The New York Times has an interesting and lengthy discussion of the Pink Ribbon campaign 'against' cancer. The discussion emphasizes the potential drawbacks of frequent mammogram screening. There has been considerable debate about the relative safety and costs/benefits of annual mammograms for women, especially for those under 50. This article focuses on this debate and the costs/benefits. It does not address the causes of breast cancer, only detection, diagnoses, screening and treatment:
Orenstein, P. (25 April 2013) Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/our-feel-good-war-on-breast-cancer.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130428
[Excerpted] Recently, a survey of three decades of screening published in November in The New England Journal of Medicine found that mammography’s impact is decidedly mixed: it does reduce, by a small percentage, the number of women who are told they have late-stage cancer, but it is far more likely to result in overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including surgery, weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs. And yet, mammography remains an unquestioned pillar of the pink-ribbon awareness movement....
...There has been about a 25 percent drop in breast-cancer death rates since 1990, and some researchers argue that treatment — not mammograms — may be chiefly responsible for that decline. They point to a study of three pairs of European countries with similar health care services and levels of risk: In each pair, mammograms were introduced in one country 10 to 15 years earlier than in the other. Yet the mortality data are virtually identical....
....More than anything else, though, the ribbon reminds women that every single one of us is vulnerable to breast cancer, and our best protection is annual screening...
...Other researchers are excited about the prospect of fighting or preventing cancer by changing the “microenvironment” of the breast...
Majia here: I despise the pink ribbon campaign because it DEFLECTS attention away from the ENVIRONMENTAL causes of breast cancer. While this article offers an interesting critique of the benefits/risks of screening, it does nothing to address the MACRO-ENVIRONMENT of cancer.
I personally refuse to have a mammogram because I am under 50, I've never smoked cigarettes, I have no breast cancer in my family, and I am not overweight.
Mammograms do pose risks themselves because they expose the breast in a targeted way to radiation.
Even the National Cancer Institute acknowledges this risk:
Radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low, but repeated x-rays have the potential to cause cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms
Majia here: They don't list HOW MUCH radiation you get but realize that some women get mammograms every year.
Slate has an article discussing these risks and some of the drawbacks of getting mammograms regularly when under 50:
How Much Radiation Do You Get From a Mammogram? Not much. Slate. By Brian Palmer|Posted Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/11/how_much_radiation_do_you_get_from_a_mammogram.html
[Excerpted] The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended Monday that women without risk factors for breast cancer wait until their 50s before going in for regular mammograms. That's because early screening yields almost 50 times as many false positives as true cancers, triggering unnecessary biopsies and anxiety, and early detection doesn't do much good in 85 percent of cases anyway. The Task Force noted that the radiation exposure associated with mammography was a minor factor in their recommendation; on Wednesday, Slate's Darshak Sanghavi wrote, "It's possible the radiation from those mammograms may end up causing more cancers than they prevent." How much radiation is in a mammogram?An average of 70 millirems—roughly the dose you'd receive from your normal, everyday environment over a period of two and a half months...
...The dosage figures for environmental radiation refer to effects on the whole body, but radiation delivered to specific body parts can be more or less destructive. Tissues that generate new cells more rapidly, like the thyroid or bone marrow, are particularly vulnerable. Breast tissue is somewhat unusual, since the rate of cell turnover varies with the amount of estrogen. As a result, the breasts are much less susceptible to radiation among post-menopausal women. [end]
Majia here: Slate alludes to the deception: receiving 70 millirems of Xrays (equivalent to 700 microsieverts) in a minute or two time frame is simply NOT THE SAME as receiving it over a period of two and a half months in gamma exposure (or even in xrays).
Low-doses of X-rays may be particularly dangerous because the body may not recognize the damage and repair it within a particular low-threshold framework. X-ray damage to more rapidly dividing cells is particularly problematic, as Slate points out.
However, my biggest problem with the pink-ribbon campaign is not the even the pushing of cancer-causing X-rays because one can always 'just say no.' Although, be prepared for your doctor's deep concern and consternation and prepare to be labeled an 'uncooperative patient.'
