Prevent Breast Cancer Naturally

How to Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk Naturally

October 20, 2013 | 25,113 views

By Dr. Mercola

According to estimates by the American Cancer Society, about 232,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and about 39,600 will die from the disease.

Dr. Christine Horner is quite familiar with breast cancer. She began her career as a board certified general- and plastic surgeon, performing breast reconstructive surgeries on women who’d had full mastectomies due to breast cancer.

While Dr. Horner was still in college, her mother developed breast cancer. Despite having a mastectomy, and successfully addressing a second breast tumor that appeared 13 years after the first one, she later died from cancer that metastasized in her femur.

“That’s the thing that really rocked my world,” Dr. Horner says. “In the interim, I had started my plastic surgery practice.

Because my mom had had breast cancer, I thought, well, I’d get active with the American Cancer Society. I was the spokesperson for the American Cancer Society on breast cancer issues.

I was trained to say, “We don’t know what causes it. We don’t have any known cures. The best things that women can do are mammograms and breast exams in the hope of catching it early to save lives.”

[Then] it was like, “Well, that didn’t work for my mom.” And then, I noticed at my practice that my patients started getting younger and younger and younger. Finally, I was doing women in their 20s. I just thought, something is way wrong with this picture.”

Thousands of Studies Show Why We’re Not Winning the War on Cancer…

Dr. Horner began reviewing the medical literature in search of clues that might reveal an answer to the dramatic increase in breast cancer, now appearing in women at an increasingly younger age.

What she discovered was thousands of studies that show exactly why we have a cancer epidemic—factors that contribute to it, and factors that are highly protective.

“And they were all natural,” she says. “It’s food, supplements, herbs, diet, and lifestyle. … I’m board certified in general surgery and plastic surgery… there’s 11 years of training in there.

I didn’t have a single course in nutrition. I learned nothing about health – nothing. All I learned was how to suppress symptoms with pharmaceutical medications or cut it out.

It wasn’t until I discovered that there was such an association with diet, herbs, lifestyle, and emotions too, that I thought, okay, these are the real secrets to health.”

As a result of her research, she got trained in Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine from India. “Ayur” means life and “veda” means knowledge, so it literally means “the knowledge of life”; wisdom that, if followed, can bring you into balance and enhance your body’s innate self-healing intelligence.

The truth is, there are many simple strategies that can drastically reduce your chances of developing cancer, or any other chronic disease for that matter; strategies that do not involve harmful side effects.

“I decided to quit my practice and dedicate myself to teaching people about what they can do – the simple things that they can do – that can have a dramatic impact on their life,” she says.

“With all my research in the area of breast cancer, I thought the first thing I’m going to do is write a book on all the natural approaches to protecting against and fighting breast cancer because, definitely, we have the information to end the breast cancer epidemic. No question about it.”

It’s worth mentioning that the same strategies apply for other types of cancer as well. Prostate and colon cancer tumors, for example, are similar to breast cancer tumors, as certain hormones cause them all to grow. Hence, protective strategies that are effective against breast cancer also work on these other types of cancer. Cancer prevention strategies will also virtually eliminate most other chronic disorders.

Her dedication, research, and ultimate findings led to her writing the book, Waking the Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer, which contains research-proven all-natural approaches for protecting against and treating breast cancer.

Conventional Cancer Screening is NOT a Preventive Strategy

When it comes to breast cancer, it’s important to understand that getting regular mammogram screenings is NOT going to prevent anything. In fact, mammography, which employs radiation, can increase your risk since ionizing radiation itself causes cancer… As Dr. Horner writes in her book:

“A European study published in 2012 found that when those who have the genetic predisposition for breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation) are exposed to any diagnostic radiation before age thirty, their risk of breast cancer increases by 90 percent.

The study also found that a history of mammography before age thirty raised the risk by 43 percent. In fact, even one mammogram before the age of thirty for those with the BRCA1 gene mutation was associated with an increased risk.

A newer type of mammogram touted to be much better at detecting breast cancers, called tomosynthesis, takes a 3-D image of the breast. You definitely want to avoid this type of mammogram because it uses three times more radiation than the standard type!”

