As I See It
The Myth That Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
By Jill Chapin
Oct 2, 2005 - 7:46:00 PM

October is the month when we are supposed to gain more awareness about breast cancer.

As if we weren't aware enough already, with one out of seven women getting this insidious disease. And this, after our government declared war on cancer over three decades ago, when only one out of 20 were so diagnosed. Yet today, all we have to show for it is our obsession with telling women how to detect the disease, instead of how to prevent it. And even these recommendations are often ineffective, or worse, flat out wrong.

For instance, many medical experts actually state that mammograms are the best preventative measure we can take. Really? Like dental x-rays prevent cavities?

And when we are told that mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer, what this really means is that it is the best way that is paid for by insurance companies. This does not translate to mean the most effective or safest way to do so. Mammograms emit radiation and compress the tissue, both of which can alter cells. They also don't always find present cancers. Even if other detection devices such as MRIs and ultra sounds are not covered by insurance, wouldn't you want all options on the table so you can decide how best to manage both your health and your money?

And what exactly are your cancer donations researching? When a drug is deemed new, it only has to be slightly different " not more effective " than current drugs in order for it to receive a patent as older drugs on the market are about to lose patent protection. If you suspect that this sounds more like an economic breakthrough rather than a scientific one, maybe it's because you are finding these pronouncements in the business section of a newspaper rather than the health section.

But the most confounding aspect to Breast Cancer Awareness Month is something of which we are not being made aware at all. It's about hormones and their link to breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation both admit to a correlation between early onset of menstruation and late onset of menopause to breast cancer because of the increased duration of the amount of hormones produced in the body.

Despite this correlation, they have so far balked at recommending that women protect themselves by avoiding dairy products with hormones added. I spoke with someone at the Susan G. Komen Foundation and was told there has not been a scientific study definitively linking these added hormones to cancer. When asked if hormones were so safe, would she sprinkle them on her children's cereal, she admitted she would not. But if she's not pouring organic milk over their Cheerios, then she most certainly is doing just that.

Europeans didn't need a scientific study to ban mercury in their food supply that ended up in alarming amounts in lactating women. They succinctly decided that proof or not, mercury in mothers' milk is not a good thing. Period.

We need to stop and ask ourselves who benefits from chickens with hormone-inflated breasts or from hormone-fed cows that produce more milk. Could it be those who raise chickens and cows?

Why do otherwise intelligent people need to wait for a scientific study to tell them to exercise common sense by erring on the side of caution and just pick up eggs, butter, milk and yogurt that clearly state no hormones were mixed in with these otherwise nourishing foods.

Imagine how our health could benefit if the American Cancer Society would step up to the plate and tell us that reaching a little to the left or right on our grocer's shelf could go a long way in preventing dastardly things from happening to our bodies' molecular makeup.

Of course, it would be nice if Americans were able to realize on their own how this small lifestyle change could reap long-term health benefits. But to those who don't have the inclination to notice, a wake-up call by the ACS would certainly grab everyone's attention.

Which in turn would cause us to grab the safer quart of milk on the shelf.



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