Breast Cancer Deception: 3 Ways the Pink Ribbon Misleads You

Breast cancer (and its mainstream treatments) kill thousands of women every year. In 2009 (the last year for which data is available), the CDC says over 40,000 women were killed by this arguably preventable disease. Everyone knows that this is a horrible disease – including corporations. These companies have made a pretty penny by playing on people’s passionate feelings about cancer.

This past year, CoverGirl graciously flew a 13-year old girl and cancer patient to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”. Talia Castellano is a young make-up blogger and admitted to “adoring” makeup. CoverGirl gave her $20,000 and made her an honorary CoverGirl. But there’s one problem; the company manufactures products with toxic ingredients known to increase cancer risk.

Parabens, formaldehyde, and phthalates, to be specific. While Johnson & Johnson reportedly bowed to the Breast Cancer Fund’s requests to remove such ingredients, Procter and Gamble (the parent company behind CoverGirl) has dodged the issue completely. Now, Procter and Gamble is donating $1 for every breast exam pledge on Facebook to go towards early detection campaigns. But even experts admit that breast cancer screens are very often unnecessary and could actually cause harm.

One would think that a company who truly cared about cancer would instead try to prevent it.

Continuing onward, a household name in breast cancer charities, the Susan G. Komen Foundation partners with numerous bottled water companies for their For the Cure races around the country. The problem with this—most of these bottled water companies use bottles that contain BPA, a known hormone disrupter, one that increases the risk of cancer. Interestingly, Athena bottled water is similarly sold in BPA bottles and was founded by a breast cancer survivor.

And if you need another example of misdirected “good will”, the Progresso company, that makes soup, serves up cans on grocery store shelves around the world. These cans are lined with a resin containing BPA. Yes the same hormone-disrupting BPA. And now they are using pink ribbon labels to help sell more. General Mills says a portion of their proceeds will go to breast cancer research, but they won’t spend a dime to reduce breast cancer by changing packaging until a consumer-driven upheaval begins.

So, what is it these companies really care about? Is it the hundreds of thousands of women that will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, or is it cashing in on the disease to boost their bottom line. After all, the bigger the problem (breast cancer) is, the more people will support that pink ribbon!

New Study: 1/3 of Tumors Found in Mammograms are Harmless

by Lisa Garber

Researchers of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claim that the push for breast cancer exams in the past 30 years has caused 1.3 million American women to be overdiagnosed. Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine argues that the decrease in breast cancer mortality rates is owed more to improved treatment than screenings, which detect even small, possibly benign and temporary abnormalities that resolve themselves.

Many breast imaging specialists, like Dr. Danial B. Kopans of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boson, railed against the findings, calling it “malicious nonsense” designed to deny women access to screening to reduce healthcare costs.

Early Screenings and False Positives

While the study authors agree that screening has detected early-stage cancers, it must also by this reasoning reduce the incidence of late-stage cancers (because the tumors would have been removed sooner). But they haven’t, the authors say.

After analyzing data between 1976 and 2008 from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that early-stage cancers doubled (per 100,000 women) from 112 to 234, but late-stage cancers fell by only 8 cases, from 102 to 94.

“We hear the word ‘cancer,’” says Welch, “and we all assume the definition that’s in my medical dictionary—it’s a tumor that, left untreated, will inexorably grow and cause death. But now, as we look for really early forms of the disease, we realized the pathologic definition of cancer includes abnormalities that may come and go.” (Welch clarified that although he is not telling women to resist screenings, they should be conscious of the technology’s limitations.)

Stamatia Destounis, a Rochester breast imager, was dubious on the matter. “There is no way for us to know which early-stage breast cancer would not progress and which one would…. How would we tell a patient, ‘Chances are this is early and it’s probably not going to progress for a long time, if ever’?”

Dangerously High Screening Rates

This isn’t the first time breast imaging has come under attack; in 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force concluded that current levels of testing put women under unnecessary financial and emotional duress. They also noted that false positives and unhealthy exposure to radiation were a growing concern. Several Harvard Medical School academics also echo Welch’s opinion that screening rates are unnecessarily high, and even mainstream health officials like Danish scientist Peter Gotzshe admit that screening isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

It can also be argued that the very organizations advocating aggressive screenings—like Susan G. Komen—are engaged in fraud for using misleading statistics to promote screening, offering free screenings that may or may not raise the risk of future development of cancer, and by skirting scientifically relevant issues to breast cancer, like its link to BPA.

Unfortunately women are driven by massive amounts of fear of breast cancer, so much so that some individuals are actually cutting off their breasts in order to be risk-free.

Related: Why Are Health Officials Still Pushing Ineffective Breast Cancer Screenings?

Higher Levels of BPA in Children and Teens Significantly Associated With Obesity

Science Daily

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have revealed a significant association between obesity and children and adolescents with higher concentrations of urinary bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical recently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from sippy cups and baby bottles. Still, the chemical continues to be used in aluminum cans, such as those containing soda.