Furthermore, mammograms:

  • Are incorrect 80 percent of the time (providing a false negative or false positive)
  • Use compression, which can damage breast tissue or potentially spread cancer
  • Are not effective for up to 50 percent of women (women with dense breasts or implants)
  • Can lead to over-diagnosis and over-treatment of non-invasive cancers
  • Can lead to the disturbing practice of “preventative” double mastectomies

MRI’s, which do not use ionizing radiation, are not a practical tool as they are very expensive, and, like mammograms, they’re not very specific. Ultrasound is another technique used in Western medicine. The traditional ultrasound can see whether a mass is cystic or solid.

But while a solid mass is generally considered to be something that might be of concern, this is not 100 percent certain either, as cancer tumors can sometimes have cysts in them.

In her book, Dr. Horner also mentions another type of ultrasound called “elastography,” which shows the elasticity of tissues.

Cancerous tissue is typically stiffer than healthy tissue, so this ultrasound can identify cancer based on the firmness of the tissues. Several studies published since 2007 have concluded that elastography ultrasound is a useful tool for detecting cancers without using harmful radiation. It also helps reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies from false-positive mammography readings.

Most Natural Prevention Strategies Cut Your Risk in Half

What’s most important, however, is Dr. Horner’s discovery that most of the lifestyle strategies that have been scientifically tested have the ability to cut your risk of cancer by about 50 percent; sometimes more. And yet virtually no one in conventional medicine talks about and shares such findings with their patients. Why? For example, turmeric can slash your risk by about half, while optimizing your vitamin D levels has been shown to cut breast cancer incidence by 77 percent1 in four years!

Of course, other lifestyle factors are also important in preventing cancer, such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and managing stress. However, vitamin D’s critical importance seems to grow with every emerging study. Carole Baggerly, founder director ofGrassrootsHealth—an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about vitamin D and the crucial role it plays in health—believes that as much as 90 percent of ordinary breast cancer is related to vitamin D deficiency, which is 100 percent preventable!

Despite its name, vitamin D is actually a powerful neuro-regulatory steroid with epigenetic influence over more than 2,000 genesin your body. That’s about 10 percent of all your genes. There are more than 830 peer reviewed scientific studies showing vitamin D’s effectiveness in the treatment of cancer, and personally, I believe it is virtually malpractice to not optimize vitamin D levels when treating someone with cancer. In this case, your vitamin D levels should be around 70-100 ng/ml. For more information about optimizing your vitamin D levels, please see my previous article Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.

Now, if making just ONE beneficial change can halve your risk, or more… imagine what can happen if you address several lifestyle factors known to have an effect.

“It becomes incredibly simple to dramatically lower your risk of developing this disease,” Dr. Horner says. “And then it takes the fear away. We don’t have to be so afraid of this horrible disease… we do have tremendous power in dramatically lowering our risk.”

Most importantly, Dr. Horner discovered that there are a number of healthy habits we’ve stopped doing in our modern culture that are highly protective against cancer. We’ve dramatically altered our diets—shunning our native, whole-foods cuisine for highly processed fare—and engage in very little physical activity, for example. We’ve also been told to fear the sun and slather our children in toxic sunscreens instead of reaping the tremendously protective benefits of vitamin D production that appropriate sun exposure brings. Fortunately, these factors are entirely within your personal control.

When it Comes to Breast Screening Options, You Do Have a Choice

Dr. Horner is a strong proponent of using thermography to track physiological changes that could indicate the beginning stages of cancer formation. Contrary to mammography, thermography does not provide you with an anatomic image. Rather it measures the infrared heat emitted by your body and translates this information into thermal images.

Thermography does not require mechanical compression or ionizing radiation, and can detect signs of physiological changes due to inflammation and/or increased tumor related blood flow approximately 8-10 years before mammography or a physical exam can detect a mass.

To me, it’s an incredibly useful tool,” Dr. Horner says. In her book, she writes: Research shows that, unlike mammograms, when thermography suspects something is wrong, it usually is. A study published in the American Journal of Radiology in January 2003 concluded that this technology could help prevent most unnecessary breast biopsies: “Infrared imaging (thermography) offers a safe noninvasive procedure that would be valuable as an adjunct to mammography in determining whether a lesion is benign or malignant.”

Download Interview Transcript

Thermography Can Empower Your to Take Control of Your Health

Since it can give you close to a decade’s worth of “lead time” it can be very empowering tool. Should the image indicate an area of inflammation, you can immediately start applying strategies to reverse such symptoms, and within a couple of months be able to confirm that it’s working by taking another picture. Since it’s as harmless as taking a photograph of yourself, you need not worry about making more frequent follow-ups.

