Welcome to October, everyone! Or, shall I say, Pinktober?
Before I begin, I want to show love and respect for the millions of brave women (and men!) fighting breast cancer as I write this. The strength and courage of cancer patients and survivors is nothing short of remarkable, and it makes me so angry that this disease rips apart people’s lives indiscriminately, like a hurricane.
My anger isn’t just at the disease, though, but also at the way we as a society approach the disease. That, lovely readers, is what I want to discuss.
October, as you know, is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). Everything goes pink, from the lids of Yoplait yogurt to the gloves of NFL football players. The campaign encourages early detection and mammograms.
That’s what you know. But there’s much you don’t know. More accurately, it’s what we’re not “supposed” to think about. So let’s change that, shall we?
The Root of It All – Who Stands to Profit?
NBCAM was founded in October 1985, as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca). From square one, NBCAM existed to drive home the point that mammography is simply the best way to detect, and thereby fight, breast cancer.
You may find it odd for a pharmaceutical company to sponsor a battle that, if won, would decimate their profits. Think of it this way, though – the more people diagnosed with breast cancer, the more people need treatment for said cancer. Yeah, you’re “saving lives,” but also creating massive cash flow.
AstraZeneca is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and a leading manufacturer of tamoxifen (one of the most commonly-prescribed cancer drugs, especially for breast cancer). The global market for tamoxifen alone was $675 million in 2015, and projected to be $683 million by 2022.
Fun Fact: Tamoxifen is listed as a carcinogen on the American Cancer Society’s web page. The list was compiled by two agencies – the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Toxicology Program.
It’s important to understand that pharmaceutical companies have diverse portfolios. Many also produce pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, which are (spoiler alert!) carcinogens in and of themselves, and contribute to cancer rates via their use in the food industry, water contamination from use, and from pollution caused by their manufacture.
Take, for example, the household-name company Bayer, who’s in the process of buying Monsanto. Monsanto, as you may know, is the agrochemical/agricultural biotech company that the world wishes would be consumed by a sinkhole for its egregious crimes against humanity/environment. Bayer has many skeletons dancing in its own closet, but is forking over $66 billion to be inextricably linked to Monsanto and its devil-spawn products. This includes its crowning glory, the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate (aka “Round-Up”), the use of which is wisely being banned in other countries, but booming in the U.S.
This probably goes without saying, but if the Bayer-Monsanto merger is legally approved by regulators, Bayer will never get one cent of my money again. Curious how much Bayer is already in your home? Check out their full product listing.
AstraZeneca is just as diverse. Along with Monsanto, one of the top four biotech companies (which together account for almost 100% of the genetically engineered [GMO] seed market and 60% of the global pesticide market) is a company called Syngenta. (Syngenta has been under the radar in comparison to Monsanto, but is now making news due to a GMO seed-related lawsuit.) Well, here’s the kicker. Syngenta is a subsidiary of none other than AstraZeneca, our dear founder of NBCAM.
As you can see, pharm companies don’t just “make medicine” but actually are dangerously involved in our food industry (pesticides and GMO seeds) as well. Essentially, “Big Pharma” and “Big Agriculture” are one and the same. How does this tie in? As I mentioned, pollution from pesticide production and use contributes to environmental cancer risks, especially in our water supplies. The dangers of GMOs include a rise in food allergies (thus creating a need for medicating those allergies) and increased cancer risk (due to the extreme amount of pesticides that GMOs are genetically modified to withstand without dying, which you consume while eating them).
Gee, isn’t it awfully convenient for companies like AstraZeneca to have a hand in the cause and the “cure”?
To this day, AstraZeneca is still driving NBCAM. In ’93, they established the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation (separating it from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals) to muddy the link between AstraZeneca and NBCAM. The A.Z. HealthCare Foundation page states that they “support” NBCAM, but on another page, they more accurately refer to NBCAM as, “A program of the AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation”.
Fun Fact: The original website for NBCAM (www.nbcam.org), which is now a broken link, used to show clear ownership by the A.Z. HealthCare Foundation. Courtesy of WayBackMachine’s archive, you can actually still access the old nbcam.org site and click around, to see that it was in fact copyrighted by the A.Z. HealthCare Foundation.
The main takeaway? Cancer is not only a disease – it is an industry, and an unbelievably profitable one at that. Not just for Big Pharma, but for every stakeholder involved, from the treatment centers to the manufacturers of mammography machines. If breast cancer truly disappeared tomorrow, billions upon billions of dollars would be lost.
The Prevention Problem
Okay, so October hits, it’s now National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink is everywhere. Great, right? Well, not so fast.
The most glaring thing about NBCAM is that it promotes early detection and treatment. That sounds well and good, but when you really examine what the media throws in women’s faces all October, there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that breast cancer is inevitable, and that all we can do is detect it early.
