Friday, December 9, 2011

Institute of Medicine ... "Pinkwashed"?

According to the IOM Report released on December 7, 2011 (see link below), "[m]ore than 230,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2011." As such, the following summary by BCAction is significant on a number of levels. For me personally, it amplifies the frustration that I contend with in not knowing / understanding the hows and whys I sit here today with metastatic breast cancer - as I, like so many women have no identifiable risk factors. No "life-style" risk factors what-so-ever; and at the initial stages of my diagnosis over 2 years ago, I went through genetic testing (I needed to know for my 3 children) just to confirm that my DNA was not predisposed. Nothing.

Generally, what is currently not going on at the SABCS, informs me that either the medical community is -- at best, still stymied (by the breast cancer industry, maybe?) or at worst, not genuinely interested, in making any real head way in proactively identifying and addressing the true environmental causes for the increase in incidences of breast cancer - especially in developed countries.

Feeding the personal and general concerns is that this Symposium is reportedly being funded, solely by...Susan G. Komen.

For immediate release
December 7th, 2011
Contact: Angela Wall, Communications Manager (415) 243-9301 x16

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), the respected watchdog of the breast cancer movement, responded with disappointment to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach released today at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

The IOM was asked to review the current evidence on breast cancer and the environment, consider gene-environment interactions, review challenges in investigating environmental contributions to breast cancer, explore evidence-based actions that women might take to reduce their risk and recommend research in all of these areas.

“The IOM Report fails to turn the tide on this epidemic because it misses some important opportunities to implement real changes” said Breast Cancer Action’s Executive Director Karuna Jaggar, commenting from SABCS. “They too broadly define the environment as all factors not directly inherited through DNA which includes anything from genetic changes to tissue, to stress, to lifestyle choices and changes in abdominal fat rather than the chemicals we are all exposed to in our everyday lives.”

Breast Cancer Action is deeply disappointed in the report which fails to advance research on breast cancer and the environment and shed light on the 70% of breast cancer diagnoses for which there are no known risk factors. “The report recommendations for women merely rehash the little bit we already know about lifestyle and breast cancer and miss an opportunity to focus on relatively unknown areas of the environment,” said Jaggar.

The report correctly identifies methodological challenges in data collection establishing links between environmental factors and breast cancer. “In medical science, the gold standard of evidence is random controlled experiments on humans; however, as the report rightly points out conducting random controlled experiments on the effect of toxins on women would be immoral and impermissible. We must find alternatives that enable us to take action.” Jaggar stated that “we need to adopt the gold standard of prevention and that’s the precautionary principle because waiting for absolute proof is killing us. Instead, the IOM shrugged the burden of prevention onto women’s lifestyle choices.”

IOM committee member Dr. Robert A. Hiatt stated at SABCS that if women follow the recommendations of the IOM report “we don’t even know whether they will actually reduce their risk.”Jaggar adamantly argued that “we don’t need reports that dink around with lifestyle choices—more exercise, less alcohol, avoiding excess weight, don’t smoke, etc.—which have at best an extremely small role in reducing breast cancer risk and which fail to acknowledge that not all women have equal access to healthy lifestyle choices. We need to apply precautionary principles that stop cancer before it starts.”


Breast Cancer Action (—a national non-profit education and advocacy organization refuses to accept funding from pharmaceutical companies or any other organizations that profit from or contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  1. I find it rather interesting that the IOM’s report was solely sponsored by the Komen organization at a cost of $1M. The findings should strengthen their mission to maintain the pink status quo and keep feeding the idea that our breast cancer is our fault.
    Way to spend $1M !!!!!!!


  1. On a good note, the SABCS recommended women diagnosed with BC get the ONCO-DX test (sp?) -- they must have read your blog from 2 years ago :-)! Think of all the poor women who've gone through chemo/radiation when they didn't need to!

  2. @ Anonymous - thank you for the "good note." Do you know if it was just a recommendation for the Oncotype DX, or was there movement to make the test more accessible for ALL women. The test runs nearly $4,000.00 and medical insurance carriers don't typcially pay. I got mine paid for because the California lab that conducted the test was willing to jump through administrative appeal hoops to get payment. Not all women are so lucky. The overdiagnosis, and comensurate over treatment of breast cancer is the topic of a whole other Symposium (or should be). Thank you!

  3. The report is a disappointment. More about what we already know and not much about what we don't. I agree with Breast Cancer Action's statement.