“One of the most exciting and important uses for thermography, I believe, is being able to use it on young women,” Dr. Horner says. “The earlier we can get them, the earlier we can get them involved in their own health…

Mammograms don’t usually work on women 40 and under because their breast tissue is too dense. Plus, the other really scary thing about it is that when our breast tissue is younger, it’s more sensitive to radiation. If you’re getting mammograms when you’re younger, it’s far more damaging. We know that radiation is a contributor to the cause of breast cancer. It’s like why do you do a test that uses something that actually causes that disease? Hello? Early on, it’s worthless.”

Again, the reason why thermography is so effective as a preventive tool is because it can detect the potential for cancer, and can detect already formed cancers at a far earlier stage than a mammogram. Essentially, it detects areas of high inflammation, which can be viewed as a “hot-spot” with cancerous potential.

But it’s important to understand that thermography does not diagnose cancer. Again, higher temperature readings indicate higher levels of inflammation, which can lead to cancer. But if your thermogram shows areas of high inflammation, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. Rather it lets you know you need to address that inflammation to avoid deterioration, and in some cases that the area needs further evaluation.

What Does the Science Say About Unfermented Soy and Breast Cancer?

I’ve typically recommended avoiding unfermented soy due to their being high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. Dr. Horner, however, disagrees with the notion that soy can work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, thereby increasing your risk of mutations and cancerous cells.

After all this research, I am very aware of the plant estrogen controversies,” she says. “These are the following facts that I can tell you. Most of the concern over “plant estrogens” come from one study that isolated and concentrated one chemical from soy, genistein, andgave it to women for one year as a supplement. At the end of the year, the breast cells in these women showed signs of stimulation. This study certainly raises the concern that taking isolated, concentrated genistein supplements does not protect the breast tissue and in fact may increase the risk of cancer.

Therefore, taking this type of supplement is not advisable. But many people leaped to the conclusion that all soy foods or anything with phytoestrogens in it must have the same effects in our bodies and should be avoided. But, thousands of studies show eating foods high in “plant estrogens,” like whole soy foods, lower the risk of breast cancer. Whole soy foods have many different “phytoestrogens” in them as well as hundreds of other constituents and are clearly processed in your body differently from the isolated chemical genistein.”

Flax seeds, for example, also contain phytoestrogens and, according to Dr. Horner, there are hundreds of studies showing that flax not only protects against breast cancer more effectively than any other food we know of, but may also shrink breast tumors. She also cites research by Lilian Thompson at the University of Toronto, who has done many studies on flaxseeds and estrogen-positive tumors. In one of Dr. Thompson’s studies, she found that estrogen-positive breast tumors shrank in every woman given flax seeds for three weeks.

I had personal experience with this,” Dr. Horner says. “My business manager’s mother developed breast cancer. I started her on three tablespoons of flax seed per day, plus a potent herbal antioxidant. Her tumor was 1.5 cm on mammogram. At the time of surgery three weeks later her tumor had shrunk to 0.5 cm.

With all these cancer fighting effects, not surprisingly, research shows that women who have the highest level of lignansin their body have the lowest risk of breast cancer. Flax seeds contain 100 times more lignans than any other known plant source and are one of the most power foods you can eat to lower your risk of breast cancer.

Here’s the key to understanding this controversy: Plant estrogens are not the same as the estrogens your body makes,or synthetic estrogens found in hormone replacement therapy. They are very different. Many actually act more like selective estrogen modulators or SERMS (Tamoxifen is a SERM) and as aromatase inhibitors like Arimidex. These plant chemicals act in so many complex ways that we may never fully understand them all.

Dr. Thompson’s and other research shows that flax lignans fight breast cancer: in a number of ways by:

Lowering your overall production of estrogen Blocking environmental estrogens from attaching to breast tissue
Creating more of a “good” protective type of estrogen Protecting your breast tissue from the damaging effects of environmental toxins
Decreasing three different growth factors associated with the growth of breast cancer Blocking the aromatase enzyme in a way similar to the drug Arimidex
Lengthening your menstrual cycle Blocking the estrogen receptor in a way similar to the drug Tamoxifen


Dr. Horner has a chapter dedicated to the latest research on soy in her book, which will give you far more details on this complex topic. But according to Dr. Horner, the bottom line is that:

  1. You should avoid taking a genistein supplement
  2. Plant estrogens, although referred to as estrogens, actually are very different from estrogen
  3. Thousands of studies show eating foods high in “plant estrogens” has a significant protective effect against many diseases including breast cancer
  4. Effectively protecting yourself from breast cancer or improving your chances of successfully fighting it does not come from “one” thing — it comes from the sum total of all of your diet and lifestyle choices.

