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All Islands Health Talk Can we make October Breast Cancer Prevention Month?

Can we make October Breast Cancer Prevention Month?

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October's traditional fall colors now include pink as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During the month of October pink ribbons supporting the cure for breast cancer sprout up on everything from pink and white M&M's to lipstick tubes as corporations announce they are dedicating profit percentages to research and educating about breast cancer. No other month or health concern encourages consumer shopping sprees as a positive activity towards finding the cure for an epidemic disease.

One reason the pink ribbons branding cancer support on consumer items work so well, is becuase so many women are now surviving breast cancer. We are a growing market" says one breast cancer surviver.

But the California based Breast Cancer Action Group says "Think before you Pink" and advocates a focus on breast cancer prevention, not just early detection and treatment as a strategy and focus for the cure for cancer.

With all the focus on the treatment and the ultimate cure for breast cancer, where is the attention on prevention?

"Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns, as companies try to boost their image and their profits by connecting themselves to a good cause and aligning themselves with the huge market of middle aged women. Before you shop for the cure, The Breast Cancer Action website urges you to ask some critical questions before opening your wallet for these marketing campaigns: How much money goes to the cause? What is it supporting? How is it being raised? And will it truly affect the fight against breast cancer? Make sure you know what your money is actually supporting, and consider whether shopping will truly make a difference. What the breast cancer movement needs is political involvement and action to create real change—and we don't mean the kind you keep in your pocket."

Early detection is part of the education focus, as cancer detected early is less likely to move from breast tissue to other parts of the body that are more challenging to treat. The current trend towards early detection still does not help with the treatment which can include removal of breasts, chemotheraphy and radiation. So, the often unasked question remains:

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer kills 46,000 women in the U.S. each year, Approx 800 women a year are newly diagnosed in Hawaii. The numbers for breast cancer affecting women are less then heart disease statistics, but it is still a 1:7 odds that a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and breast cancer although it primarily affects women, is not restricted to woman.

While the medical research establishment makes us believe that the breast cancer epidemic will one day be reversed by some miracle cure or a cancer vaccine and that further research funds are needed to discover what may be just around the next corner.

However, public health education approach to other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes not only advocates early screening and diagnosis but is primarily focused on prevention based behavior and healthy lifestyle choices such as reducing associated risk factors such as diet, smoking, weight control. In addition, associated risks such genetic factors or reducing environmental risk factors are considered. Prophylactic advice on disease prevention such as skin cancer includes common sense about decreasing sun exposure, using sunscreen and has resulted in global legal action to reduce and restrict the manufactoring and commercial use products that cause ozone depletion.

Breast Cancer cures however are generally detached from prevention on the broad scale as they would require adherence to strict water quality, agriculutral practices involving pesticide exposure and changing wide spread use of growth hormones in commercial beef production.

Among the known "risk factors" for breast cancer are common characteristics shared by many women who get breast cancer: early menarche (age at which menstruation begins); late menopause (age at which menstruation ends); late childbirth and the birth of few or no children; no experience breast-feeding; obesity; high fat diet; being tall; having cancer of the ovaries or uterus; use of oral contraceptives; excessive use of alcohol.

"What is the message running through all of these 'risks?'" Dr. Sherman, a trained physician and chemist asks. "Hormones, hormones, and hormones. Hormones of the wrong kind, hormones too soon in a girl's life, hormones for too many years in a woman's life, too many chemicals with hormonal action, and too great a total hormonal load."

The Case for Hormones and Cancer

We know what causes the vast majority of cancers: exposure to carcinogens. Prevention on a mass scale would then entail reducing the burden of cancer by reducing our exposure to carcinogens. .

Physician Janette D. Sherman, poses a fundamental challenge to all the doctors and researchers and health bureaucrats who have turned their backs on cancer prevention: "If cancers are not caused by chemicals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and ionizing radiation, what are the causes? How else can one explain the doubling, since 1940, of a woman's likelihood of developing breast cancer, increasing in tandem with prostate and childhood cancers?," Dr. Sherman asks "and if exposures are the problem, then ending exposures is the solution: "Actual prevention means eliminating factors that cause cancer in the first place."

