Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I'm not Contributing to Breast Cancer Charities in October

October is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it's that time of year that we start getting solicitations from every angle to "Raise Money for the Cure".  Pink ribbons are everywhere, even on products that contain ingredients that have been linked to cancer.

I will not be contributing money or even "Racing for the Cure" as I've stopped participating in this madness since becoming more educated about the cancer industry several years ago.

One thing I discovered after my first cancer charity race was that the majority of these organizations support research that uses animal testing.  Animals undergo unimaginable torture for long periods of time for a cure that will never be found as long as the cancer industry remains a multibillion dollar industry. 

Some people will argue that animals need to be tested for the sake of saving human lives.  Animal tests have been proven to be misleading and potentially dangerous for the evaluation of prescription drugs for human use. Animals react differently than human beings because they are different from humans.

Tests on animals must be tried out on man through clinical trials before a drug can be considered safe.  Diseases evoked in experiments are not the same as those brought about naturally.  Hundreds of thousands of animals die each year just through vivisection alone.  It is a waste of animal life and a waste of time and money. You can read more about it on the PCRM website.

Pam Popper, Director of the Wellness Forum, has written a beautiful article that talks about where your money really goes when you support the Pink Ribbon campaign and how you can chose to invest your money where it will make a difference in true cancer prevention.  She also explains how much of the prevention through "Early Detection" that is promoted is not really preventing cancer at all.

Endorsement With Time and Money
By Pam Popper, ND 

This article is sure to generate some controversy, but I am motivated to write it anyway based on my very strong convictions about this issue.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual, month-long campaign was developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The company controls most of the ads, pamphlets and other information disseminated to the public, and the campaign focuses on early detection of breast cancer through mammography. Not much, if any attention, is paid to prevention. This is not surprising since AstraZenenca benefits greatly every time a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. The company manufactures Tamoxifen, the most widely prescribed breast cancer drug in the world. Incidentally, it also makes acetochlor, a carcinogenic herbicide increasingly suspected as being a cause of breast cancer.

Consumers are urged to do many things in conjunction with breast cancer awareness month. In addition to getting a mammogram, women are encouraged to wear pins with pink ribbons, and to donate money to organizations that fund cancer research. Companies are instructed to place pink ribbons on everything from clothing to office supplies. And there are races, competitions and other activities designed to draw attention to the issue. I think it is very important before you "Think Pink" to investigate and determine what you are really supporting when you participate in these activities and whether or not participation keeps you in integrity with your belief system.

Race for the Cure and other activities are sponsored by lots of different organizations, ranging from the American Cancer Society to the Susan Komen Foundation. I truly believe that the people that work for these organizations think that they are doing something worthwhile. But, the scientific evidence just does not confirm the efficacy of their recommendations.

Take the recommendation to get a mammogram, for example. All women over the age of 40 are encouraged to get a mammogram, but even younger women considered at risk are urged to do so as well. Radiologists at the University of Guttingen in Germany, however, have stated that women with genetic predispositions to develop cancer should avoid mammograms. The reason - low-dose X-rays used in mammograms are almost 3 times as effective in mutating genes in human cells as conventional X-rays. Their advice is for high-risk women to insist on other, safer screening techniques. (1)

And, the National Academy of Sciences has stated that even low doses of radiation pose an increased risk of cancer (2). The cumulative radiation damage to DNA from yearly mammograms increases the risk of breast cancer in later years (3).

One meta-analysis of randomized trials in 1997 showed that screening women between the ages of 40 and 49 resulted in an increase in deaths from breast cancer for the first ten years after the screenings began (4). Another study involving 40,000 women from Canada found breast cancer mortality to be equal between a group receiving annual mammograms and another that had just a physical examination annually (5).

Dr. Ralph Moss is currently writing a series in his newsletter about this issue with equally disturbing information about the advisability of mammograms. To access his editorials, please visit

In addition to the advice about screening, many of these organizations recommend mastectomy, prophylactic mastectomy for women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, chemotherapy, radiation, and follow-up treatments such as Tamoxifen, even when these treatments show little to no benefit for most women in terms of long-term survival.

Many breast-cancer awareness events and campaigns are promoted by companies that manufacture products that contain cancer-causing agents. The organizations that take money from these companies are inadvertently assisting in perpetuating increases in the cancer rates through use of these products, increases in the number of women who are subjected to disfiguring and life-shortening treatments, all while these companies and organizations give the public appearance of being quite philanthropic.

For example, Avon is the largest corporate funding source for the Komen Foundation and for breast cancer in general. However, Avon manufactures cosmetic products that contain parabens, phthalates and other chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors.

Some of the largest contributors to breast cancer research are those that sell the most toxic products or who stand to gain the most from treatment in those diagnosed. For example, Estee Lauder Companies and Roche Oncology each donate over a million dollars to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and AstraZeneca donates between $100,000 and a million dollars as well.

This is why I choose not to run in 5K races that benefit traditional cancer research and treatment, and not to attend fundraisers, wine tastings, and other events that benefit these organizations as well. Although my protest is quite small (none of these events has ever been cancelled because I refused to participate) I refuse to have even one dollar or one minute of my time spent rewarding people and organizations such as these. I am not interested in helping companies such as AstraZeneca, and my belief system does not include prophylactic mastectomy, radiation following lumpectomy, and suppression of promising cancer treatments that are quite successful in other countries.

I would enjoy attending many of these events, and I am under considerable pressure in many instances to participate from well-meaning people who are either trying to help, or just want to have fun also.

But the older I get, the more conscious I become of the fact that everything I do, every penny I spend, even where I am seen, is an endorsement of something, and, for me, the endorsement has to be in integrity with my belief system. I want to endorse health promotion, true prevention, and appropriate treatment, and perhaps someday I'll sponsor my own series of events for this purpose.

I believe in free choice, and have no interest in talking anyone out of doing anything - whether it be participating in a 5K or undergoing mastectomy. But I also believe in informed choice, and have encountered too many people who simply don't know much about the beneficiaries of their investment of time and/or money. This article is simply to help people to become more informed investors.
2.Edwards, R, "Risk of mammograms for certain women," Times-Herald Record Middletown NY November 12, 2002
3.Gofman, J, Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause of this Disease, CNR Bk Div 1996, Committee for Nuclear Responsibility
4.Wolfe, S. "Breast Cancer News Info About Screening Mammography and Genetics," Health Letter vol 20, #1, Jan 2004, Public Citizen Health Research Group
5.Spanier, B, "Do Annual Mammograms Save Lives," CRABB vol 6 # 3 Summer 2004


Jessica said...

I always feel like a scrooge, but I don't contribute to or participate in these either. From the research I've done, so many of these organizations end up with a very low percentage of each donated dollar actually going to the "cause" - with the "cause" usually translating to drug research. I'm still unclear as to why this needs to be paid for by personal charitable contributions and not drug company revenue.

I prefer to spend my time and "giving budget" where it seems to have the most direct impact.

Gretchen said...

I agree! Jess, we need to put together a race that promotes fruits, vegetables, and vegan nutrition for athletes. Let's do it!...after your Triathlon in May that is :)

Jessica said...

Sounds great - raising money for PREVENTION awareness. :)