Press Release: Dramatic shift from regulation to elimination called for in light of increased occupational breast cancer risk

A dramatic policy switch to eliminate exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) must be the main focus of the EU’s EDC strategy (1) currently being reviewed in order to address the shocking levels of breast cancer caused by work. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention demands a refocus of the EDC strategy in the wake of new research which shows working in certain jobs can elevate women’s breast cancer risk. The international case control study (2),  led by the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group (OEHRG) found that women working for 10 years in jobs classified as highly exposed increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.

Study authors Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith said of the results: “Diverse and concentrated exposures to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals in some workplaces can put workers at an increased risk for developing cancer.”

Risk factors were especially high for those pre-menopausal women working in the automotive plastics and food-canning sectors, with up to five times higher risk than those in the control groups. The study looked at cumulative exposure for women which started before menarche, through first full term pregnancy, onto menopause and post menopause.  The occupational sectors studied were farming, plastics, food canning, metal working and bar/casino/racecourses in southern Ontario, Canada. (5)

Professor Andrew Watterson, head of the OEHRG at Stirling University and co-author of the study said: “Many workers face multiple exposures to chemicals, not only from their employment, but from their everyday environment. Many of the women included in the study were exposed to a virtual ‘toxic soup’ of chemicals. Untangling work and wider factors in the possible causes of breast cancer is an important global issue”.

Likely substances forming the ‘toxic soup’ included: pesticides use in farming and food production; plasticisers, flame retardants, phthalates, BPA, styrene, and vinyl chloride used in the automotive plastics industry; second hand tobacco smoke (pre-smoking ban) and shift working in bars and racecourses; and solvents and PAH’s in metal work industries.

Many of these substances are known or suspected carcinogens, mutagens and endocrine disrupting chemicals. (6) Cumulative exposure to EDCs in particular has been implicated in elevated risk for breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, early puberty, immune system dysfunction, birth defects and neurological effects. EDCs have been shown to act cumulatively, in combination and at extremely low levels.

Helen Lynn, facilitator for the Alliance said: “The situation is no different in Canada than it is in the UK. This is not just an occupational issue, we as consumers are perpetuating the problem. Consigning women to face an increasing breast risk by working in environments where they are exposed daily to a cocktail of carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals to manufacture products for consumption is just not acceptable. Workplace regulations don’t appear to cover for endocrine disruptors. The UK government and cancer establishment is complacent due to its inaction. Ignorance is bliss and efforts to regulate EDCs and mixtures of EDCs are undermined by a focus on regulating risks instead of taking a hazard based approach to these substances, to which there are no safe levels.”

Talking about the research Dr Keith reflected that study could also have wider implications for society as a whole. We may be exposed to many of these same cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting chemicals on a daily basis, albeit likely at much lower levels. The study also points to the need to re-evaluate occupational and environmental exposure standards, keeping in mind that there may be no determinable safe levels to cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention believes a turning point has been reached with this study, and we must heed the warning.  Lifestyle or genetic factors alone cannot be blamed for the increasing rise in breast cancer. Other factors are at play such as occupational and environmental exposures and we need to include these as risk factors when strategising ways to prevent this disease. No women should have to deal with ever present risk of breast cancer because of the work she does.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention demands an urgent refocus of the EDC strategy to eliminate exposure to EDCs. We call on the UK government to support a hazard’s based approach to identification and assessment of EDCs including mixtures of EDCs across all exposures in the workplace and for the public in general.

Ends

 The Alliance for Cancer Prevention is a multi-stakeholder alliance of trade unions, public health advocates, civil society and environmental NGOs in the UK groups campaigning on cancer prevention with the aim of getting recognition for the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer. (9)

www.allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk

Prof: Andrew Watterson: 01786 466283 or 07 563 195 904. a.e.watterson@stir.ac.uk
Helen Lynn 07960 033 687 info@allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk

Notes to Editor:

