Breast Cancer Action's Halloween Scare Tactics Wont Work

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  • 10/29/2006
My oped today in the NY Dailly News

End sick crusade against breast cancer research
Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Every October, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around, we wear pink ribbons and focus our attention on a terrible disease that takes the lives of some 40,000 American women every year. But this year, a group known as Breast Cancer Action has seized the stage - and, claiming to speak on behalf of breast cancer patients themselves, is making conspiratorial, offensive and irresponsible statements. They must be exposed as the fearmongers they are.
In a national media campaign that includes newspaper and TV ads, the upstart organization is advising women to "think before you pink" because - get this - they consider corporate donations to fight cancer research tainted by the profit motive. The group warns women against the breakthrough treatments corporate-funded research might yield.

And most alarmingly, the organization has advised against mammograms, apparently believing that they too are part of some corporate conspiracy. According to Barbara Brenner, executive director of the group, "benefit of routine mammograms for healthy premenopausal women is unproven."

This is a blatant lie that threatens women's lives. The scientific consensus is that routine mammography reduces the risk of dying of breast cancer in women 50 and older by up to 30%.

And in their crusade against corporate-funded research, what kind of breakthroughs is Breast Cancer Action targeting? Work by people like Northwestern University's Dr. Boris Pasche. By identifying women with variations of two specific genes that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, Pasche and his colleagues are approaching a breakthrough that could successfully test for cancer risk in 30% of women. That could spare mothers needless trips to the doctor, exhausting rounds of chemotherapy and hospitalitzation.

In the perverse world of Breast Cancer Action, Dr. Pasche's research is suspect - because part of his financial support comes from the Avon Foundation. What's wrong with the Avon Foundation? Well, it seems the mere fact that it's linked to a profit-making company is cause enough for concern: "Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns, as companies try to boost their image and their profits by connecting themselves to a good cause," Breast Cancer Action complains on its Web site.

Perversely, this organization blames corporations for doing too much - and, at the very same time, not enough. As Brenner recently explained, "I understand that people want to do something, but if shopping could cure breast cancer, it would be cured by now." Brenner apparently isn't aware that over the last decade, thanks to countless researchers and millions of dollars in funding, the death rate from breast cancer has declined by 2.3% per year for all women. And it could go down much further, much faster, if research accelerates.

Breast Cancer's Action's twisted crusade would have corporations forget research funding and have women forgo potentially livesaving treatments. And what should replace research and science? A fight for a cleaner environment. In particular, the group insists there is irrefutable proof that chemicals called PCBs - pollutants that were in some manufactured goods before being banned in 1977 - cause breast cancer. There's no biological evidence to support such a link.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this terrible disease is a formidable enough target for America to fight. We shouldn't also have to contend with the lies and hysteria being peddled by Breast Cancer Action.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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