Are You Ready to Switch to a Health-Based Paradigm?

It’s unfortunate that today’s “health care” system is so financially wrapped up in maintaining the illusion that there’s not much you can do about your health. Diseases are seen as something that sooner or later will “happen” to you, and when you become ill, the remedy is usually a toxic pill or invasive and costly procedure. It doesn’t have to be this way. As Dr. Horner says:

“My message to women, particularly when we talk about breast cancer, is that you have an extraordinary power in lowering your risk of this disease, which is all too prevalent in our culture, and that there are so many simple things that you can do. So you do one thing – again, one thing – and you can cut your risk in half. If you do more than one thing, those things will multiply up together. It becomes incredibly simple to dramatically lower your risk. The side benefit is that you feel better and better and better. It’s simple. It’s not complex.”

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up Dr. Horner’s book, Waking the Warrior Goddesswinner of the Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) “Best book of 2006 for health / nutrition / medicine.” You can also find more information on her website, Last but not least, below you’ll find 10 of my own strategies that I believe will go a long way toward warding off breast cancer.

10 Simple Lifestyle Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Radically reduce your intake of sugar/fructose and processed foods. Normalizing your insulin and leptin levels by avoiding sugar and fructose is one of the most powerful physical actions you can take to lower your risk of cancer. Unfortunately, very few oncologists appreciate or apply this knowledge today. Refined f ructose is especially dangerous, as research shows it actually speeds up cancer growth.
  • Optimize your vitamin D level. Ideally it should be over 50 ng/ml, but levels from 70-100 ng/ml will radically reduce your cancer risk. Safe sun exposure is the most effective way to increase your vitamin D levels, followed by using a tanning bed that has an electronic ballast instead of a magnetic one. Either of these methods are far better than taking a high-dose supplement, which would necessitate increasing your intake of vitamin K2 as well, either from food or a supplement.
  • Make intermittent fasting part of your lifestyle. Intermittent fasting will help your body shift to burning fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. There are only two types of fuel; your body can burn carbs/sugar or fat. Nearly everyone who has cancer is burning carbs as their primary fuel. Since cancer cells thrive on sugar this is something you want to avoid.

Intermittent fasting involves timing your meals to allow for regular periods of fasting. To be effective, the length of your fast must be at least 16 hours. This means eating only between the hours of 11am until 7pm, as an example. Essentially, this equates to simply skipping breakfast, and making lunch your first meal of the day instead.

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. It’s important to lose excess weight because estrogen is produced in fat tissue. Fortunately, this will come naturally when you begin eating right and exercising. Intermittent fasting is also extremely effective for weight loss and weight management. As for exercise, I strongly recommend incorporating high-intensity burst-type activities, which are part of my Peak Fitness program.
  • Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as those from krill oil. Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer.
  • Drink a pint to a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily. Please review my juicing instructions for more detailed information.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, or limit your drinks to one a day for women.
  • Watch out for excessive iron levels. This is actually very common once women stop menstruating. The extra iron actually works as a powerful oxidant, increasing free radicals and raising your risk of cancer. So if you are a post-menopausal woman or have breast cancer you will certainly want to have your Ferritin level drawn. Ferritin is the iron transport protein and should not be above 80. If it is elevated you can simply donate your blood to reduce it.
  • Get proper sleep, both in terms of enough sleep, and sleeping between certain hours. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the ideal hours for sleep are between 10 pm and 6 am. Modern research has confirmed the value of this recommendation as certain hormonal fluctuations occur throughout the day and night, and if you engage in the appropriate activities during those times, you’re ‘riding the wave’ so to speak, and are able to get the optimal levels. Working against your biology by staying awake when you should ideally be sleeping or vice versa, interferes with these hormonal fluctuations. If you have children breastfeed exclusively for up to six months. Research shows this will reduce your breast cancer risk.

Leukaemia Higher Near Nuclear Plants

Child leukaemia doubles near French nuclear plants-study

Wed, Jan 11 2012

By Muriel Boselli

PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The incidence of leukaemia is twice as high in children living close to French nuclear power plants as in those living elsewhere in the country, a study by French health and nuclear safety experts has found.

