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Following closely on the heels of the year's most intensive annual cause-marketing campaign, October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, two chilling events of grave concern to women and their health were widely (but mostly superficially) reported on in the mainstream media.
First, Allyn Rose, Miss America contestant, announced in early November that she would be undergoing a double mastectomy to "prevent" breast cancer. Rose, a healthy 24-year old Maryland native who lost her mother to breast cancer when she was 16, has been lauded by certain media outlets as an "awareness raising" role model for having the courage to take this "precautionary step" and for spreading her mastectomy-inspired "message of preventive health care" to the masses. Many of the reports discussed how her decision was spurned by her awareness of having a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.
Second, on Nov. 22nd, the New England Journal of Medicine published a review of the past 30 years of mammography finding that not only has the widespread promotion and adoption of breast screenings by millions of women not reduced their mortality (on the contrary, screenings have increased their relative risk of mortality), but that 1.3 million of these women were overdiagnosed and wrongly treated for abnormal findings that were not even cancer, i.e. were screening detected breast abnormalities that if left untreated would have caused no harm to women.
Not surprisingly, this paradigm-challenging finding, in the tradition of embargoed science, was exactly timed to be released to the public on the eve of a major holiday. Subsequently, while folks unplugged from electronic media for a rare family day centered around Thanksgiving dinner, the already watered-down headlines received only lackluster attention considering the true gravity of the study's findings. How many who did happen scan headlines released on that day, such as "Study Faults Breast Exams," truly grasped that 70,000 women a year have their breasts either removed or disfigured, irradiated and then are treated with chemotherapy and/or hormone suppressive therapies for cancers that aren't there?
Rose, of course, is not aware of the disturbing implications within the New England Journal of Medicine study, namely, that the women in her family that she believes all died from "inherited" breast cancer, may actually have died not from breast cancer, or breast cancer associated gene mutations, but from the breast cancer treatments themselves; that is to say, as a result of overdiagnosis and subsequent psychological trauma and physical mistreatment by a completely out-of-touch medical system relying on intrinsically carcinogenic diagnostic and treatment technologies to cut, burn and poison our lesions that would never have progressed to cancer, and may have simply regressed, had they been left undetected and undisturbed.
Nor is she aware that the so-called breast cancer genes, BRCA1/BRCA2, are relevant because they interfere with DNA repair mechanisms related to radiation and chemical exposure, implying that avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure, such as x-ray mammography, and chemicals such as have been found in many pinkwashed consumer products, e.g. KFC chicken (acrylamides) and Yoplait yogurt (rBGH), is of utmost important in reducing her risk of breast cancer.
Truth be told, even the widely attributed increased breast cancer mortality associated with BRCA1/2 (there are actually several thousands variations in these genes within the human population)1 may be a myth. A 2005 BMC Cancer article found that although BRCA positive patients have more frequently negative prognostic factors, their prognosis (actual risk for breast cancer associated mortality) appears to be equal to or better than in patients with BRCA-WT [the typical "non mutated" form found in the majority of the population. Other studies have emerged demonstrating that BRCA's supposed reaper-like hold on women's health is a myth. This is not an academic issue, since mastectomy rates have actually been increasing since 2004, no doubt due to the heightened anxiety over, and vast oversimplification of, BRCA-related risks.