By Darrel Crain, D.C.
It was thirty-five years ago when President Richard Nixon first committed our nation to the war on cancer. This seemed the right thing to do, because at the time, an American woman’s chance that she would have breast cancer in her lifetime was 1 in 20. Unfortunately, by 2005 the lifetime risk was reportedly almost three times worse, 1 in 7.
This trend may sound to you as if the war has not been going too well so far. Obviously, you are not one of the experts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), because if you were, you would say we are winning the war on cancer! I am not making this up. “In war,” said Ramman Kenoun, “there are no winners.” It appears that in war there are also no math tutors.
Breast cancer is a raging and deadly epidemic killing ever-greater numbers of women in the United States and other industrialized countries every year. Breast cancer tops the list of cancer deaths among women in this country, annually claiming the lives of more than 40,000 women. The incidence of cancer overall has climbed to such epidemic proportions during recent decades that a man living in the United States now has a fifty-fifty chance he will have cancer during his lifetime. For a woman, the chance is 1 in 3. Within a single generation we have seen an increase in cancer of approximately 56 percent for men and 22 percent for women!
So how can the NCI tell us we are winning the war against cancer when the evidence tells us that virtually every type of cancer is clobbering us worse than ever? Apparently all it takes is a wave of the statistical magic wand over the numbers. You’d be surprised how much this dresses things up for the cameras and makes fundraising easier.
“War is the unfolding of miscalculations,” wrote historian Barbara Tuchman.
To be fair, the mortality rate for men with lung cancer has dipped slightly because fewer men now smoke, but the real reduction in overall mortality rates is statistical, having more to do with earlier detection rates, not improvements in cancer treatments, according to Dr. John Bailar, former epidemiologist at the NCI.
But if you remove the rose-colored glasses constantly conjured by the NCI and the American Cancer Society (ACS), you will see we are losing the great cancer war, miserably. Perhaps, as Jeanette Rankin has suggested, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”
“Find the Cure” is the rallying cry heard at grass roots events around the country, designed to raise awareness as well as raise funds. These activities are linked to well-funded national media campaigns to promote the search for a cure. But is it possible our focus on finding a “cure” is holding us back from real progress at saving lives? Research suggests that only about 10 percent of breast cancer is linked to genetic makeup.
We might ask, wouldn’t preventing breast cancer be better than trying to cure it? “Breast cancer is simply not a preventable disease,” answers the NCI, while the ACS has stated, “…there are no practical ways to prevent breast cancer – only early detection.”
I’m wondering, are these experts just embarrassingly out of touch with current research, or do their organizations have some other reason for denying all the evidence to the contrary? Some critics have suggested that the financial tentacles of transnational chemical corporations reach deeply into the ACS and influence its decision making, such as burying its head in the sand when it comes to breast cancer and the environment.
Recently published research examined the results of 21 different studies, “State of the Evidence 2004: What Is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer?” It was sponsored by two non-profit groups, Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action.
“This new report offers the clearest evidence yet that the rise in breast cancer incidence is linked to exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals. Medical x-rays, pesticides, household cleaning products, personal care products and some pharmaceuticals – these are just a few of the multiple and chronic exposures contributing to this epidemic,” remarked Nancy Evans, a health science consultant with the Breast Cancer Fund.
Other known risk factors include use of oral contraceptives, more than four years of hormone replacement therapy, alcohol consumption, bovine growth hormone in milk (rBGH), exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, chlorinated chemicals, paint and varnish dyes, household cleaning products and personal care products, according to the Breast Cancer Fund.
The institutionalized war on breast cancer has evolved into a big business with budgets in the billions, and still the enemy is killing us. Worse, casualties include alarmingly high death rates caused by the “friendly fire” of toxic pharmaceutical treatments as well as the unintended collateral damage caused by toxic screening methods.
Mammography is the first line of defense recommended for early detection. Ironically, these x rays are not only incapable of early detection, they are a known risk factor for breast cancer itself! A standard four-film mammography study exposes a woman to a dose of ionizing radiation sufficient to increase her risk of breast cancer one percent every single time, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein. Ten years of showing up to get “squished” for the recommended annual mammogram yields her a 10 percent increased risk for breast cancer!
“Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth,” said Dr. Charles B. Simone, a former clinical associate in immunology and pharmacology at the National Cancer Institute.
Are there other options? Thermal imaging is a remarkable, non-invasive technology truly capable of early detection. Inexplicably, this under-utilized technology is dismissed and even vilified by many institutional experts. Thermal scans can detect a neoplasm, or tumor, of a scant 256 cells in size. Compare this to mammograms that can only detect a tumor after it has been developing for around 8 years and grown to the size of more than 4 billion cells!
But the very most important detection method of all is the breast exam a woman should be regularly performing herself. According to Dr. Epstein, the American Cancer Society has admitted, “…at least 90 percent of the women who develop breast carcinoma discover the tumor themselves.”
We need the biggest education campaign ever to help women understand those risk factors they may control. How can we forge the national political will to eliminate sources of toxicity in the food supply, in the environment and yes, even in medical care?
Perhaps the time has come to declare that the war on breast cancer has been a counterproductive and tragic diversion from the real task of helping each woman understand how she may naturally experience greater breast health.
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