But the study, to be published soon in the International Journal of Cancer, fell short of establishing a causal link between the higher incidence of leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, and living near nuclear power plants.

France has used nuclear power for three decades and is the most nuclear-reliant country in the world, with 75 percent of its electricity produced by 58 reactors.

The study, conducted by the French health research body INSERM, found that between 2002 and 2007, 14 children under the age of 15 living in a 5-kilometre radius of France’s 19 nuclear power plants had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

This is double the rate of the rest of the country, where a total of 2,753 cases were diagnosed in the same period.

“This is a result which has been checked thoroughly and which is statistically significant,” said Dominique Laurier, head of the epidemiology research laboratory at France’s nuclear safety research body (IRSN).

INSERM has carried out similar research with the IRSN since 1990, but has never before found a higher incidence of leukaemia in children living near nuclear power plants.

“But we are working on numbers which are very small and results have to be analysed with a lot of care,” said Laurier, one of the authors of the study.

Laurier said the findings indicated no difference in risk between sites located by the sea or by rivers, nor according to the power capacity of the plant.

The IRSN said it recommended a more thorough study of the causes of the leukaemia cases found near nuclear power stations and hoped to set up international research collaboration.

“It’s a rare disease and working on a bigger scale would allow more stable results,” said Laurier.

A 35-year British study published last year found no evidence that young children living near nuclear power plants had an increased risk of developing leukaemia.

The research, conducted by scientists on the Committee of the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), found only 20 cases of childhood leukaemia within 5 km (3.1 miles) of nuclear power stations between 1969 and 2004.

The scientists said the rate was virtually the same as in areas where there were no nuclear plants.

Studies have been conducted around the world into possible links between the risk of childhood blood cancers and living near nuclear plants.

A study on Germany, published in 2007, did find a significantly increased risk, but the COMARE team said these findings were probably influenced by an unexplained leukaemia cluster near a nuclear plant in Krummel, north Germany, that lasted from 1990 to 2005.

Excluding Krummel, evidence for an increased leukaemia risk among young children living close to German nuclear power plants was “extremely weak”, it said.

(Reporting By Muriel Boselli, Editing by Alexandria Sage and Tim Pearce)

Thanks to Reuters.

Cancer Institute skewered

(NaturalNews) A new book by leading cancer expert, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, skewers the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society and blames the organizations for America losing the war against cancer.

In the book, “National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society: Criminal Indifference to Cancer Prevention and Conflicts of Interest,” Epstein argues that the NCI and ACS have spent tens of billions of taxpayer and charity dollars focusing on treatment to the exclusion of prevention, which has allowed cancer rates to skyrocket, with the disease now affecting nearly one in two men and more than one in three women. Furthermore, the author claims that not only do numerous conflicts of interest exist within the NCI and ACS, but the NCI and ACS are also withholding a mass of information on avoidable causes of cancer.

Epstein, who has served as a consultant for the U.S. Senate Committee on Public Works, is an internationally recognized authority on avoidable causes of cancer, particularly carcinogen exposure through conduits such as food, air, water, household products, cosmetics, prescription drugs or industrial carcinogens in the workplace.

Epstein is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. He has published more than 270-peer reviewed articles and 20 books, including the prize-winning 1978 The Politics of Cancer, and has appeared on national media, including NPR, 60 Minutes, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, The McNeil/Lehrer News Hour, Good Morning America and The Today Show. He was a key expert in the banning of hazardous products including DDT, chlordane and aldrin. In his new book, he is now the leading critic of the cancer establishment for its indifference to prevention of the disease, which, for the ACS, he claims, borders on hostility.

Cancer funding skyrockets along with cancer rates, followed by exaggerated claims of progress

The cancer industry has made a series of misleading claims about the advances in the war against cancer over the past three decades, wrote Epstein.

Some of the false claims, according to Epstein, include the industry’s 1984 announcement by the NCI that cancer mortality would be halved by 2000, the 1998 NCI and ACS Report Card announcement of a reversal in the almost twenty-year trend of increasing cancer incidence and death, and the 2003 pledge by NCI Director and former ACS president-elect Andrew von Eschenbach to “eliminate suffering and death from cancer by 2015.”

