brought special prominence to the disease. While the month has been criticized by some as an exercise in corporate self-promotion, it does provide a predictable news hook and an ideal time to draw on recent findings to add cause and prevention to the standard mix of items on cancer rates and risks, detection and treatment.

Extra! also looked for coverage of two major scientific metastudies that aggregated numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies on the environment/breast cancer connection:

State of the Evidence: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment, a summary and explanation of external scientific research plus policy and research recommendations. First released in 2002 and updated in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008 to include new research findings, the latest edition synthesizes the results of more than 400 studies, runs 147 pages long with 667 references, and was vetted by five independent experts. It is published by the Breast Cancer Fund, a national nonprofit focused on environmental and other preventable causes of the disease, and Breast Cancer Action, a membership organization that “challenges assumptions and inspires change to end the breast cancer epidemic.”

A veritable catalog of environmental villains, the ’08 edition explains that the latest data “show that we need to begin to think of breast cancer causation as a . . . web of often interconnected factors, each exerting direct and interactive effects on cellular processes on mammary tissue,” and points to growing evidence that “exposure of fetuses, young children and adolescents to radiation and environmental chemicals [notably the pesticide DDT] puts them at considerably higher risk for breast cancer in later life.” Though disturbing, the report’s underlying message is hopeful: “By decreasing exposures to carcinogens . . . we may continue to lower breast cancer levels-and actually prevent the devastating disease-in the future.”

Environmental Pollutants and Breast Cancer: Epidemiological Studies, a review of hundreds of existing studies and databases that identified some 216 chemicals that induce mammary tumors in animals. Compiled by researchers at the Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit scientific research institute that studies links between the environment and women’s health, and three other institutions, including Harvard Medical School, the report was published in May 2007 as a special supplement in Cancer, the journal of the venerable American Cancer Society.

Stating that “laboratory research provides evidence that environmental pollutants may contribute to breast cancer risk by damaging DNA, promoting tumor growth or increasing susceptibility by altering mammary gland development,” the report cautions: “These compounds are widely detected in human tissues and in environments, such as homes, where women spend time.”

Among other things, the paper found that the relative risks associated with PAHs (largely from car exhaust) and PCBs were “comparable in magnitude” to many breast cancer risk factors that have received more attention, such as age at first full-term pregnancy and inactivity. The good news: “If these mechanisms similarly affect humans, reducing or eliminating chemical exposures could have substantial public health benefits.”

The coverage: nearly nil

At no time since the State of the Evidence report began publication in 2002 did any of the major media examined cover or even refer to it. Similarly, none covered the Cancer special report with the notable exception of the Los Angeles Times, which published a thorough, nuanced, straightforward front-page article of nearly 1,500 words by award-winning environmental reporter Marla Cone (“Common Chemicals Are Linked to Breast Cancer,” 5/14/07).

However, the Times seemed to back off Cone’s story a week later, publishing “A Closer Look: Chemicals and Breast Cancer” (5/21/07), a special report by Mary Beckman in the Health section that appeared intended not so much to debunk Cone’s article as to reassure a frightened public. Subheaded “Suspects, but not all perps; a report has linked chemicals to tumors in animals. But the risks to women are less clear,” it stated that the report’s findings do “not mean women should stop cooking with canola or cower indoors for fear of getting breast cancer, experts say.”

Stories about or even mentioning breast cancer’s environmental connections during Breast Cancer Awareness Month were extremely few. Over the seven Octobers examined, only four articles (Washington Post, 10/23/02, 10/9/07; L.A. Times, 10/9/02 and 10/6/03), an isolated photo and caption (L.A. Times, 10/24/02) and portions of three TV news segments (ABC’s Good Morning America, 10/27/08; CBS’s Early Show, 10/4/06; NBC’s Today, 10/6/05) considered those connections, including the disease’s cause and prevention. There were three brief items (CNN, 10/18/04; L.A. Times, 10/19/04; NBC, 10/24/04) about the federal Sister Study, which is looking at the environmental and genetic factors in the sisters of women with breast cancer; CNN also made passing mentions in four segments over the seven years, USA Today made two and NBC one (most of these pieces were about topics other than breast cancer).