You know what works better than early detection? Prevention!
Yes, absolutely, for those who do already have it, early detection is key. No doubt about that. (However, this raises an entire topic all its own – the risks involved with yearly screenings, plus the risk of false positives, and the dangers of over-treating incidences of cancer. Read more.)
But what about those who don’t have it? For those people, prevention should be key, and that’s the topic that gets sorely neglected.
I went to the websites of some major breast cancer resources, and found the same shocking absence of preventative information virtually across the board.
Here’s one example, the American Breast Cancer Foundation. When I saw the link “Be Proactive!” under the “EDUCATION” menu, I hoped to see genuinely helpful preventative info, but was sorely disappointed. Clearly, their idea of being proactive is unrelated to being preventative:
Still trying to hold out hope, I went to the “Can I Stop It From Happening?” link, also under the “EDUCATION” menu. The link to Protective Factors is prefaced by the following:
“There is no definite way to prevent breast cancer; however there are steps you can take to help lower your chances of developing it. In this section we will discuss breast cancer prevention and protective factors you can take part in to keep your body as healthy as possible.”
So, I clicked the “What is a Protective Factor?” link, and found this pitiful section:
Since the page has large pics and requires scrolling, making it difficult to screen shot, allow me to copy-paste the text that’s “supposed” to help women reduce their breast cancer risk. It says, and I quote:
Although it is unclear how much exercise is needed, studies have shown that physical activity may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Diet and Nutrition
No specific food or diet has been proven to prevent breast cancer; however, diet and nutrition are very important factors which can help maintain your overall health.
Breastfeeding your child may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The risk lowers even more, the longer you continue to breastfeed.
I kid you not, this is it. Three utterly vague, horribly uninformative, lazy bullet points. Three!
The lack of real advice here, and across the other sites, genuinely makes me want to cry. Or punch something. Maybe both. I’m mad, seriously legit mad, over this.
Most importantly, where is the bullet point for avoiding carcinogens? The other sites all ignored toxins too, but at least had a “Don’t Smoke” bullet point – this one doesn’t even do that! Don’t get me wrong, though. Even if they do tell women not to smoke, it’s still lacking. Why? Because that doesn’t even begin to address the other carcinogens we’re exposed to daily, most of which are in our control, that also affect cancer risk.
Seeing “Breast Cancer Awareness” for What It Really Is
I’m sorry, but isn’t this making sitting ducks out of women, this assumption that we’re all walking cases of undiagnosed breast cancer?
“Alright gals, let’s wear our pink ribbon and wait for it to happen to us! It’s fine, because they’re telling us how to catch it early and then (maybe) fix it with a regimen of poison that (most definitely) will leave us in financial ruin, and at risk for secondary cancer caused by the treatment. All’s well that ends well!”
No. Just no. Seriously, at what point did this become the norm!? “Awareness” does not equal prevention when it’s being handled like this!
Instead of addressing the causes of cancer, they want to sweep it under the rug and slap a pink ribbon on it, hoping no one notices. The mention of “carcinogens” is stricken from awareness campaigns to protect the guilty, while the innocent suffer.
Our attention is repetitively redirected to “The Cure” with a skill rivaling that of the world’s most talented illusionists. As long as the focus is on the detection and treatment of skyrocketing cancer rates rather than its underlying causes, the guilty are kept safe. Nothing will change. Those parties causing cancer will keep on doing so, and those who profit from our nation’s sickness will keep getting richer.
The threats are in our products, food, water, air, soil, you name it – but who is truly looking out for us? Very, very few. The government turns a blind eye, and would rather line its pockets with lobbying funds than protect us. Overall, the medical establishment profits from the illness of its customers, so our wellness really isn’t in their best interest, now, is it? The media outlets are all owned by the same six mega corporations, so broadcasting contains exactly the messages The Powers That Be want you to receive about “cancer awareness” – nothing more, nothing less.
Fun Fact: NBC (who broadcasts NFL games, whose players don pink ad nauseum during October for “awareness”) is owned by General Electric, who – guess what! -manufactures mammography machines. Are you starting to see the web of profit?
Are you mad yet? As frustrating as this may all be, turn that frustration into determination.
Each person has the power to break this cycle, to take preventative measures, every single day. This is not accomplished by running races clad in pink or buying a box of pizza rolls with pink ribbon packaging. It can only happen when we collectively wake up and realize that the cause of cancer is all around us, and that we alone have the ability to protect ourselves and our families.
To Be Continued…
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, coming soon, where I’ll discuss ways to help protect yourself, and share tips for “pinking wisely” this October.
*UPDATE* Part 2 has been posted! Check it out: Pink Ribbon Problem, Part 2: Protect Yourself & Pink Wisely!
Main Image Credit (Original): contemplationcenter.org