The NCI, ACS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also claimed that “considerable progress has been made in reducing the [number of people with cancer] in the U.S. population” in its 2003 “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2000.”

The claim, however, is not consistent with NCI’s own data, Epstein said, which shows the overall number of people with cancer and incidence rates actually increased by 18 percent. The data also shows a dramatic increase in nonsmoking-related cancers, according to Epstein, including a 104 percent increase in liver cancer, an 88 percent increase in prostate cancer, a 54 percent increase in thyroid and testicular cancer, a 29 percent increase in breast cancer and a 14 percent increase in brain cancer. Epstein also notes the overall cancer mortality rates have remained unchanged and have increase by 6 percent for blacks.

It seems that the more we spend on cancer, the more cancer we get, Epstein said, because while the number of people with cancer goes up, so does the NCI budget paid for by tax payers and charity. The NCI budget has increased 25-fold, from $220 million to $4.6 billion, between 1971 and 2000.

Prevention is the key

The fixation on “damage control” instead of prevention is the root cause of the booming cancer rates in the face of billions of dollars aimed at elimination of the disease, according to Epstein.

He claims the NCI priorities are all wrong. The opening statement of the NCI’s 2001 Cancer Facts report says that “cancer prevention is a major component and current priority — to reduce suffering and death from cancer.” Meanwhile the report claimed that only 12 percent of the NCI’s then $3.75 billion budget was allocated to prevention.

Epstein shows that the actual attention to prevention is probably even less, by citing an analysis of a 1992 NCI budget showing that less than 2.5 percent of its then $2 billion budget was spent on prevention.

Epstein further crucifies NCI stating that prevention tactics defined by NCI only covered the value of avoiding smoking and a bad diet, while wholly ignoring the myriad of environmental and occupational carcinogens.

NCI & ACS withholding a mass of cancer prevention information

The NCI has failed to inform the public of published scientific information on a wide range of avoidable causes of multiple cancers, Epstein said.

According to Epstein, there are three major categories of avoidable causes including:

1. Environmental contaminants in air, water, soil, the workplace, and food;

2. Carcinogenic ingredients in consumer products, particularly pesticides;

3. Carcinogenic prescription drugs and high-dose diagnostic radiation, particularly pediatric CAT scans.

Epstein wrote, “NCI’s silence on cancer prevention is in flagrant violation of the 1971 National Cancer Act’s specific charge to disseminate cancer information to the public. This silence is in further violation of the 1988 Amendments to the National Cancer Program, which called for an expanded and intensified research program for the prevention of cancer caused by occupational or environmental exposure to carcinogens.”

Epstein blamed this NCI failure to inform Congress and regulatory agencies of avoidable carcinogens for encouraging petrochemical and other industries to continue manufacturing products containing carcinogens and encouraging corporate polluters to continue polluting.

NCI’s aversion to publicizing avoidable carcinogens has even gone as far as suppression and denial, Epstein said, quoting the following examples:

“In 1983, the Department of Health and Human Services directed NCI to investigate the risks of thyroid cancer from I-131 radioactive fallout following atom bomb tests in Nevada in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

“NCI released its report in 1997, based on data which had been available for over fourteen years, predicting up to 210,000 thyroid cancers from radioactive fallout. These cancers, whose incidence has almost doubled since 1973, could have been readily prevented had the NCI warned the public in time and advised them to take thyroid medication.”

“At a September 1999 hearing by the Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Affairs, former Senator John Glenn (D-OH) charged that the NCI investigation was plagued by lack of public participation and openness. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) charged that NCI’s conduct was a travesty.”

[Just] as serious is NCI’s frank suppression of information. At a 1996 San Francisco Town Hall Meeting on breast cancer, chaired by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former NCI director Richard Klausner insisted that “low level diagnostic radiation does not demonstrate an increased risk.” However, this was contrary to long-term studies on patients with spinal curvature (scoliosis), which showed that such radiation was responsible for 70% excess breast cancer mortality.

ACS has just as abysmal a track record on prevention as NCI, according to Epstein, and it has been and remains the target of periodic attacks by leading scientists and public interest groups.

One attack in a 1994 press release by the Center for Science in the Public Interest stated, “A group of 24 scientists charged that the ACS was doing little to protect the public from cancer-causing chemicals in the environment and workplace. The scientists urged ACS to revamp its policies and to emphasize prevention in its lobbying and educational campaigns.”