Though substantial and informative, both Post pieces and one of the L.A. Times‘ had a note of blaming the victim. The Post’s 2002 article on exceptionally high breast cancer rates in wealthy Marin County, California, noted that “experts say women here are most likely vulnerable because of something in the county’s lifestyle, rather than in its water,” assigning the cluster most likely to “demographics.”

The Post’s 2007 article reported on findings that childhood exposure to DDT was associated with a fivefold increase in breast cancer risk in adulthood-but “balanced” this possibly lifesaving news with concerns that further restrictions on the pesticide may hobble the fight against malaria. (See Extra!, 9-10/07.)

One L.A. Times story (10/6/03) on California’s search for the causes of breast and other cancers through “biomonitoring”-measuring toxins in the human body-gave credence to the risks posed by chemicals such as flame retardants in breast milk, but devoted about a third of the 2,000-plus-word piece to concerns that the findings might scare moms away from breastfeeding their infants.

ABC, to its credit, had a long segment on breast doctor Susan Love’s “Army of Women” campaign to recruit women for human trials to look at breast cancer’s causes-including environmental ones. CBS and NBC’s segments-mainly on other aspects of the disease-inquired about environmental connections, but in both cases the physicians the networks chose to interview downplayed them.

Notably absent was any coverage in the New York Times or any of the newsweeklies. Time did have a lengthy cover story on breast cancer’s increase in developing nations (10/15/07)-but when it suggested that adoption of “U.S. and European lifestyles” may be behind it, the magazine pointed the finger only at things like diet and “reproductive habits,” sidestepping the issue of American-style increases in pollution and chemical use.

Perhaps the New York Times‘ lack of coverage shouldn’t be surprising, considering the historical skepticism of Times science reporter Gina Kolata. In a 1998 article in the Nation (7/6/98), environmental journalist Mark Dowie took a critical look at the Times‘ science reporting, singling out Kolata’s many years of work on controversial topics connecting the environment and health, including breast cancer. As he told the journal Wild Duck Review (4/99), her environmental reporting has taken “a hard, pro-technology, pro-corporate line,” noting that Kolata “took a strong position that breast cancer has no environmental etiology at all.”

In a companion video for her article headlined “Environment and Cancer: The Links Are Elusive” (12/13/05), Kolata stated, “There are people who say that there may be cancers caused by things in the environment, but it’s a very small percentage of them, and the importance of them in the public’s mind has been exaggerated.” She later added, “One answer people don’t want to hear is it’s random bad luck.”

The dearth of media coverage was particularly perplexing in October 2008, when the major media missed a perfect news peg: On October 8, George W. Bush signed the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act, under which Congress funded the establishment of multidisciplinary research centers to study the potential links between the environment and breast cancer.

However, the influential outlets did make time and space for such news as an item on breast cancer survivors getting beauty make-overs (NBC Today, 10/15/08) and an explanation (NBC Today, 10/13/08) of how “you can shop for a cure. When you buy everything from pink jump ropes to golf clubs, you can stay fit while fighting breast cancer all at the same time.”

Same old story

Evolving research discoveries may make theories about breast and other cancers more robust over time, but the dearth of coverage of breast cancer’s environmental links seems to have changed little since before 2001. That year, Brown University sociologist Phil Brown and colleagues published their study Print Media Coverage of Environmental Causation of Breast Cancer. The researchers looked at 40 years (1961-2001) of coverage of breast cancer in two major papers, the three major newsweeklies, four popular science magazines and eight women’s magazines, and found that only 12 percent of science magazines, 10 percent of women’s magazines, 5 percent of newspapers and less than 5 percent of newsweeklies ever mentioned possible environmental causation, focusing mostly on an individual’s personal responsibility for avoiding the disease.

When it comes to breast cancer, why is it so hard to get the most influential media to pay attention to the possibility that, in addition to better-understood risks, unnatural substances entering women’s bodies might also be a factor?

“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” said Shannon Coughlin, communications director for the Breast Cancer Fund. According to Coughlin, major mainstream reporters seem to hold environmental health science findings to an especially high standard of proof. “Chemical regulation goes by the idea that a chemical is innocent until proven guilty, which places a terrible burden on us to prove harm,” she said.

