Monday, October 4, 2010

Do we really need more breast cancer awareness?

The LA Times has a provocative new article out that seems to rail against breast cancer awareness month.

What are the criticisms?
- Since the breast cancer awareness campaign started, age-adjusted rates have remained largely flat.



- Talking about "breast cancer" ignores all of the research done to date that shows there are many different types of breast cancers, with very different etiologies and treatment paths. In particular, screening likely has very different effectiveness for different types of breast cancers.

- Promoting early detction, as the campaign does, leads to unnecessary diagnostic testing and treatment. (it is interesting to note that the major sponsor of breast cancer awareness month is a chemotherapy drug maker)

So is it time for the message to be changed? We addressed this, to some extent, in a previous CNiC post - when we talked about the "campaign" to list your bra color on social networking sites to promote breast cancer awareness.

Instead of focusing on awareness of the second most common cancer among women, why not focus energies to something more specific - like increasing enrollment in research studies and clinical trials, as advocated by Dr. Love, Avon and their Army of Women, which has opportunities for breast cancer survivors, those without cancer but who may have an increased risk, and individuals with no cancer history. OR, by focusing on primary prevention of cancer - not just early detection.

And breast cancer is preventable -- maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular physical activity, and avoiding excess alcohol intake all reduce risk. Research shows that losing weight reduces the risk of overweight and obese women, so it isn't too late to start.

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