She notes studies where Asian women move from their homelands to the U.S., their breast cancer rate soars. There is something in the environment of the U.S. (and other western industrial countries) causing an epidemic of this hormone-related disease. The medical research establishment likes to call it "lifestyle factors" but it's really environment. Air, food, water, ionizing radiation.

Dr. Sherman is a practicing physician who has treated 8000 patients over 30 years. Unlike most physicians, she possesses an extensive knowledge of chemistry. Furthermore, she has become a historian by examining a large body of medical and public health literature dating back to the 19th century. It is this unique combination -- of historical view, knowledge of chemistry, deep personal experience as a physician, and an ethical clarity that PRIMARY PREVENTION is the proper policy

All living things are made up of cells including humans, animals and plants. Cells in every creature can go awry and start to grow uncontrollably, a definition of cancer. Because all cell-based creatures are so similar, what we learn from one can often tell us something useful about another. For example, when we learn from the Smithsonian Institution that sharks get cancer from swimming in waters contaminated with industrial chemicals, we learn (or SHOULD learn) something useful about our own vulnerability to exotic chemicals.

The one fully-established cause of breast (and other) cancers is ionizing radiation, from x-rays, and from nuclear power plant emissions and the radioactive fallout from A-bomb tests.

These, according to Dr. Sherman are the environmental factors that give rise to breast cancer: exposures to cancer-causing chemicals, to hormonally-active chemicals, and to ionizing radiation in air, food and water.

With this basic information in hand, Dr. Sherman describes historical evidence of the exposure of women in the U.S. to a flood of carcinogenic and hormonally active chemicals, plus ionizing radiation.

Canadian researchers have demonstrated enhanced cancer growth in mice given daily HUMAN-EQUIVALENT doses of three commonly-used antihistamines, which are sold under the trade names Claritin, Histamil and Atarax.Two years earlier the same researchers had reported breast cancer promotion in rodents fed clinically-relevant doses of antidepressant drugs, which are marketed as Elavil and Prozac.(Millions of women in the U.S. are taking these drugs today.

At least 5 million women in the U.S. are currently taking Premarin the most often-prescribed form of estrogen (female sex hormone), to ease the transition through menopause. This is called "hormone replacement therapy" and it is routine, recommended medical practice in the U.S. A review of 51 studies of women taking hormone replacement therapy showed that those who never took hormones had a breast cancer rate ranging from 18 to 63 per 1000 women. Those who took hormones for five years showed an excess of 2 breast cancers per 1000 women; after 10 years of hormone therapy the excess breast cancer rate rose to 6 per 1000. The danger largely disappears 5 years after discontinuing use.

Hormones are big business. Despite evidence that synthetic hormones caused cancer in rodents and rabbits, American drug companies began selling synthetic hormones in 1934 in cosmetics, drugs, food additives, and animal feed. The best-known is DES (diethylstilbestrol) but there were and still are many others. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1938 published a study showing that DES caused breast cancer in rodents. Three years later, in 1941, NCI published a second study confirming that DES caused breast cancer in rodents. That year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved DES for commercial use in women.(pg. 91)

DES is 400 times as potent as natural estrogen and can be made for pennies per pill. It was therefore phenomenally profitable and researchers aggressively sought new uses. DES soon was being used to prevent miscarriages, as a "morning after" pill to prevent pregnancies, and as a breast-enlargement cream. It wasn't long before researchers discovered that they could make chickens, cows and pigs grow faster if they fed them hormones, and a huge new market for hormones opened up. As early as 1947, a hormonal effect was reported among U.S. women who ate chicken treated with growth hormones. Between 1954 and 1973 three quarters of all beef cattle slaughtered in the U.S. grew fat on DES.

