CHICAGO, Illinois, October 21, 2011 –/WORLD-WIRE/– The Cancer Prevention Coalition says National Mammography Day, October 21, the flagship event of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), is a time to consider the risks of mammography and the links between the mammography industry, the chemicals industry and the American Cancer Society.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was conceived and funded in 1984 by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and by the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and its U.S. subsidiary and spinoff Zeneca Pharmaceuticals.
Cancer Prevention Coalition chairman Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. says, “The NBCAM is a multi-million-dollar deal between the corporate sponsors and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society.”
“Mammography screening is a profit-driven technology posing risks compounded by unreliability,” Dr. Epstein declares.
The American Cancer Society is knee deep in conflicts of interest with the mammography industry, says Dr. Epstein, who points out that five radiologists have served as ACS presidents. “In its every move, the ACS promotes the interests of the major manufacturers of mammogram machines and films, including Siemens, DuPont, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, and Piker,” Dr. Epstein says.
The mammography industry also conducts research for the ACS, serves on its advisory boards, and donates considerable funds, says Dr. Epstein. DuPont also is a substantial backer of the ACS Breast Health Awareness Program, sponsors television shows and other media productions touting mammography, produces educational films, and lobbies Congress for legislation promoting availability of mammography services.
“In virtually all its important actions, the ACS has been and still remains strongly linked with the mammography industry, while ignoring or attacking the viable alternative of breast self examination (BSE),” says Dr. Epstein.
Imperial Chemical Industries is one of the largest manufacturers of petrochemical industrial chemicals, and Zeneca is the sole manufacturer of Tamoxifen, the world’s top selling cancer drug widely used for breast cancer.
“The ICI/Zeneca financial sponsorship gives them control over every leaflet, poster, publication, and commercial produced by NBCAM,” warns Dr. Epstein.
“The ICI also supports the ACS blame-the-victim claim, which attributes escalating rates of breast, besides cancers to heredity and faulty lifestyle,” he says. “This false and self-interested claim diverts attention away from avoidable exposures to carcinogenic industrial contaminants of air, water, food, consumer products, and the workplace.”
Dangers Of Screening Mammography
“Radiation from routine premenopausal mammography poses significant cumulative risks of promoting breast cancer,” Dr. Epstein warns.
“Contrary to conventional assurances that radiation exposure from mammography is trivial and similar to that of a chest x-ray, about 1/1000 of a rad (radiation absorbed dose), the routine practice of taking four films for each breast results in some 1,000-fold greater exposure, 1 rad, focused on each breast rather than on the entire chest,” he explains. “Thus, premenopausal women undergoing annual screening over a 10-year period are exposed to a total of about 10 rads for each breast.”
As emphasized some three decades ago, the premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by 1 percent, resulting in a cumulative 10 percent increased risk over 10 years.
In striking contrast, annual clinical breast examination (CBE) by a trained health professional, in addition to monthly breast self-examination, is safe, at least as effective as mammography, and low, if any, in cost.
A national program for training nurses how to perform clinical breast examination, and also teach breast self examination, is critical and decades overdue, Dr. Epstein advises.
Mammography is not a technique for early diagnosis, contrary to popular belief and assurances by the ACS, and also the media. Dr. Epstein says that in fact, a breast cancer has usually been present for about eight years before it can be belatedly detected by mammography
The Mammography Industry
The ACS has close connections to the mammography industry, as Dr. Epstein detailed in his 1998 book, “The Politics of Cancer Revisited.” “In fact, if every woman followed ACS and NCI mammography guidelines, the annual revenue to health care facilities would be a staggering $5 billion,” he says today.
“The ACS promotion continues to lure women of all ages into mammography centers, leading them to believe that mammography is their best hope against breast cancer,” said Dr. Epstein.
He cites a leading Massachusetts newspaper that featured a photograph of two women in their twenties in an ACS advertisement that promised early detection results in a cure “nearly 100 percent of the time.”
An ACS communications director, questioned by journalist Kate Dempsey, responded in an article published by the Massachusetts Women’s Community’s journal Cancer, saying, “The ad isn’t based on a study. When you make an advertisement, you just say what you can to get women in the door. You exaggerate a point. Mammography today is a lucrative [and] highly competitive business.”
Dr. Epstein warns that the ACS exposes premenopausal women to radiation hazards from mammography with little or no evidence of benefits. The ACS also fails to tell them that their breasts will change so much over time that the “baseline” images have little or no future relevance. This is truly an American Cancer Society crusade. But against whom, or rather, for whom?
The American Cancer Society’s Conflicts Of Interest
About half of the ACS board members are clinicians, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and basic molecular scientists, mostly with close ties to the NCI. Many board members and their colleagues apply for and obtain funding from both the ACS and the NCI. Substantial NCI funds also go to ACS directors who sit on key NCI committees. Although the ACS asks board members to leave the room when the rest of the board discusses their funding proposals, this is just a token formality. In this private club, easy access to funding is one of the perks as the board routinely rubber-stamps approvals. A significant amount of ACS research funding goes to this extended membership.
Frank conflicts of interest are evident in many ACS priorities. These include their advocating mammography and the National Breast Cancer Awareness campaign and supporting the pesticide and cancer drug industries. These conflicts even extend to the privatization of national cancer policy.
• 1998-2000: PR for the ACS was handled by Shandwick International, whose major clients included RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings.
• 2000-2002: PR for the ACS was handled by the Edelman Public Relations, whose major clients included Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, and the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, and Kraft.
ACS has received contributions in excess of $100,000 from a wide range of “Excalibur donors.” Some of these companies were responsible for environmental pollution with carcinogens while others manufactured and sold products containing toxic and carcinogenic ingredients.
These donors include:
• Petrochemical companies (DuPont, BP and Pennzoil)
• Industrial waste companies (BFI Waste Systems)
• Big Pharma (AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Company, and Novartis)
• Auto companies (Nissan and General Motors)
• Cosmetic companies (Christian Dior, Avlon, Revlon, and Elizabeth Arden)
• Junk food companies (Wendy’s International, McDonalds’s, Unilever/Best Foods, and Coca-Cola.
• Biotech companies (Amgen and Genetech)
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and former President of the Rachel Carson Trust. His awards include the 1998 Right Livelihood Award and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention.
Dr. Epstein’s many books include “NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE and AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Criminal Indifference to Cancer Prevention and Conflicts of Interest,” and “Healthy Beauty: Your Guide to Ingredients to Avoid and Products You Can Trust,” by Samuel S. Epstein and Randall Fitzgerald.
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health