The study appears in the September 19 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), dedicated to the theme of obesity.

“This is the first association of an environmental chemical in childhood obesity in a large, nationally representative sample,” said lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine. “Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn’t end there.”

BPA, a low-grade estrogen, was until recently found in plastic bottles labeled with the number 7 recycling symbol, and is still used as an internal coating for aluminum cans. Manufacturers say it provides an antiseptic function, but studies have shown the chemical disrupts multiple mechanisms of human metabolism that may increase body mass. BPA exposure has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and infertility.

“In the U.S. population, exposure [to BPA] is nearly ubiquitous, with 92.6 percent of persons 6 years or older identified in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as having detectable BPA levels in their urine. A comprehensive, cross-sectional study of dust, indoor and outdoor air, and solid and liquid food in preschool-aged children suggested that dietary sources constitute 99 percent of BPA exposure,” the investigators wrote.

Using a sample of nearly 3,000 children and adolescents, ages 6 through 19 years, randomly selected for measurement of urinary BPA concentration in the 2003-2008 NHANES, Dr. Trasande and his co-authors, Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, and Teresa Attina, MD, PhD, MPH, examined associations between urinary BPA concentrations and body mass.

After controlling for race/ethnicity, age, caregiver education, poverty to income ratio, sex, serum cotinine level, caloric intake, television watching, and urinary creatinine level, the researchers found children with the highest levels of urinary BPA had 2.6 times higher odds of being obese than those with the lowest measures of urinary BPA. Among the participants with the highest levels, 22.3 percent were obese compared with 10.3 percent of the participants with the lowest levels.

Further analyses showed this association to be statistically significant in only one racial subpopulation, white children and adolescents. The researchers also found that obesity was not associated with exposure to other environmental phenols commonly used in other consumer products, such as sunscreens and soaps.

“Most people agree the majority of BPA exposure in the United States comes from aluminum cans,” Dr. Trasande said. “This data adds to already existing concerns about BPA and further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children. Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminum cans.”

The researchers wrote in their study that advocates and policy makers have long been concerned about BPA exposure. “We note the recent FDA ban of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, yet our findings raise questions about exposure to BPA in consumer products used by older children. Last year, the FDA declined to ban BPA in aluminum cans and other food packaging, announcing ‘reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the human food supply’ and noting that it will continue to consider evidence on the safety of the chemical. Carefully conducted longitudinal studies that assess the associations identified here will yield evidence many years in the future.”

Big Chem, Big Harm?

NYTimes
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

NEW research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants.

Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body’s endocrine system.

One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.

Even before the latest research showing multigeneration effects, studies had linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children.

Maybe it seems surprising to read a newspaper column about chemical safety because this isn’t an issue in the presidential campaign or even firmly on the national agenda. It’s not the kind of thing that we in the news media cover much.

Yet the evidence is growing that these are significant threats of a kind that Washington continually fails to protect Americans from. The challenge is that they involve complex science and considerable uncertainty, and the chemical companies — like the tobacco companies before them — create financial incentives to encourage politicians to sit on the fence. So nothing happens.

Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem’s lobbying efforts.

One good sign: In late July, a Senate committee, for the first, time passed the Safe Chemicals Act, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, that would begin to regulate the safety of chemicals.

Evidence of transgenerational effects of endocrine disruptors has been growing for a half-dozen years, but it mostly involved higher doses than humans would typically encounter.

Now Endocrinology, a peer-reviewed journal, has published a study measuring the impact of low doses of BPA. The study is devastating for the chemical industry.

Pregnant mice were exposed to BPA at dosages analogous to those humans typically receive. The offspring were less sociable than control mice (using metrics often used to assess an aspect of autism in humans), and various effects were also evident for the next three generations of mice.

The BPA seemed to interfere with the way the animals processed hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin, which affect trust and warm feelings. And while mice are not humans, research on mouse behavior is a standard way to evaluate new drugs or to measure the impact of chemicals.

“It’s scary,” said Jennifer T. Wolstenholme, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia and the lead author of the report. She said that the researchers found behaviors in BPA-exposed mice and their descendants that may parallel autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder in humans.

Emilie Rissman, a co-author who is professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at University of Virginia Medical School, noted that BPA doesn’t cause mutations in DNA. Rather, the impact is “epigenetic” — one of the hot concepts in biology these days — meaning that changes are transmitted not in DNA but by affecting the way genes are turned on and off.

In effect, this is a bit like evolution through transmission of acquired characteristics — the theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the 19th-century scientist whom high school science classes make fun of as a foil to Charles Darwin. In epigenetics, Lamarck lives.

“These results at low doses add profoundly to concerns about endocrine disruptors,” said John Peterson Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences. “It’s going to be harder than just eliminating exposure to one generation.”

The National Institutes of Health is concerned enough that it expects to make transgenerational impacts of endocrine disruptors a priority for research funding, according to a spokeswoman, Robin Mackar.

