icon magazine Volume 7 Issue 2 editorial

Integrative cancer and oncology news with articles and the latest news on cancer.

Pink Ribbons? Or Red Herrings?

Around this time of year I get sad. Not least, because August 31st was my late daughter Catherine’s birthday. She died from a brain tumour and this magazine was her idea to help others avoid the same fate. But also because we are about to be subjected to one of the most hyped events in the cancer calendar: Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Last year the lady shaking the tin in Epsom told me that I would be donating to find a ’cure’ for breast cancer. Now, while I am all for finding ways to beat breast cancer, developing the disease in the majority of cases is not fate, unlucky, an act of God, or inevitable. No, in the great majority of cases it is preventable.

Indeed, according to The World Health Organisation, 70 per cent of breast cancers are preventable. Which begs the logical question: If we are going to help women beat breast cancer, is 70 per cent of the total money raised going to find its way into Prevention campaigns? At schools, in offices, in leaflets, with poster campaigns, advertising and so on?

All credit to the scientists

With breast cancer we are now more knowledgeable than for any other cancer in the UK. Only recently, (some 6 years after we first said it at CANCERactive), Cancer Research stated that ’One size no longer fits all’, meaning that you can’t just dish out Tamoxifen and expect every women to survive. We have now learned that the majority of breast cancers are oestrogen driven, while the minority are not. And so we have drugs such as Tamoxifen and Aromatase Inhibitors for oestrogen driven cancers, and new drugs on their way for stem cell, oestrogen-influenced cancers.

Then scientists have developed Herceptin for Her-2 positive patients and new drugs are in preparation to stop the cancer cells forming a protein coat rendering the Herceptin inactive. More drugs are being developed for even more sub-groups.

Credit where credit is due.

Health consciousness. Not illness management

Cancer Research UK have recently released figures saying that the number of deaths from breast cancer is the lowest for years. Indeed, for common cancers such as breast, prostate and lung this seems true. But then for lung cancer, less people now smoke and we are much more aware of contributors such as asbestos. We are learning to prevent.
In the USA the media scares over HRT saw many less women taking it and breast cancer diagnoses fell 7 per cent the first fall in years. Another example of prevention.

Unfortunately, our ageing population will shortly see the numbers of women diagnosed with breast cancer increasing dramatically. So are 70 per cent of the monies raised going to go towards breast cancer prevention? To stopping some of these people getting it in the first place? The fall in HRT supplementation produced a pretty dramatic and speedy response. What could we expect if other risks were widely known.  For example the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in the USA in their 2006 report ’Environmental and Occupational causes of cancer’ looked at chemical toxins in all manner of common products from pesticides to personal toiletries and concluded ’major cancer agencies have largely avoided the urgency of acting on what we know to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place’. Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t need expensive cures for breast cancer if no one had it in the first place! 29,000 out of 42,000 UK women a year would not be getting the disease!

In case you think this argument is nonsense, I have just been listening to a panel of Hospital Heads in the USA, being interviewed about Obama’s new Health Care Initiative. In their view ’Health Care for all’ was a democratic essential, but to a man they said the nation will go bust if we keep throwing the Healthcare budget at more and more drugs. Their conclusion? We need to spend serious monies in our schools growing a generation of ’health savvy’ people. More prevention is essential.

This is exactly my argument. Health Consciousness should be the prime aim; not Illness Management. By the time you get breast cancer, the only beneficiaries are the drug companies, the mammogram makers and all the highly paid charity directors. I’d be ecstatic if everyone at CANCERactive could pack it all in; our job done; no one with cancer.

And here’s the rub

So pray tell me, pink ribbon bosses, how much of the proceeds that you raise will be spent on health education and cancer prevention in schools? Our phone number is 0203 186 1006 if you’d like to support our ready-made, ready-to-launch programmes.

Meanwhile, we already know some of the important factors that can reduce the risk of breast cancer. At CANCERactive we have consistently told you of the dangers of HRT, the statistical link with cows’ dairy, the importance of a good night’s sleep or avoiding EMF’s to maintain your melatonin levels, or about vitamin D where a Harvard Professor told the world that ’25 per cent less women would die of breast cancer if they took adequate levels of vitamin D’. Where are the leaflets and the press advertisements from the breast cancer agencies on all this?

Next the EU is warning on the dangers of pesticides to health (including cancer) and the REACH project at the EU refers to toxins in everyday household, toiletry and personal care products. BPA is banned in Canada, and Formaldehyde in Sweden and Japan. Dioxins are known carcinogens, and there are clinical studies linking them to breast cancer. We have covered all these
cancer-causing dangers. Does your charity?

In any market, whether it be cornflakes or cars, a brand leader’s job is to champion the market not just worry about its own business. Apparently the leading charities haven’t been on this marketing course. I cannot see many champions of breast cancer prevention apart from little old CANCERactive, can you?

Unashamedly, then, much of this magazine is given over to looking at factors that might help women prevent or beat breast cancer you can find so much more on our web site www.canceractive.com.


Meanwhile ’the sisters are doing it for themselves’, to quote the song. Over the last 30 years we have seen the growth of the internet enabling women to find inspiration and treatments from other countries, we have seen the emergence of bodies such as the Bristol Cancer Centre (now Penny Brohn), Maggie Centres, The Haven, The Butterfly and many more complementary clinics. We have learned more about vitamin D, vitamin K, omega 3 and beneficial bacteria and their anti-cancer role. We have told you of clinical trials on acupuncture, meditation and diet therapies like those of Gonzalez and Pfeifer. Two thirds of icon readers use some complementary therapy including exercise for which there are masses of research studies on prevention and survival benefits. Yet, apparently, all this counts for nothing.

There is no mention whatsoever in the credit column of the Cancer Research Press release on why deaths from breast cancer are at their lowest ever levels. More women beating cancer? Apparently, it’s got little to do with anything other than the drugs and the screening.

So when you make your donation to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please ask where it is going. If the answer is ’to finding a cure for cancer’ don’t cry or laugh at the naivety. Instead, try asking if the recipient charity protests about masts, toxic chemicals, oestrogen mimics, HRT and pesticides. Ask if they support complementary therapies. After all this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month not Breast Cancer Drug and Mammogram Funding month.

Meanwhile I hope you find this issue of icon from CANCERactive unique, useful and, above all, inspiring.

Chris Woollams

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