  1. EU Commission Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors and Draft report on theProtection of Public Health from Endocrine Disruptors.
  2. Study available to download from here: Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case–control study
  3. Notation: Brophy, J., Keith, M., Watterson, A., Park, R., Gilbertson, M., Maticka-Tyndale, E., Beck, M., Abu-Zahra, H., Schneider, K., Reinhartz, A., DeMatteo, R., & Luginaah, I. (2012). “Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: A Canadian case control study.” Environmental Health. http://www.ehjournal.net
  4. The case control study, involving 1006 women with breast cancer and 1146 without the disease, revealed that women who worked for 10 years in jobs classified as highly exposed increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.
  5. The study found several occupational sectors in which there was elevated breast cancer risk details can be found on the Press release from Stirling University
  6. State of the Art Report of Endocrine Disruptors by Kortenkamp et al. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/endocrine/documents/4_SOTA%20EDC%20Final%20Report%20V3%206%20Feb%2012.pd
  7. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are substances that alter one or more functions of the endocrine system (the bodies messenger system) and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations. (WHO definition).
  8. A summary of the research findings by the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health.
  9. Environmental and occupational risk factors are exposures (either occupational or environmental) through air, soil, or water or direct contact with chemicals or substances which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenicity, mutagenicity or endocrine disrupting abilities and properties.

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Ribbons, Inc film showing

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and ‘pink’ is all around. But not everyone is caught up in ‘pink’. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention in conjunction with Tipping Point Film Fund will host a screening of Pink Ribbons Inc – first screened in the UK at Human Rights Watch Film Festival earlier this year – and which delves into the depoliticisation of the breast cancer epidemic and asks serious questions about prevention.

While Pink Ribbons, Inc. doesn’t seek to undermine those who gain hope, strength and a sense of community from pink ribbon fundraising, Lea Pool does ask critical questions about the industry and the pink ribbon brand. She interviews Samantha King, author of the book Pink Ribbons, Inc.

“It wasn’t until Reagan came to power that we saw explicit policies designed to shift responsibility for health and welfare from the government towards private entities, philanthropic organizations, along with the encouragement specifically for corporations to participate in that.” She suggests that the big players in the cancer establishment also have boards of directors with representatives from the pharmaceutical, chemical and energy industries. It is thus almost impossible to separate the people who might be responsible for the perpetuation of this disease from those who are responsible for trying to find a way to cure or, even better, to prevent it.

There is a really pertinent section of the film which highlights the work of our colleagues Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith in Canada on occupational exposure to carcinogens and EDCs implicated in breast cancer causation. So the film is of interest to Trade Union members in terms of occupational exposures and those who want to campaign for an equal emphasis on prevention as well as treatment and care for those living with breast cancer.

Film Trailer Here:

Pink Ribbons Inc. Directed by Lea Pool, for National Film Board of Canada (97 mins)

Post-Film Discussion

There has been a longstanding effort on the part of campaigners, activists, trade unionists, and researchers alike to draw attention to the much marginalised concerns about the lack of funding for and attention to environmental and occupational links to breast cancer. We are delighted to invite and have some of the most experienced and committed individuals in this area join us for the post film discussion which will explore both the issues raised in the film and with specific reference to the UK landscape. TPFF’s Deborah Burton will chair , who, prior to her work with TPFF, spent many years campaigning on environmental links to breast cancer.

Helen Lynn

Helen Lynn has campaigned on cancer prevention since 1995, initially at the Women’s Environmental Network with Putting Breast Cancer on the Map and the No More Breast Cancer campaign. She is currently a freelance campaigner/researcher at Wildcard Research and facilitates the Alliance for Cancer Prevention in the UK. Helen also reviewed the film here.

Margo Marrone

Margo Marrone, is a pharmacist and homeopath who first became aware of chemical overload on the human body during the 1990’s. She opened her first Organic Pharmacy store in London in 2002, to address this ever growing concern about chemicals in cosmetics and built the business on the principles of honesty, integrity, purity, quality and green environmental thinking. Ten years on it is still a family run business and one that has supported campaigns addressing environmental links to breast cancer.

VENUE & BOOKING
We are screening the film on board the Tamesis Boat – a converted 1930s Dutch Barge.

Tuesday 13th November 6.30 for 7pm Tamesis Dock, Albert Embankment, London.

(between Vauxhall and Lambeth Bridge (nearest) –Fire Station and Park Plaza Hotel on opposite side of the road)

Start: 6.30 for 7pm. Food (snacks and meals) and drinks available – more info here http://www.tdock.co.uk/

Film poster Poster for Pink Ribbons Inc showing

Booking

£4 on the Door

PLEASE EMAIL <info@allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk> to let us know you are coming as we need to know numbers.

