Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Present Looks Like the Past

by Barbara A. Brenner

Barbara Brenner

Longtime readers of this publication know that BCA has long been critical of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM)—both because of the focus on misleading messages about “early detection” and because of the absence of information about the environmental links to breast cancer. Of course, the silence on environmental issues doesn’t surprise anyone who knows the history of BCAM. That history is being replicated now in a variety of ways, none of them good for women’s health.

Back in 1995, I wrote my column for the newsletter and entitled it “Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Now a Word About the Sponsors.” Briefly, BCAM was created by a pharmaceutical company now called Astra-Zeneca (manufacturer of Arimidex, and formerly of tamoxifen). The company, in addition to making drugs to treat breast cancer, has historically produced herbicides that are known carcinogens. So it’s no wonder that environmental issues aren’t on the agenda for official BCAM messaging.

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“Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created by a pharmaceutical company called Astra-Zeneca (manufacturer of Arimidex and formerly of tamoxifen). The company, in addition to making drugs to treat breast cancer, has historically produced herbicides that are known carcinogens.”

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Of course there’s more to the profit cycle now, because as the incidence of breast cancer has grown, more companies have seen the wisdom of making drugs for a growing market. And they don’t seem to see a problem with, at the same time, making products that might increase the risk of breast cancer. What better way to make profits than to create the disease for which you sell the treatments?

We’ve written in The Source before about Novartis, which makes the aromatase inhibitor Femara and the herbicide atrazine, which stimulates aromatase production in animals.1

Eli Lilly is also in the game but with an added twist. The company makes cancer drugs, including Gemzar, which is used to treat breast cancer. Thanks to a purchase it made last year from Monsanto, the company now also makes and markets rBGH through its subsidiary Elanco. This hormone, used to stimulate milk production in cows, had been linked to breast cancer and other cancers. To round out its profit circle, Eli Lilly makes and markets Evista, a drug first approved for the treatment of osteoporosis that is also marketed to “reduce the risk of breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease” (a phrase often confused with the word “prevention”).

If you wanted to make sure that your profits were secure, you couldn’t do better than to take Eli Lilly’s approach: create cancer, and create the products to “prevent” and treat the disease. How perfect.

Except when it comes to the public’s health, that is. Follow the money, and work with BCA to end the deadly profit cycle.

1 U.S. EPA recently announced that it will review health data related to atrazine.

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