The scientists criticized ACS for requiring human evidence of carcinogenic effects before implementing regulation, saying that they had an unrealistically high action threshold. The scientists included: Harvard University Nobel Laureates Matthew Meselson and George Wald; former Occupational Safety and Health Director Eula Bingham; and past president of the Public Health Association, Anthony Robbins.

One major instance of ACS ignoring the science, according to Epstein, was in 1993 when they came out in support of the pesticide industry just before the airing of the PBS Frontline special, “In Our Children’s Food.” ACS released a memorandum in which it trivialized pesticides as a cause of childhood cancers, and reassured the public that pesticide residues were safe, even for infants.

Possibly most shocking is the failure of the NCI and ACS to inform the public of the increasing incidence of childhood cancers, which has escalated to alarming rates, according to Epstein. The Cancer Prevention Coalition’s 2003 report said that childhood cancers have increased by 32 percent between 1975 and 2000 and that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in children, second only to accidents.

Even more shocking, the NCI claims that “the causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown.” This is diametrically opposed to substantial scientific evidence, according to Epstein, which shows that children are exposed to numerous avoidable carcinogens, including everything from X-rays, prescription drugs, pesticides and contaminants in beauty products to petrochemical and industrial pollutants, radioactive pollutants in the air and drinking water, and pollutants from hazardous waste sites.

In 2000, the industry publication Cancer Letter had a commentary on ACS’ behind-the-scenes creation of a legislative committee to gain major control of national cancer policy, according to Epstein. In the commentary, former executive president of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists Dr. John Durant shared his assessment of ACS behavior.

“It has always seemed to me that was an issue of control by the ACS over the cancer agenda,” Durant said. “They are protecting their own fundraising capacity [from competition by survivor groups.]”

Conflicts of Interest

But emphasis on treatment looks likely to remain if, as Epstein shows, the ACS and NCI are in bed with those who profit from a treatment focus.

Approximately half of the members of the ACS board are doctors and scientists with close ties to the NCI, Epstein said. Many of the board members and their colleagues obtain funding from both the ACS and NCI, he said. Frank conflicts of interest are evident in many ACS priorities, according to Epstein, including the two major examples of mammography and cancer drugs.

“The ACS has close connections to the mammography industry,” Epstein writes. “Five radiologists have served as ACS presidents, and in its every move, the ACS reflects the interests of the major manufacturers of mammogram machines and films … In fact, if every woman followed the ACS and NCI mammography guidelines, the annual revenue to health care facilities would be a staggering $5 billion.

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. A leading Massachusetts newspaper 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 responded …. “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.”

“The ACS exposes premenopausal women to radiation hazards from mammography with little or no evidence of benefits,” Epstein said. “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.”

The cancer drug industry is even more lucrative than mammography with annual sales over $12 billion. The intimate association between ACS and the pharmaceutical industry is illustrated, Epstein said, by the unbridled aggression which ACS directs at its critics.

“ACS maintains a Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management, which periodically reviews unorthodox or alternative therapies,” Epstein wrote. “This committee is comprised of volunteer health care professionals, carefully selected proponents of orthodox, expensive, and usually toxic drugs patented by major pharmaceutical companies, and opponents of alternative or unproven therapies that are generally cheap, and minimally toxic.”

Periodically, the committee updates its statements on unproven methods, which are then widely disseminated to clinicians, cheerleader science writers, and the public. Once a clinician or oncologist becomes associated with unproven methods, he or she is blackmailed by the cancer establishment. Funding for the accused quack becomes inaccessible, followed by systematic harassment.

“The highly biased ACS witch-hunts against alternative practitioners are in striking contrast to its extravagant and uncritical endorsement of conventional toxic chemotherapy. This despite the absence of any objective evidence of improved survival rates or reduced mortality following chemotherapy for all but some relatively rare cancers.”

The cancer industry’s favor of pharmaceutical products is evidenced, Epstein said, “by the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved approximately 40 patented drugs for cancer treatment, while it has yet to approve a single nonpatented alternative drug.”

According to Epstein, “Dr. Samuel Broder, NCI director from 1989 to 1995, frankly admitted, in a 1998 Washington Post interview, that ‘the NCI has become what amounts to a government pharmaceutical company.’ Taxpayers have funded R & D and expensive clinical trials for over two-thirds of cancer drugs on the market. These drugs are given, with exclusive rights, to the industry, which sells them at inflated prices.”

