[back] Pink ribbon & National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The "Pink" Fraud - Brought to you by the people who make Breast Cancer

by Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP

Been seeing a lot of pink ribbons lately? It's a sure sign that it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month again, an annual event that has been recognized every October since 1985.

It is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and over a dozen other medical, governmental, and professional organizations.

The coalition's trademark slogan is: "Early Detection is Your Best Protection."  Who can argue with that? Cancer bad. Protection good. It's a no-brainer, right?  Well, maybe we'd better take a closer look before we decide.

Perhaps the place to begin is to learn a bit about the history of this organization. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), or Breast Cancer Awareness Month as it was originally called, was the brainchild of a British chemical conglomerate called Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which became Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, and today is known as AstraZeneca.

By their own admission, AstraZeneca has spent several million dollars on the NBCAM project.

What is behind their interest in Breast Cancer?

For over the last 20 years, AstraZeneca was the manufacturer of one of the largest selling breast cancer drugs in the world: Nolvadex (tamoxifen citrate). (According to a notice posted at www.nolvadex.com, Nolvadex is no longer manufactured or sold in the United States as of June 2006; however, the drug's generic form tamoxifen citrate is still available).

Nolvadex is not a cure for cancer. It has been heavily prescribed as a drug to lessen the risk of reoccurrence in women who have previously received treatment for breast cancer.

It was also approved for use as a "risk reduction" drug (the FDA would not allow the term "prevention"), and prescribed to women with no presence of breast cancer who are considered to be at elevated risk.

This drug has been very profitable for AstraZeneca, with sales over $400 million annually, but it is also a very controversial drug. It has significant side effects that have been linked to uterine cancer, liver cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, eye damage, blood clots, and even breast cancer--the very condition it is supposed to treat!

But the story doesn't stop there.

AstraZeneca (ICI) is a chemical giant, and is one of the world's top producers of organochlorides, which are chlorine-based industrial chemicals. Organochlorides are used in the manufacture of a wide variety of compounds, including Agent Orange, PCB's, and DDT.

Organochlorides are also known carcinogens, and studies have found them to be specifically associated with increased incidence of breast cancer.

So here we have a corporation--a very large and profitable corporation with sales of $14 billion in 1998-- that makes its money from industrial chemicals that cause cancer and drugs that treat (and potentially cause) cancer. Incidentally, they also have a large financial stake in cancer treatment centers.

This brings us to another major criticism of NBCAM: the focus of their efforts is almost exclusively on detection and treatment of breast cancer, not on prevention.

This only makes sense since their main financial backer is a huge corporation that makes a fortune off the treatment of a disease they contribute to causing.

But beyond that, breast cancer and cancers in general can be prevented through changes in diet and lifestyle, like staying away from chemicals and drugs that cause cancer! The problem with this is that prevention is very inexpensive and not very profitable.

One more interesting thing about AstraZeneca's relationship with NBCAM is that part of the arrangement allows AstraZeneca to approve and/or veto any marketing materials related to NBCAM.

Thus, you will not find anything related to environmental causes of breast cancer or how it can be prevented by avoiding exposure to them. The American Cancer Society minimizes the cancer risks from industrial chemicals and pesticides, and will not take a stand on environmental regulation. It is a very carefully controlled Public Relations ploy.

Cancer treatment is big business in the United States. Some have called it "The Cancer Industry" or "Cancer, Inc." The corporate and financial connections form a long and winding road that goes far beyond AstraZeneca, and include such giants as DuPont and General Electric. Mammograms are the big buzz word as of late, and the push is on for women to get them at a younger and younger age.

The threshold has now dropped to 40 years of age, even though there is no scientific evidence to show the need for or benefit of a routine mammogram for any woman under 50. In fact, some researchers believe that mammograms may increase risk for breast cancer.

But the powers that be, such as the American Cancer Society, continue to feed this misinformation to the media. "Early Detection" is the war-cry, with next to nothing about preventing breast cancer so that there is nothing to detect.

Meanwhile, a ton of money is being made off this mammogram frenzy. One study estimated that there are two to three times more mammogram machines installed in the U.S. than are necessary.

General Electric sells more than $100 million worth of mammogram machines annually, and DuPont provides much of the film for these machines. Both of these companies aggressively market mammograms to younger women, and both are also financial supporters of the American Cancer Society.

So knowing what we know about NBCAM and Big Cancer, what is the best way to respond to the media and advertising onslaught of the "Pink Ribbon" campaign?

Is buying a vacuum cleaner or a box of crackers with a pink ribbon in it going to help at all in the fight against breast cancer? Actually, it is considered by some to be nothing more than free advertising and good PR for companies who come onboard.

There are three fundamental problems.

First, any money that is donated is most likely going to be used to support organizations such as those discussed earlier in this article. The focus of the efforts is on detection and treatment, not on education that can help women to prevent the onset of breast cancer in the first place through healthy diet and lifestyle and avoidance of carcinogens.

Secondly, in many cases the amount of donations from these sponsors is very minimal. One study showed that while Clinique donated $10 from every $14 in sales during their "In the Pink" lipstick sales, many others gave next to nothing. American Express donated only one penny per transaction of any amount during "Charge for the Cure."

Thirdly, the funds collected are poorly accounted for, and the way the campaigns are advertised can be very ambiguous. Confusing terms such as "net profits to charity" are used, and sometimes it is not clearly explained that the donations are only promised for a limited time. Some sponsors have had it set up so that the monies would be donated only after a certain sales quota was reached. Most of the time consumers are not aware of this.

The bottom line is that you should "Think Before You Pink." Don't let the media put you on a guilt trip if you don't jump on the pink bandwagon. Your time and energies are much better spent spreading the truth about prevention and healthy choices that can truly make an impact on this disease.

2004 Oasis Advanced Wellness, Inc.