Joint NGO letter to Commissioners on EDCs

2nd October 2012

Dear Commissioner Dalli,

Dear Commissioner Potočnik,

We, the undersigned environment, occupation/workers, and health organisations are writing to you today as we would like to request clarification on yesterday’s news that EFSA has been asked by the European Commission to prepare a scientific opinion on the human health and environmental risks of endocrine disruptors.

For at least one year, there has been an ongoing process under the auspices of DG Environment, , on the science and policy issues relating to the Community Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors and the requirements of the Pesticides and Biocides legislation to establish the criteria for the identification and assessment of Endocrine Disruptors. The process includes DG Health and Consumers (Sanco), DG Employment, Joint Research Centre, European Chemicals Agency, Member States, industry and public interest stakeholders, and involves the Ad Hoc meetings and the ED Expert Advisory Sub Group meetings.

In particular, the Expert Advisor Sub Group meeting has been providing advice to and is developing a report for the Commission and for the Member States Ad hoc Group on scientific aspects related to identification of endocrine disruptors. In these groups, discussions include the work of the OECD, the 2012 report on the “State of the Art Assessment of Endocrine Disruptors”, and other relevant scientific materials. These meetings have taken up considerable resources and time from all participants. Although the news article on the EFSA website and mandate text indicate it derives from the ‘European Commission’, we find it hard to believe that the Commission as a whole would initiate an entirely new process, which will lead to significant duplication and overlap with the existing process already underway under the auspices of DG Environment. Moreover, the letter makes clear that the mandate comes specifically from DG Sanco.

We would like to receive clarification as to how this new scientific opinion will fit into the existing process; and in particular, how it will be compatible with the DG Environment lead in the Commission services on producing criteria for Endocrine Disruptors. The Biocides law is the legislation requiring the earliest adoption of delegated acts specifying criteria for the determination of endocrine disrupting properties and for Biocides, DG Environment leads the process. Under the Experts Sub Group mentioned above, DG Environment has already set up a group with expertise on EDCs, comprised of representatives of Member States and stakeholders in order provide expert advice on the criteria. It now seems counter-productive to involve additional groups of scientific experts, particularly as not all have the requisite expertise in the issue of endocrine disruption.

We would also like to receive clarification on how this new scientific opinion will be compatible with the need for horizontal criteria that crosses all relevant legislation including that of for food & feed, industrial chemicals, cosmetics, water, and other areas. This need has been clearly expressed in the 4th report on the implementation of the Community Strategy on Endocrine Disruptors (August 2011), particularly given the special nature of endocrine disrupting chemicals having additive effects.

Controversies have already been provoked by previous EFSA work on Endocrine Disruptors, and their omission of new scientific insights on endocrine disruption. There are ongoing disputes about the validity of EFSA opinions (see Vandenberg et al, Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2010 and other publications), as well as ongoing disagreement views between EFSA and different Member States, for example see the French ANSES on Bisphenol A in food containers “Effets sanitaires du bisphénol A” September 2011). In addition there is significant public concern about the reliability and impartiality of its work on EDCs (as evinced by the recent decision of MEPs to withhold EFSA’s budget).

We would like explanations on how the Commission intends to proceed further with these now overlapping processes, and how Member State and other stakeholder expertise will be involved in the future. Given that the European Parliament is in the midst of its Report on Endocrine Disruptors, it would also be useful to understand how the Commission sees the Parliament’s report in relation to this EFSA undertaking. The credibility and motivation of the Commission Services that initiated this mandate, if not the Commission as a whole, let alone that of EFSA itself, is brought into question by what appears to be a significant duplication and overlap of resources and separate processes. In these times of austerity budgets and EU financial crises, European citizens expect the European Commission to ensure the most efficient and effective use of its resources, as well as those of its participating Member State representatives and experts. Looking at the mandate, we are not sure that this new process serves these ends, and think that this new development merits the fullest explanation.

Finally, we would like to point out that we think it is of the utmost importance that the process on the EDCs Strategy and the EDCs Criteria continues to be transparent and involves all stakeholders. The definition of and criteria for EDCs will mean that some substances will become recognized as EDCs and therefore possibly subject to controls, and others not. Therefore we believe public scrutiny is necessary with respect to the scientific formulations of criteria and definitions, and the scientific opinions, definitions and criteria are part of a wider process which require ongoing democratic participation and decision-making, and embody the precautionary principle.