Epstein calls for change

NCI reform is two decades overdue, Epstein wrote, based in part on “The Stop Cancer Before it Starts Campaign: How to win the Losing War against Cancer,” which is a 2003 report sponsored by eight leading cancer prevention experts and endorsed by over one hundred activists and citizen groups.

Numerous NCI reforms were proposed in 1992 at a Cancer Prevention Coalition press conference, a group of 68 leading cancer prevention and public health experts, past directors of federal agencies, and citizen activists across the nation. But prophetically, the press release concluded, “There is no likelihood that such reforms will be implemented without legislative action.”

And the ACS has done no better, according to Epstein.

“The verdict is unassailable,” Epstein said. “The ACS bears a major decades-long responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer. Reforming the ACS is, in principle, relatively easy and directly achievable. Boycott the ACS. Instead, give your charitable contributions to public interest and environmental groups involved in cancer prevention. Such a boycott is well overdue and will send the only message this charity can no longer ignore.”

FDA admits arsenic fed to chickens

FDA admits supermarket chickens test positive for arsenic

by Tom Laskawy

8 Jun 2011 5:08 PM

Chicken breasts. Why is Big Ag playing chicken with our health?Back in March, Tom Philpott wrote about the “insane” practice of feeding factory-farmed chickens arsenic:

The idea is that it makes them grow faster — fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming — and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis.The industry emphasizes that the arsenic is applied in organic form, which isn’t immediately toxic. “Organic” in the chemistry sense, that is, not the agricultural sense — i.e., molecules containing carbon atoms as well as arsenic. Trouble is, arsenic shifts from organic to inorganic rather easily. Indeed, “arsenic in poultry manure is rapidly converted into an inorganic form that is highly water soluble and capable of moving into surface and ground water,” write Keeve E. Nachman and Robert S. Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Inorganic arsenic is the highly poisonous stuff — see the absurd and wonderful Cary Grant classic Arsenic and Old Lace, or the EPA’s less whimsical take here and here [PDF]. The fact that the organic arsenic added to feed turns inorganic when it makes its way into manure is chilling, given the mountains of concentrated waste generated by factory poultry farms.

One way farmers add arsenic to chicken feed is through drugs such as Pfizer’s Roxarsone. And the industry has (as with most of its worst practices) strenuously defended the use of such additives. While the USDA has by and large ignored the risks (mostly in the form of an unwillingness to look for arsenic in chicken), finally — astonishingly — the FDA has acted.

According to the Associated Press, the FDA has confirmed that chickens given the drug (frequently those destined for the low-cost supermarket shelf) do indeed test positive for inorganic arsenic — just as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found [PDF] back in 2006. Despite this earlier evidence, the industry had continued to steadfastly maintain that the arsenic could not and did not make it into the meat.

As part of its announcement, the FDA said the arsenic levels are low and represent no meaningful risk to those eating Roxarsone-treated chicken — a point predictably emphasized by the National Chicken Council.

Tellingly, Pfizer announced that it would withdraw Roxarsone from the market starting next month. The FDA didn’t order Pfizer to withdraw the drug — the company did so voluntarily.

Of course, this does not solve the problem of arsenic in chicken. As Michael Hansen of Consumers Union observed in a press release, “There are several other arsenic-containing drugs for animals that are on the market, and those should also be withdrawn or banned, as they have been in the European Union.”

As Food & Water Watch reported in March, “between 2000 and 2008, the USDA tested only 1 out of every 12 million domestically produced chickens.” So it’s not as if the government is tracking this problem in any systematic way.

It boggles my mind that the industry is so willing to risk consumer panic over this issue and wait for the media or government officials to force its hand. Instead of making smart business decisions and ending dangerous practices that might give consumers cause to avoid their product, they instead try to hold back the tide. One drug gets withdrawn while others remain. The FDA tests 100 chickens (as they did in this latest test), while millions are produced and sold every year.

It’s no wonder that the so-called “ag-gag” bills remain popular among industrial farmers and their political lackeys. They can’t seem to let go of consumer ignorance as a key business strategy. With arsenic in chicken, the FDA, the USDA, and the chicken industry seem to care far more about the perception of having acted rather than the reality of ensuring all chicken sold in the U.S. is free from this toxic substance.

Tom covers food and agricultural policy for Grist. Follow him on Twitter.

© 1999-2011 Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved.