RACE FOR THE CURE? RUN FOR THE MONEY!
By Marleen M. Quint
Women’s Health and Environmental Advocate
"Present this ticket anywhere. You’re already in Crazyworld." I recently read this sentence on a public service advertisement that was printed on an oversized movie ticket. The poignancy of the statement didn’t elude me. A few years ago I would have found this statement amusing; today it resonates to my core.
I’ve survived 10 operations in 11 years. I’ve lost both breasts, my thyroid, uterus and cervix. I’m living with persistent hypertension, an enlarged heart and a 75 lb. pound weight gain. I’m dependent on 5 pills a day whose costs are skyrocketing at this very moment. But hey, I’m one of the lucky ones -- so I’m told.
Perhaps I’m just another unfortunate woman who didn’t make the right lifestyle choices. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken those birth control pills for so many years. Maybe I waited too long to have children. Maybe I ate too much meat or not enough fish. Or maybe our government and public health officials have filled our heads with so much bullshit we wouldn’t know the truth if it bit us in the ass!
What’s that you say, I sound angry? Yeah, well you haven’t heard the really infuriating part yet. You haven’t heard the part about the medical bureaucracy being scarier than the diseases I’ve battled or that the medical system consistently contributed to my pain and suffering rather than alleviate it. Of the 10 operations I endured, only 4 were necessary. The others were overt mistakes, corrective surgery for those mistakes, or arbitrary and often poor decisions made by physicians while key information and options were not made available to me.
While I was journeying through this insane parallel universe, the message I kept getting from society in general was to pull myself together and get on with my life. When I looked for accountability for what I had endured, I was told to file lawsuits against those who had caused me undue pain and injury. How does one go about suing several doctors, a hospital and a major breast implant company while risking financial ruin in the process, without feeling like each day is a living hell and without going out of your freaking mind?
Then there’s depression. Just when you think you’ve survived the worst, the quiet malice of depression sets in. Depression and I frequently engage in a very dangerous dance. I allow it to creep into my life as long as it doesn’t threaten to destroy me. As I embrace depression, I sometimes peer into its mouth and pray it won’t swallow me up. If depression does take its hold, you get sent to a shrink of some sort, highly trained in the male dominant, allopathic sciences, who will prescribe antidepressants to help you make it through the day and to suppress any suicidal inclinations you may have. But wait -- you pick-up your bottle of antidepressants and written on the bottle is the following:
"Patients with major depressive disorder, both adult and pediatric, may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior . . . "
You’re screwed. You and I are both in Crazyworld.
RACE FOR THE CURE?
RUN FOR THE MONEY!
October is breast cancer awareness month. It’s a time when there’s an endless eruption of pink ribbons, a time when we all put on our pink wigs, shirts, socks, running shoes, dig deep into our pockets and run like hell for the sake of breast cancer awareness.
How many years will it take of running in pink races and throwing money at the problem before corporate America and government health officials are satisfied that Americans get the breast cancer message? How dense do they think we are? We know -- we get it. We’re the ones whose bodies and lives are being ravaged by this disease. What we want to know is WHY women are suffering and dying from breast cancer when more and more money and research are supposedly directed toward finding a cure? The equation is not balanced. The numbers don’t add up.
BREAST CANCER IS A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY...
I’ll tell you why breast cancer is alive and well today. It’s because it has become a multi-billion dollar industry and finding a cure doesn’t fit into the equation. The October fanfare called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was carefully constructed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. They manufacture two of the most popular breast cancer drugs in the United States, Nolvadex (tamoxifen) and Arimidex (anastrozole). Up until recently, AstraZeneca was the third largest producer of pesticides in the United States. They also have final say over any literature related to NBCAM. Most of that messaging is limited to early detection and reminding women to get their mammograms. There’s never any information on why women are increasingly developing the disease and dying from it.
The Susan G. Komen annual "Race for the Cure" is one of AstaZeneca’s fundraising tools which generates a great deal of money sponsored by some of the biggest polluters, Oxychem (formerly Occidental Chemicals), Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford Motor Company, Chevron and PG&E to name a few. The money generated by events like Race for the Cure frequently ends up back in the coffers of these same corporate polluters in the name of breast cancer drug research and development.