My biggest problem with the Pink Ribbon campaign is that it deflects attention from all of the ENVIRONMENTAL causes of DNA and epigegenetic damage and subsequent tumor growth, ranging across agricultural chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides), harmful food additives, industrial pollutants in our food and water, and radiation from nuclear power plants, atmospheric testing, war (e.g., DU), etc.
The pink ribbon campaign makes people think they are helping to prevent cancer by 'supporting' (through their consumption) a campaign that does absoluting NOTHING to examine the CAUSES of cancer.
It is a 'feel' good campaign that operates ideologically in effect (if not intent) by implicitly telling people they can defeat cancer by consuming a campaign, subjecting themselves to radiation, and remaining 'optimistic' about cancer diagnoses.
I cannot help but wonder cynically if General Electric, Monsanto, and Dow chemical all sat down together, devised the campaign, and then found the Komen sisters.
Ok I know that is not what happened, but I have NO DOUBT that the CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP is so great for this campaign because it completely DE-POLITICIZES cancer by SEVERING the disease from any discussion of its ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSES.
Its feel-good consumption-based solution is intensely political and I fundamentally reject that politics.
I would like to start a SAY NO TO GENOTOXINS campaign that entails NO CONSUMPTION but rather a letter writing campaign to corporations, the EPA, the FDA, and our elected officials DEMANDING that safety standards be revised to reflect new understandings of genetic damage (rather than toxicity studies based on animal deaths) and epigenetic disruptions, which can be caused by endocrine disruptors (whose safety has never been considered in regulatory approval processes).
PBS Exposed explains: Some sixty-two thousand chemicals were grandfathered into the market with the passage of the US Toxic Substance Control Act in 1976, with no testing or review. These included thousands of potentially highly toxic substances, including the likes of ethyl benzene, a widely used industrial solvent suspected of being a potent neurotoxin; whole families of synthetic plastics that are potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters; and thousands of other substances for which there was little or no information.” (http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/412/Exposed-Toxic-Chemistry.html)
Majia here: In August of 2007 the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) published a report comparing the lax U.S. regulatory framework for chemicals with a recently enacted European framework, REACH.
The GAO report, titled, “Chemical Regulation: Comparison of U.S. and Recently Enacted European Union Approaches to Protect against the Risks of Toxic Chemicals” (GAO-07-825), explains that under the current regulatory system in the U.S., companies do not have to develop information on the health or environmental impact of chemicals unless specifically required by EPA ruling.
Consequently, the EPA relies on voluntary programs for gathering information from chemical companies in order to evaluate and regulate new chemicals under the provisions of TSCA. The GAO report found TSCA inadequate in comparison with REACH’s reporting requirements.
Furthermore, our regulatory agencies are themselves compromised by administrative pressure brought on by special interests:
Reporting of Science Findings May be Suppresed: Scientists Report Political Interference By Christopher Lee Washington Post Staff WriterThursday, April 24, 2008; A19
More than half the Environmental Protection Agency scientists who responded to an independent survey made public yesterday said that they had witnessed political interference in scientific decisions at the agency during the past five years. [end]
Majia here: Furthermore ENVIRONMENTAL RISK CAN BE MANIPULATED VIA STRATEGIC COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
[PBS Exposed explains] “The requirements that EPA include the "costs to industry" in determining whether a substance presents an "unreasonable threat to public health" and that it impose the "least burdensome regulation" (to industry) was a bar that the GAO found too high for effective protection from chemicals' potential harm.
One result of these rules was that the EPA has banned just five chemicals since the agency's creation a quarter century ago. That includes the family of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), millions of tons of which were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers and electrical equipment until they were found to cause acute skin lesions, were a likely contributor to liver damage, and were carcinogenic. PCBs are also highly persistent: though the EPA banned them in 1977, residues are still turning up in drinking water and in the soil.”http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/412/Exposed-Toxic-Chemistry.html