Like a lot of Americans, I used to be skeptical of risks from chemicals like endocrine disruptors that are all around us. What could be safer than canned food? I figured that opposition came from tree-hugging Luddites prone to conspiracy theories.

Yet, a few years ago, I began to read the peer-reviewed journal articles, and it became obvious that the opposition to endocrine disruptors is led by toxicologists, endocrinologists, urologists and pediatricians. These are serious scientists, yet they don’t often have the ear of politicians or journalists.

Related: EVEN BPA-FREE PLASTIC NOT ALWAYS SAFE

Hormone-Mimicking Chemicals Cause Inter-Species Mating

Science Blog
BPA in rivers leads to breakdown of fish species barriers

Hormone-mimicking chemicals released into rivers have been found to impact the mating choices of fish, a new study has revealed. The controversial chemical BPA, which emits oestrogen-like properties, was found to alter an individual’s appearance and behavior, leading to inter-species breeding. The study, published in Evolutionary Applications, reveals the threat to biodiversity when the boundaries between species are blurred.

The research, led by Dr Jessica Ward from the University of Minnesota, focused on the impact of Bisphenol A (BPA) on Blacktail Shiner (Cyprinella venusta) and Red Shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis) fish which are found in rivers across the United States. BPA is an organic compound used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics. It is currently banned from baby bottles and childrens’ cups in 11 U.S. states.

“Chemicals from household products and pharmaceuticals frequently end up in rivers and BPA is known to be present in aquatic ecosystems across the United States,” said Ward. “Until now studies have primarily focused on the impact to individual fish, but our study demonstrates the impact of BPA on a population level.”

The team collected individuals of both species from two streams in the state of Georgia. The species were kept separated for 14 days in tanks, some of which contained BPA. On the 15th day behavioral trials were undertaken as individuals from different tanks were introduced to each other.

The scientists monitored any physiological or signalling differences the individuals displayed, such as colour, as well as any behavioral differences during courtship, such as mate choice.

BPA disrupts an individual’s endocrine system, which controls the release of hormones. This impacts behavior and appearance, which in turn can lead an individual to mistake a newly introduced species as a potential mate.

This process poses long-term ecological consequences, especially in areas threatened by the introduction of invasive species. BPA and other hormone-mimicking chemicals can escalate the loss of native biodiversity by breaking down species barriers and promoting the invader.

“Our research shows how the presence of these manmade chemicals leads to a greater likelihood of hybridization between species,” concluded Ward. “This can have severe ecological and evolutionary consequences, including the potential for the decline of our native species.”

Related stories: Interspecies Sex: Evolution’s Hidden Secret?

Corporations Add Equally Toxic ‘BPS’ to BPA-Free Products

Natural Society

We’ve all seen the “BPA-free” labels affixed prominently to new plastic products. And many of us have fallen for the ruse, purchasing these new water bottles and food storage containers thinking we can still enjoy the convenience of plastics without the hormone-altering BPA. But what manufacturers are using in place of BPA might not be any safer. It’s known as ‘BPS‘ and as a matter of fact, it could be even worse.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) has made headlines over the past several years for the growing awareness of its dangers. Namely, it mimics estrogen in the body, throwing hormones out of whack. Although the United States and Europe have banned BPA in baby bottles, Canada remains the only country that has officially declared BPA as a “toxic substance.” Because of this, many people have smartly begun shunning plastics, opting for glass or metal, or choosing the new slick and expensive drinking bottles labeled “BPA-free”.

In place of BPA, manufacturers have begun using something called bisphenol-S (BPS). Unfortunately, there is no indication that BPS is any safer. On the contrary, it could be even worse than the villainized BPA. So, why are manufacturers using it? Well, because they can!

There is little information available on BPS at this point. Scientific research is lacking, and because there is little to say that it’s bad for you, manufacturers don’t have to worry (yet) about the repercussions of putting it in their products and selling it to unknowing consumers.

According to the Environmental Science and Technology, BPS is actually of a “comparable potency” to BPA. Also, it is “less biodegradable, and more heat-stable and photo-resistant” than its predecessor BPA. What does this mean? Well, it has the same estrogen-mimicking qualities and it doesn’t degrade as quickly as BPA, so it can stick around in your body for longer periods of time.

This isn’t a new practice—skirting public fears by playing on their ignorance. Plastic manufacturers know that the information about BPS is still in an infancy stage. They know they can get a few good years off of this “BPA-free” label craze before science catches up with them. So, in the meantime, they will keep selling you their new supposedly-safer products and probably even sell them at a higher price!

The bottom line is that we don’t know everything that is now being included in plastics. They are likely an “alphabet soup of toxic chemicals,” according to Mercola. Even canned goods are lined with BPA. Your best bet is to stick with glass whenever possible for food storage, drinking water, and microwaving (if you still do that).