In 1971, human cancer from DES exposure was confirmed and in 1973 DES was banned from meat, so other growth hormones were substituted. Most recently, the U.S. FDA has allowed the U.S. milk supply to be modified to increase the levels of a growth hormone (called IGF-1) known to stimulate growth of breast cells in women.

Still today most U.S. beef, chickens and pigs are intentionally contaminated with growth hormones. As a result, Europeans refuse to allow the import of U.S. beef. European scientists are asking the same question that Dr. Sherman raises: "Hormones are administered to meat animals to promote growth and weight gain. Why should humans expect to not respond similarly to such chemical stimuli?"

There are hundreds of household chemicals and industrial byproducts that are hormonally active: pesticides, cleansers, solvents, plasticizers, surfactants, dyes, cosmetics, PCBs, dioxins, and so forth, that interfere with, or mimic, naturally-occurring hormones. We are awash in these, at low levels, from conception until death.

How many growth-stimulating and cancer-promoting hormones can we ingest or absorb through our lungs and skin before we feel the effects? No one in authority is asking that crucial question, but Janette Sherman is asking it, pointedly, and armed to the teeth with scientific evidence.

Radioactivity and Cancer

In 1984, a study of Mormon families in Utah downwind from the nuclear tests in Nevada reported elevated numbers of breast cancers. Girls who survived the bombing of Hiroshima are now dying in excessive numbers from breast cancer. Dr. John Gofman has reviewed 22 separate studies confirming unequivocally that exposure to ionizing radiation causes breast cancer.

Dr. Janette Sherman also points out ecological studies showing that women living near nuclear power plants suffer from elevated numbers of breast cancers. These studies, by their nature, are suggestive and not conclusive. but there is ample reason to believe that all nuclear power plants leak radioactivity routinely into local air and water and that any exposure to ionizing radiation increases a woman's danger of breast cancer. Both radiation from nuclear energy production, improper storage of nuclear waste products, as well as dust from weapons and ammunitions using uranium enriched or depleted armorments are causing wide-spread background levels of radiation in areas of recent war activities.

In addition to man-made causes, there are natural sources of high levels radiation or hot spots both from geological and cosmological sources. Higher rates of skin cancer are documented around ozone depleted areas where solar radiation levels are higher.

Has the U.S. turned its back on the preventive approach to cancer?

Tamoxifen (a known cancer-causing chemical now approved by U.S. FDA for use in women), she asks, "Why is our primary well-funded National Cancer Institute not devoting its efforts to primary prevention? Has breast cancer, like so many aspects of our culture, become just another business opportunity?"

In the end, Dr. Sherman reaches a conclusion about that question: "There is a massing, in a few hands, of the control of production, distribution and use of pharmaceutical drugs and appliances; control of the sale and use of medical and laboratory tests; the consolidation and control of hospitals, nursing homes, and home care providers. We are no longer people who become sick. We have become markets. Is it any wonder that prevention receives so little attention? Cancer is a big and successful business!"

And, finally: "Reflecting on the purpose of the corporation to sell products and services and maximize profits, it becomes apparent that prevention cannot be in the interest of the bottom line. What a sad and bitter realization," she concludes.

Despite this sad and bitter conclusion, Dr. Sherman advocates that citizens can and must end the epidemic of cancer that is sweeping the western world. If the truth shall set us free, this information is an important part of our collective liberation, freeing us from the lies and deceptions, the false promises of cancer cures always "just around the corner." Cancer is caused by exposure to carcinogens. The way to solve the cancer problem is to prevent exposures. This means we must demand clean food, water and air as part of the cure for cancer, not just a new blue pill or vaccine

According to the US Cancer Society, We do not yet know exactly what causes breast cancer, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several, doesn’t mean that a person will get the disease.

Some women who have one or more risk factors never get breast cancer. And most women who do get breast cancer don’t have any risk factors. While all women are at risk for breast cancer, the factors listed below can increase a woman’s chances of having the disease.

