Thursday, August 19, 2010

The big news this week is that cancer cases are increasing around the world, and that cancer may pass heart disease as the leading cause of death. I've read several versions of the story and not one of them mentions the possibility of focusing on causes and prevention of the disease. Almost all the emphasis in scientific research, as well as in fund-raising, is on finding a cure, or at least, finding new treatments. These things are worth working on, but discovering the causes and finding ways to prevent the disease's occurrence will mean that fewer people will come down with the disease. Medical people are fond of pointing out the improved treatment and cure statistics, but never mention the horrendous late effects of chemo and radiation. Never getting the disease would also prevent those. Dare I say that one reason for this lopsided focus is money? There is more profit in treatments and cures than in prevention. If people are healthy, they don't need to pay the doctor or the pharmaceutical company to treat and/or cure their diseases.
We're approaching Breast Cancer Awareness month, the month of pinkness--October. Try to notice this year who is sponsoring many of the pink ribbon campaigns--the pharmaceutical companies, for one. Their shareholders certainly wouldn't want them involved in a campaign that would reduce their profits. An organization simply called The Breast Cancer Fund ( is trying to redress that imbalance by focusing on environmental causes and prevention.
Samantha King, in her book Pink Ribbons, Inc., states that corporations, under the guise of philanthropy, "turn their formidable promotion machines on the curing of the disease while dwarfing public health prevention efforts and stifling the calls for investigation into why and how breast cancer affects such a vast number of people."
Breast Cancer Action, an organization based in San Francisco, has a campaign called, "Think Before You Pink," which "calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions." Think Before You Pink also highlights "pinkwashers," companies that "purport to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon campaign, but manufacture products that are linked to the disease."
Rita Arditti writes about "Why Cancer's Gaining on Us," at, noting that the rise in breast cancer cases has coincided with the flood of synthetic chemicals in out environment since the 1950s, and calling for research into any possible links.
Make this October a time of real awareness--to learn about why so many people come down with cancer, and to be aware before you donate or participate, what cause you are supporting.