In view of the public interest in this matter, we intend to make the contents of this letter more widely available. We are requesting a meeting with you about this as a matter of urgency.

Bearing in mind the importance of the issue, we look forward to a swift response.

 

Yours sincerely,

Lisette van Vliet,

Senior Policy Advisor, Chemicals and Chronic Disease Prevention

Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL)

28 Boulevard Charlemagne

B-1000 Brussels, BELGIUM

Tel:             +32 2 234 3645       (direct)

 

on behalf of

  • Alliance for Cancer Prevention
  • Breast Cancer UK
  • BUND /Friends of the Earth Germany
  • Cancer Prevention and Education Society
  • Center for International Environmental Law
  • CHEM Trust
  • Client Earth
  • Danish Ecological Council
  • European Environment Bureau
  • Health Care Without Harm Europe
  • International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec)
  • Intituto Sindical de Trabajo, Ambiente y Salud (ISTAS)
  • Générations Futures
  • Greenpeace
  • Organización para la Defensa de la Salud (Health Defense Organisation), Vivo Sano Foundation
  • Pesticide Action Network Europe
  • Réseau Environnement Santé
  • Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
  • Women in Europe for a Common Future

joint_ngo_letter_to_commissioners_on_efsa_edc_mandate

Denmark prohibits endocrine disruptors

In 2009 the Danish Consumer Council (DCC) started a campaign to ban endocrine disrupting chemicals in consumer products. So far Denmark has banned Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and food packaging material  for children, 2 parabens (Butyl and Propyl) from cosmetic products for children under 3, and now, four phthalates in consumer products.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals/oestrogen mimics/xenoestrogens can be found in a wide rang of consumer products and can interfere/disrupt or prevent any aspect of our hormones action.  And as such have no place in consumer products, in our workplaces or our environment.

The Danish Government , urged by their consumer council, is taking prevention and precautionary action to ban phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals from consumer products  “The DCC has for a long time called for the use of the precautionary principle – the benefit of the doubt should protect the consumers and their health, not the chemical industry. Research on EDCs from the Danish Centre on Endocrine Disrupters clearly shows the need for caution“. Claus Jørgensen, Senior Policy Advisor at the Danish Consumer Council.

The ban covers “the import and sale of products for indoor use which contain one or more of the four phthalates and products which contain these substances in parts of the products which may come into contact with skin or mucous membranes” and does not not include phthalates found in medical devices, toys, cosmetics, and food packaging.

Does this mean that industry will have to manufacture specific products for sale in Denmark, or can we save them the trouble and push for a ban on all EDC’s in consumer products across the EU?

Newsletter from the Danish Consumer Council

 

 

 

 

 

HSE’s dithering, denial and delay on workplace cancer is deadly!

 Press Release for immediate use 21st August 2012 

HSE’s dithering, denial and delay on workplace cancer is deadly!

Workers enquiry needed to identify and eliminate all exposures to carcinogens.

The Hazards Campaign says the HSE intervention paper on occupational cancer to be presented to the HSE Board meeting on 22nd August in Bootle, while more detailed than the original rejected paper, “fails to acknowledge the actual scale of cancer caused by work(1). The paper is based on a fairy tale unrealistic view of the world of work today, ignores many known carcinogens, shows little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimates the numbers of workers exposed and shows no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic. Because of the lack of action now, more people will develop occupational cancers and die from them in the future. 

Hazards Spokesperson says:

“Rushton estimates that work cancer kills 8,000 (5% of all cancers) or at least seven times as many workers as are killed by work injuries every year, and affects a further 14,000.  Hazards estimates, based on work by international cancer specialists, place the toil even higher at 12% of all cancers.  That is 18,000 deaths and over 30,000 cases of cancers related to work each year in GB (2).

Occupational cancer researcher Simon Pickvance warns: “The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems amongst large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces such as mines, mills and manufacturing. This is totally unsuitable for today’s, smaller and fast evolving workplaces with more complex, and diverse exposures.  It is incapable of picking up high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.  We welcome HSE’s response to the detection of hazardous exposure to azo dyes in the engineering industry by members of Hazards Campaign, but this is just one of many such high risk groups that can be identified using mass participatory methods of relating workers’ exposures to case reports.  A fully participatory approach towards identifying exposure scenarios and methods for toxic use reduction must be the way forward. The Rushton estimates for the HSE continue to under count the number of workers exposed. On  diesel fumes exposure alone, it is simply incomprehensible that the well over a million workers who have a raised risk of a cancer because they work in diesel-exposed jobs become ‘over 10,000’ in HSE’s estimation – and a million is just a fraction of the total diesel-exposed workforce”.