The role of anti-oxidents and healthy diet and excercise habits can help the lymph and blood and body tissues and stregnthen the immune defense system of the body's capacity to clear cancer cells from reaching systemic proportions.

Unlike blood, the lymph system doesn't have an innate circulation pump, and is reliant on the movement of muscles to move the lymph. A sedentary lifestyle leads to a less then optimized capacity for the lymph system to clean and flush the body of toxic chemicals and residues. Even small amounts of daily excericise show dramatic statistical evidence of benefit.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change p>Gender:
While men can also get the disease, it is about 100 times more common in women than in men.

The chance of getting breast cancer goes up as a woman gets older. Nearly 8 out of 10 breast cancers are found in women age 50 or older.

Genetic Risk Factors:
About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are linked to changes (mutations) in certain genes. The most common gene changes are those of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with these gene changes have up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer during their lifetimes. Other gene changes may raise breast cancer risk as well.

Family History:
Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease. The relatives can be from either the mother’s or father’s side of the family. Having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer about doubles a woman’s risk.

Treatment with DES:
In the past, some pregnant women were given the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) because it was thought to lower their chances of losing the baby. Recent studies have shown that these women (and their daughters who were exposed to DES while in the uterus), have a slightly increased risk of getting breast cancer. For more information on DES see the American Cancer Society document "DES Exposure: Questions and Answers."

Breast Cancer Risk and Lifestyles

Not Having Children: Women who have had not had children, or who had their first child after age 30, have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once and at an early age reduces breast cancer risk.

Birth Control Pills:
It is still not clear what part birth control pills might play in breast cancer risk. Studies have found that women now using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Women who stopped using the pill more than 10 years ago do not seem to have any increased risk. It’s a good idea to discuss the risks and benefits of birth control pills with your doctor.

Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
(PHT; also called hormone replacement therapy): It has become clear that long-term use (several years or more) of combined PHT (estrogens together with progesterone) after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer as well as the risk of heart disease, blood clots, and strokes. The breast cancers are also found at a more advanced stage, perhaps because PHT seems to reduce the effectiveness of mammograms. Five years after stopping PHT, the breast cancer risk appears to drop back to normal. Estrogen alone (ERT) does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer as much, if at all.

Breast-feeding and Pregnancy:
Some studies have shown that breast-feeding slightly lowers breast cancer risk, especially if the breast-feeding lasts 1½ to 2 years. This could be because breast-feeding lowers a woman’s total number of menstrual periods, as does pregnancy. One study found that having more children and breast-feeding longer could reduce the risk of breast cancer by half.

Use of alcohol is clearly linked to a slightly increased risk of getting breast cancer. Women who have 1 drink a day have a very small increased risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who drink no alcohol. The American Cancer Society suggests limiting the amount you drink.

Obesity and high-fat diets:
Being overweight is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for women after change of life and if the weight gain took place during adulthood. Also, the risk seems to be higher if the extra fat is in the waist area. But the link between weight and breast cancer risk is complex, and studies of fat in the diet as it relates to breast cancer risk have often given conflicting results.

Since diet and weight have been shown to affect the risk of getting several other types of cancer as well as heart disease, the American Cancer Society says it’s best to stay at a healthy weight and limit your use of red meats, especially those high in fat or processed.

Studies show that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. The only question is how much exercise is needed. One study found that as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 and a half hours per week of brisk walking reduced the risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. The American Cancer Society guidelines for nutrition and physical activity recommend that you engage in 45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity 5 or more days a week.

Uncertain Risk Factors

A lot of research is currently being done to learn how the environment might affect breast cancer risk including searching for links between breast cancer risk and environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and PCBs, work shfts (night/day) ethnicity factors and product use.

With growing statistics on breast cancer incidence, there may soon be legeslaion on "the Blue Pill", the cure for cancer.

In the meantime, do your best to educate and encourage others to not just the cure, but the causes and prevention of cancer.


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