Increasingly, breast cancer fundraising means playing ball with companies whose products actually cause cancer.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is the largest and most heavily funded breast cancer organization in the US. (Last year alone it took in about $420 million.)
Komen recently denied that BPA increases the risk of breast cancer, despite mounting evidence to the contrary! We wish we could say that we were surprised. But this is all too characteristic of the Komen modus operandi.
As you know, bisphenol A (BPA) is a common ingredient in polycarbonate plastics. It’s also a known hormone disruptor that has been linked with serious health problems: birth defects, heart disease—and breast cancer.
Why would Komen make such a reckless statement? One possible reason: their corporate sponsors are too heavily invested in products that contain BPA, though Komen denies the charge.
- Coca-Cola, which sponsors Komen grants, lines its soda cans with BPA. The company doesn’t deny it, either—but simply says “it’s not enough to hurt anyone.” In fact, research suggests that even tiny amounts of BPA will hurt you.
- General Mills uses BPA in its canned foods (bowing to consumer pressure on its Muir Glen canned tomatoes but keeping them in other canned foods), and Georgia-Pacific manufactures epoxy resins that contain BPA. Both are Komen corporate sponsors.
It’s called “pinkwashing”—claiming to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, while producing or selling other products that are linked to the disease.
Komen doesn’t just support big companies. It sells products itself. Komen’s “Promise Me” perfume line contains chemicals that are categorized as toxic and hazardous. Last month, Breast Cancer Action announced that independent laboratory testing conducted on their behalf discovered that the perfume contained galaxolide, a synthetic musk that works as a hormone disruptor and is detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns; and toluene, a potent neurotoxicant that is banned by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
Of course, Komen also says that electromagnetic fields and organochloride pesticides like DDT do not increase cancer risk, and that to date no environmental pollutants that can increase breast cancer have been found. Only about 10 percent of cases of breast cancer in the US can be traced to hereditary factors, indicating that environment plays an important role—one that Komen chooses to ignore lest it upset its corporate sponsors.
Komen spends millions of dollars on finding “the cure,” yet promotes the corporate-driven medical mainstream status quo. This status quo includes oncologists getting rich by selling high priced chemo themselves, as well as annual mammograms which may do as much harm as good (the New York Times noted this week that “Pink Ribbon” campaigns and patient testimonials have imbued the mammogram with a kind of magic it doesn’t have)—while ignoring the contribution of integrative medicine, which focuses on prevention and root causes.
A recent Norwegian study found that mastectomy rates climb higher as more women have mammograms—that mammograms can lead to “cancer overdiagnosis” and potentially unnecessary invasive treatment. The study found that at best mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by no more than 10 percent.
More disturbing is the fact that taking four films of each breast annually results in an exposure of approximately 1 rad (radiation-absorbed dose), which is about 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray—which greatly raises the risk of breast cancer.
New data suggest that mammograms also increase the risk of false positives, and may miss up to a third or more of all breast cancers, depending on the type of cancer and the composition of the breast tissue.
Going against the Komen-led “pink” juggernaut can be difficult—California governor Jerry Brown questioned the efficacy of mammograms in the past and received a lot of negative backlash. But there are good alternative approaches to mammograms. Thermography and some forms of ultrasound are safer and may be more accurate when it comes to screening.
And much more can be done to prevent breast cancers, such as eating right, especially including some cruciferous vegetables; sleeping right, including the avoidance of blue lights at night; and taking fish oil, supplemental iodine, vitamin D, and selenium. And one should consider environmental factors, too. Cornell has a database on breast cancer and environmental risk factors.
Another vital preventive measure is controlling weight and blood sugar through exercise. The one thing we like about the Komen approach is their idea of getting out doors, even if it is to raise more money for Komen.
We thought we would offer an alternative: we would have our own fundraising event for integrative medicine research!
We are asking you to walk, run, hike, bike ride, or do some other physical activity—on Sunday, December 4. The event will support integrative medicine research and continued access to important alternative treatments for breast cancer. We’re asking our readers to organize some favorite physical activity, then get their friends to sponsor them through peer-to-peer fundraising .
The ANH-USA office will organize its own walk in Washington, DC, and DC-area members and readers welcome to join us! We’ll create our own fundraising page so folks can see our example.
Just go to the “Promote Integrative Medicine” event page and click the black button on the right that says, “Fundraise for this Event.” Choose whether you want to to sign up as an individual, start a new team, or join an existing team. If you start a new team, you’ll be able to invite friends to join your team as well. If you wish, you can even set a monetary goal for your fundraising event!
The main event page will have a leaderboard showing which teams and individuals have raised the most money so far, so you can compete with others!
ANH-USA staff’s team page will have details of our own 10-mile hike in Washington, DC. If you’d like to join them, email [email protected] with the subject “Integrative Medicine Hike,” and they’ll send you details (including the hiking route) closer to the day of the event. We will also be posting the details on the staff’s team page.