The Obligatory Breast Cancer Post

By Rachel Walden — October 11, 2007

It’s breast cancer awareness month, and by now you’re probably sick of pink product promotions and the small percentage of their proceeds that typically go to breast cancer causes. However, a couple of items on the disease have come out that are worth a read.

Some cases of breast cancer may be linked to DDT exposure
As summarized by ScienceDaily, women exposed to the pesticide DDT may have a higher risk of breast cancer. The chemical was banned from most uses in the United States in 1972, but women exposed as children are now reaching ages at which breast cancer is a concern. This preliminary study may spur additional research in the field of environmental causes of the disease.

Despite “awareness” campaigns, actual knowledge of breast cancer may be low
The National Breast Cancer Coalition released results of a survey of about 1,000 U.S. women on their breast cancer knowledge. While 76 percent of respondents considered themselves knowledgeable, more than half believed that most breast cancers occur in women with a genetic risk or family history of the disease, even though an estimated two thirds of breast cancer patients have no known risk factors.

Alcohol and breast cancer linked?
Among the flood of breast cancer news this month has been coverage of studies on increased risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol consumption. A blogger at The Huffington Post points out how difficult it can be to weigh these risks and make decisions, especially in light of evidence that some alcohol consumption can reduce risks of heart disease, which affects more women than does breast cancer.

Anti-choice sites promote breast cancer and abortion link
A quick poke around anti-choice websites and blogs demonstrates how these folks are using the Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote an agenda, such as this piece insisting that abortion and breast cancer are linked, despite evidence to the contrary.

When reading this type of material, keep in mind that the topic being discussed is generally whether pregnancy/motherhood protects against breast cancer, rather that whether abortion actually causes the disease. A large percentage of women who have abortions in the United States already have children or will go on to have children. You should also be aware that anti-choice sites often spin or misinterpret research in order to continue making largely debunked claims about topics such as breast cancer, birth control, and abortion.


4 responses to “The Obligatory Breast Cancer Post”

  1. I remember the day they were talking about the connection between alcohol and breast cancer and when asked the Doctor said you have to weigh the options. I think he actually included “rather” in there. As if you must choose which you would rather have. I mean he did inform viewers you need to look at family history. The statistics of women who get breast cancer without warning though, makes the whole thing a little scary. I don’t think the decision should be based on a game of “would you rather.”

  2. Thank you for writing about this. The co-option of the breast cancer prevention movement into the breast cancer cure movement sickens me and seeing all the pink in October is a pet peeve of mine. Thank you for bringing some truth and clarity into the discussion.

    For the record, animal and fatty foods contain the highest levels of DDT, particularly fish and dairy.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. FR, you’re right that it’s hard to play “would you rather” with this kind of thing, because nobody would “rather” have either!
    EV, every year when the “West Nile!” panic starts, I hear people insist that we should bring back common use of DDT. In this case, I can say I’d “rather” we didn’t!

  4. That is very interesting about DDT and animal fat. That explains why a vegetarian diet is recommended. I wonder about other types of cancer and DDT.

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