One of the key sponsors of Race for the Cure for several years was General Mills, Yoplait yogurt. Until August 2009, Yoplait used dairy products containing the genetically engineered growth hormone, Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST). Studies have found an increased risk of both prostate and breast cancer with the ingestion of milk from rBST treated cows. Yet, Yoplait, for many years, proudly displayed a pink ribbon on each of their sleekly designed containers advertising the promise of proceeds being directed toward eradicating breast cancer. It was only due to consumer pressure through grassroots organizations like Breast Cancer Action (BCA) that General Mills finally conceded to use milk from cows not treated with rBST in the production of Yoplait yogurt.
Then there’s the standardized public messaging collaboratively crafted between industry and government which very carefully and pointedly dumps all responsibility of cancer risks squarely onto the shoulders of each individual. There’s never a finger that points to environmental pollution which would then point a finger at industry and public health agencies. Let’s examine the major risk factors generated by public health institutions.
MAJOR RISK FACTORS GENERATED BY PUBLIC HEALTH INSTITUTIONS
Aging - This is usually at the top of the list of breast cancer risk factors. This gives you an idea of how little our experts really know about the disease. Think about it. Doesn’t the risk for most diseases increase with age? This hardly seems to be based on rigid science.
Family history of breast cancer - Public health officials would have you believe that a family history of breast cancer points to genetics as a major contributor to your risk factors. The truth is, a family history points more to environmental factors than genetics. Only about 5 - 10% of all breast cancers can be associated with heredity. This means that 90 - 95% of all breast cancers are connected to environmental factors shared by other family members living together.
Genetics - As indicated previously, up to 10% of all breast cancers are associated with heredity. The primary genetic link found so far is in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation found in about 5% of breast cancer patients. But even a genetic predisposition for the disease does not guarantee you will ever develop breast cancer. The disease is still triggered by environmental factors.
Early menstruation or late menopause - This implies that the longer you have increased estrogen and hormonal fluctuations surging through you, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer. This may be true but it doesn’t make clear "where" these hormones are coming from. It defies logic to assume the estrogen produced by our own bodies has suddenly turned deadly. Our bodies appear to be over producing estrogen. So where is this extra estrogen coming from?
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreign estrogens (xenoestrogens) in the environment caused by man-made chemicals that are binding to our own estrogen receptors and fooling the body into responding to it as a natural hormone (e.g., plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, etc.). What’s more likely to be harmful, your body’s own natural estrogen that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years or a man-made chemical developed within the last hundred years?
Hormone replacement therapy is another source of xenoestrogen exposure. Doctors tell us our own body's natural estrogen may increase our risk for breast cancer. Then they turn around and routinely prescribe synthetic estrogen.
Obesity - There is definitely a correlation between estrogen levels and body fat. Obese women do tend to have higher estrogen levels than their leaner counterparts. Obesity, however, is not the only estrogen determinant. Women who are physically active have higher estrogen levels as well as women with greater muscle mass.
As mentioned previously, women are also exposed to many synthetic hormones. One example is the hormones given to the animals we eat such as cattle. Hormones are given to cattle to fatten them up. We then eat the beef and ingest these hormones. What is to prevent us from being fattened-up as well?
Toxins are also stored in fat. A significant amount of the breast is composed of fat. More breast fat also corresponds with larger amounts of stored toxins. It’s also important to remember that many toxins stored in breast tissue may not only be toxic, but estrogenic as well.
Delayed childbirth (after age 30) - This risk factor seems to also implicate estrogen as a sinister agent. There’s actually much more going on here. Information known to the scientific community has been intentionally withheld from the American public concerning breast development and breast cancer risk. The female breast is not fully matured until after the first full-term pregnancy. Immature breasts are more vulnerable to breast cancer. In line with this fact, research has shown that women having a first child before age 20 have a lower than average breast cancer risk. To avoid promoting teen pregnancy, 30 became the arbitrary age cut-off to have a first child before a woman’s breast cancer risk increased significantly. This ignores data indicating it has been increasing since age 20.
Smoking - Smoking has only been recently added to the list of breast cancer risks. Frankly, I don’t know why it hasn’t always been on the list. It’s a known carcinogen and smoking is associated with early menopause and is known to promote the aging process. Aging, you’ll remember, is usually the first risk factor listed for breast cancer.
Alcohol - Alcohol is another new addition to the list of breast cancer risk factors. This is based on several large studies including a new study involving 61,463 Swedish women. The Swedish study divided women’s dietary habits into three categories, Western Diet, Healthy Diet, and the Drinker Diet. As implied by the title, women categorized under the Drinker Diet were heavy drinkers. We already know that large amounts of alcohol is very unhealthy. Blood estrogen levels appear to increase with regular, heavy alcohol consumption and may contribute to breast cancer risks. Again, I don’t see this as breakthrough information. When I was growing up I noticed that some of the male friends and family members I encountered who were alcoholics often had overdeveloped breasts once they hit middle-age. At the age of 10 I figured out there was probably a connection.
History of breast biopsies revealing pre-cancerous conditions - If you already have a diagnosed pre-cancerous breast condition then you are obviously at greater risk for breast cancer in the future.
DIRECT RISK FACTOR THAT IS OFTEN NOT ON THE LIST...
Ionizing radiation is the only known cause of breast cancer yet it is often not on the list of risk factors. Knowing the direct link between radiation and breast cancer, we certainly know that any exposure to radiation increases your chances of developing the disease. So why isn’t it included as a risk factor? Perhaps the powers-that-be are afraid women would start asking too many questions, like, "Why is radiation used as a screening tool and as a breast cancer treatment if it is a direct cause of the disease?" Women might begin questioning the frequency of dental and chest x-rays and other risks to which they are unnecessarily being subjected. If women finally woke up to the deceit and environmental oppression being perpetuated upon them and their children, they might take to the streets in large numbers and demand accountability and justice. "Big Brother" certainly wouldn’t like that.
TIME magazine came out with a breast cancer story in October 2005 that followed a woman through the first year and a half recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was more of a photo story than a narrative. The woman is young, slender and attractive. The photo of her bald chemo profile is almost glamorous. The article begins by saying the woman was 39 years old when he was diagnosed and was the picture of perfect health. She’s a non-smoker, a marathon runner, had her children in her 20’s, checked her breasts every month and guess what? She still got breast cancer in both breasts.
You turn the page and there’s a series of black and white photos of her receiving loving support from her family. In another shot she’s being examined for, what appears to be, the perfect breast reconstruction. The only photo of her in any pain or "discomfort" (I hate that word) is a photo of her grimacing while her breast expander is being filled with saline -- a preliminary procedure necessary to stretch the chest wall in preparation for an implant. As a breast cancer veteran myself, I can say with certainty that increasing the breast expander was the least of my painful breast cancer experiences.
The last photo in the series is a touching one of the breast cancer veteran, now with hair, displaying a wide-open smile while her daughter gently cups her mother’s chin in her hand. The series ends with a quote from the now recovered breast cancer patient, "It’s been the worst and the greatest year and a half of my life. I wouldn’t trade It." I wonder if she’d feel the same way if she knew her daughter would have to face the same fate. Statistics indicate it would probably be even worse for her daughter. She’s at greater risk for developing the disease at an earlier age while quality medical care is declining. I wouldn’t wish these circumstances on my worst enemy.
Don’t get me wrong; I truly feel for this woman. I too have lost both breasts because of this disease. But we both have been sold a bill of goods. She is under the delusion that all that can be done is being done for her health and welfare. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Many women who initially win the breast cancer battle run a significant risk of having a reoccurrence within 5 years of their diagnosis. In addition, if they have had chemo, radiation and hormonal therapy, each treatment increases the risk of having a secondary cancer. All three treatments are carcinogenic. Even if a woman manages to survive all this, she often suffers from depression and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Then there are husbands who leave, children who are traumatized, and the loss of jobs and health insurance. Why didn’t TIME cover this story?
TREATMENTS TO TREAT, BUT NOT CURE, THE SAME DISEASES
CHEMICAL COMPANIES HELPED TO CREATE...
Chemical companies create poisons that perpetuate disease. Then their pharmaceutical subsidiaries develop overpriced treatments to treat, but not cure, the same diseases they helped to create. What an ingenious self perpetuating system. Representatives from these corporations often end-up working for the EPA, FDA or other government overseeing agencies. Representatives from major pharmaceutical companies sit on grant review boards on any given day at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and decide who gets money to develop new cancer drugs without any question of overall conflict of interest. I have sat on these panels where a clear conflict of interest not only goes unchallenged but has become part of the modus operandi.
Monsanto Corporation has managed to single-handedly ensure that most of us are unknowingly eating genetically modified food. Did you know that the popular sweetener, aspartame, is a genetically engineered product developed by Monsanto biotechnology? Probably not. It’s certainly not mentioned in any ad campaign I’ve ever seen.
So the next time someone asks you to "Race for the Cure," run the "Relay for Life," or donate money to a worthy breast cancer cause, ask who the sponsors are and follow the money trail. Too often it ends up right back in the corporate coffers. Try to find organizations that direct their funding to promote effective public education, environmental research, and policy change based on the Precautionary Principle.*
* Precautionary Principle - This principle simply states that any activity that threatens human health and the environment should be prevented through precautionary measures even if that threat is not proven through scientific research.
The next time someone says you can reduce your risk for breast cancer by changing your lifestyle, tell them you choose to eliminate pollution from the air, water and soil.
Tell them you choose to get rid of the harmful additives, hormones and antibiotics in foods.
Tell them you choose not to be sold GM and nanotech products
without your knowledge and consent.
The next time someone says, "We’re winning the war on breast cancer,"
Ask them why the incident rate is now 1 in 7.
Ask them why the words "carcinogen" and "environment" are rarely used when referring to any form of cancer when we know they contribute to most forms of cancer.
Ask them why state and federal agencies established to protect the public
have become mindless puppets of the multi-billion dollar corporations.
Then try to set a course that promises to lead to some real answers.
Educate, legislate and perpetuate the truth.
Stop the madness!
Communities for a Better Environment
1440 Broadway Suite 701
Oakland CA 94612
Breast Cancer Action
55 New Montgomery St. Suite 323
San Francisco CA 94105
(415)243-9301 Toll Free: 877-2STOPBC
Breast Cancer Fund
1388 Sutter St. Suite 400
San Francisco CA 94109
(415)346-8223 Toll Free: 877-760-TBCF
National Women’s Health Network
514 10th St., N.W. Suite 400
Washington D.C. 20004
Environmental Defense Fund
1616 P St. N.W.
Washington D.C. 2003
REFERENCES & RESOURCES:
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation www.komen.org
The Food Revolution, Ask John Is rBST the same as rBGH? http://www.foodrevolution.org/askjohn/22.htm
Flawed Safety Assessment of Genetically Engineered Hormone http://www.psrast.org/bghcanad.htm
Cancer Industry Tour By Judy Brady http://www.sfbg.com/News/34/06/6other.html
Imaginis Breast Health News http://imaginis.com/breasthealth/news/news3.31.02.asp?mode=1
Escape From Breast Cancer http://www.vcn.bc.ca/~whatsup/F1.html
Regular Alcohol Intake Ups Breast Cancer risk http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/106/108022.htm?printing=true
Smoking-Breast Cancer Link Appears Stronger http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/112/110567.htm?printing=true
Breast Cancer Action www.bcaction.org
Newsletter #75 - January/February 2003
From the Executive Director: The Crazy Days of Autumn
By Barbara A. Brenner
Life’s Delicate Balance www.janettesherman.com
Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer
Janette D. Sherman, M.D.
Taylor & Francis, 2000
TIME, October 3, 2005 A Diary of Healing www.time.com
DR.EDDY'S CLINIC & AYURVEDA SCHOOL - Integrated Medical Clinic & Ayurveda School is a unique healthcare facility, combining the strengths and knowledge of both traditional western and alternative medicine in a holistic manner.
Marleen M. Quint
Originally from Hawaii, Marleen was also raised in Japan and Guam. Her background is extremely eclectic and ranges from working in the field of cartography to performing as a singer, dancer and actress.
In 1990, Marleen was diagnosed with thyroid disease followed by breast cancer less than two years later. She lost both breasts and her thyroid with no family history that would predispose her to either disease. After much research, Marleen is convinced that environmental pollution played a significant role in the development of her life-threatening diseases.
Since 1995, Marleen has dedicated herself as a women's health advocate. She has served as a consultant for several health organizations including the National Cancer Institute in Washington, DC and UCSF Mt. Zion Cancer Center in San Francisco.
Marleen has combined her skills to develop a women's health presentation which delves into the connections between the politics of gender bias and the level of morbidity suffered by women. Marleen is an active speaker in the San Francisco Bay Area.