Environmental health research is less certain by definition, added Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute and lead author of the Cancer report: “The standard breast cancer risks [e.g., reproductive history and diet] are things we can ask people about,” whereas “people don’t know what’s in their drinking water and in their air.”

Thus journalists “say there’s no smoking gun,” Jeanne Rizzo, the Breast Cancer Fund’s executive director, told Extra!. “If there’s no sensational direct cause and effect, they’re not interested.”

She added: “We need to change the conversation to see the interconnectedness of things. The media need to be willing to go out on a limb and talk about complicated [causality].”

Silent Spring’s Brody noted that even her institute’s hometown paper, the Boston Globe, passed on the Environmental Pollutants story: “They said, 'There’s no proof.’ We say, 'We don’t think we’ll find proof; we think we need to act on the weight of the evidence as it evolves.’ . . . We waited too long on tobacco smoke, we waited too long on lead.”

Rizzo pointed to the Women’s Health Initiative study, which found a direct connection between artificial hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer (Extra!, 9-10/02). “We should have learned from HRT that when you remove an endocrine-disrupting chemical from women, we get less breast cancer,” she said. “We need to extrapolate from that-what other exposures are similar that we should study? It’s not rocket science.” She added that because that health study was government-issued, “the media jumped all over it.”

Consider the source

Indeed, science news-and spokespeople-with the imprimatur of large, establishmentarian organizations are taken more seriously, said retired journalist Arlie Schardt, founder of Environmental Media Services, a nonprofit communications organization that until 2005 helped lesser-known scientists gain media coverage. Schardt explained that for efficiency’s sake, reporters tend to turn for sources to “the usual suspects,” who reflect “traditional viewpoints,” particularly when seeking feedback and “balance” on the validity of emerging science.

This fallback position may be due to the general “lack of knowledge” of environmental health science on the part of reporters and editors, according to former L.A. Times reporter Marla Cone, who is now editor-in-chief of Environmental Health News. She noted that breast cancer is typically the beat of medical reporters, who tend to interview physicians-and neither these reporters nor their sources are “accustomed to looking at this type of data.”

Schardt, a former Newsweek editor and later Al Gore’s press secretary, has found that scientists tend to be very cautious when pressed by reporters to make “definitive claims” about research findings. Not wanting to seem like advocates, they “cloak their quotes with a lot of qualifications,” reinforcing the uncertainty or controversy of newer scientific ideas in the resulting news stories.

Rizzo noted, “Reporters sometimes imply to us that our science isn’t valid because we have a perspective. But so does the American Cancer Society.”

Then there is what Brody calls “the connection between this field of science and the consumer economy.” Magazines, TV and newspapers all depend on advertising from companies that “produce the compounds targeted in our studies,” she pointed out.

Schardt puts it more bluntly: “Scientists are always attacked by industries with a stake” in the science. In his experience, “They’ll pull out all the stops to discredit the source.” That makes journalists more likely to shy away.

And there is something at stake: corporate power. Breast cancer activists not only want more research dollars devoted to environmental causes, they endorse strengthening consumer protection laws to ensure the safety of the chemicals in question, as is now taking place in Europe under the 2007 REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation.

Or as Cone, who observes that possible environmental angles are typically left out of reporting on the many other forms of cancer, puts it: “There is such a wealth of data on chemical exposures and their relationship to disease. . . . It should be brought up in every story.”

Miranda C. Spencer is a freelance journalist, editor and media critic based in Philadelphia. A longtime contributor to Extra!, she blogs on women, media and the environment for WIMN’s Voices.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

[1] Janet Gray, Nancy Evans, Brynn Taylor, Jeanne Rizzo, Marisa Walker. State of the Evidence-the Connection between Breast Cancer and the Environment. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Vol 15, No 1, 2009 [2] [3] [4] [5] Labreche F, et al; “Postmenopausal breast cancer and occupational exposures.” Occup Environ Med, 2010; 67: 263-69.
Breast Cancer Overview