Simon goes on to explain: “The HSE’s target organ approach is also very damaging as most carcinogens have a very broad spectrum but epidemiology is not clever enough to see it.  Real life workers’ bodies do not play by epidemiologists rules so that even quite large increases in common cancers are entirely and irretrievably invisible to traditional epidemiological number-crunching (3)  

The Hazards Campaign joins occupational cancer campaigners in demanding a workers inquiry to identify all workplace exposure to carcinogens and urgent action to enforce their elimination;  a spokesperson said: “We need proactive enforcement of existing legislation (4), and in the absence of reliable figures on numbers of people exposed (the underestimation of diesel-exposed workers is only the latest in a series of HSE blunders in calculating exposed populations) the over-dependence on the Rushton burden calculation (how much cancer is work-related ?),in setting priorities for action must stop.
Helen Lynn spokesperson for the Alliance for Cancer Prevention said: “The HSE approach to occupational cancer ensures thousands more people will develop the disease through exposures at work. Delaying action on better shift work patterns is just condemning more women to greater risk of breast cancer while there is action that could be taken immediately. Although the word ‘action’ is mention exclusively by the HSE in relation to naturally occurring carcinogens such as radon, there is no action on promoting substitution to known or suspected carcinogens when there are safer alternatives available as applies to the chemicals used in dry cleaning. The HSE scope for carcinogens should be widened to include all carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals and substances (CMR’s), and encompass those not only addressed in REACH but also listed on the SIN list” (5)

Campaigners argue that the response outlined in the HSE paper is based on a combination of dithering, denial, and delay. Their ‘wait and see’ approach and leaving the job up to other agencies, while they continue to do a little bit more of what is currently ineffective, is completely inadequate to the task of preventing work related cancers.

Simon Pickvance concludes:  “We are sick to death of being treated as second class workers in Europe, who can wait for preventative action till research is carried out, for example on shiftwork, when other member states have adopted a precautionary, pro active approach.  It is not more science that is required before more humane shift patterns can be introduced. HSE’s intervention strategy is based on ignorance, denial and a false view of work today, and its response to the biggest workplace killer is utterly pathetic. It is hard to see what will be achieved by more of the same without the active involvement of workers themselves in finding out where the main problems lie. What is needed is a picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today via a Trade Union backed workers inquiry (6) to identify all workplace cancer exposures. Plus a massive preventive proactive enforcement of elimination, and an abandonment of the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting exposure limit for carcinogens in EU, as there are no safe levels of exposure to carcinogens”

For more information:

Graphic: http://www.hazards.org/images/h117cover1200px.jpg

Simon Pickvance Tel: 0114 268 4197

Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign  Tel: 0161 636 7557

Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention: Tel: 0207 274 2577, mobile 07960033687

Note for editors:

1. HSE supplementary paper on occupation cancer: Occupational cancer, priorities for future intervention – supplementary paper’  The initial paper was rejected by the HSE board in May 2012.

2. Hazards Magazine cancer pages: see Burying the evidence

3. This Man Knows all about Cancer:

Details Simon Pickvance’s criticisms of the HSE strategy on work-related cancer.   His criticism of the HSE supplementary paper include:
Silica Dust – No evidence for the HSE technical innovations on control.
Welding and Painting – no active involvement of workers in finding where the main problems lie.
Shift work – no action on safer working patterns only a call for yet more research.
Dry cleaning – no interventions on safer substitutes, only low cost ‘awareness raising initiatives’.
Epidemiology – focus from HSE is on widespread, long established problems while ignoring high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.
Lack of participatory approach to risk detection – HSE fails to engage workers in identifying risk in their work places.
Lack of Toxic Use reduction methods – HSE ignores reducing exposure to existing and known carcinogens and setting targets for elimination.

4.COSHH- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.

5. Alliance for Cancer Prevention 

6. Workers Inquiry : The inquiry should be trade union backed, and involve workers in mounting an all-out search for carcinogens at work.  It must identify high risk groups within occupations/workplaces; and look at case studies, industrial hygiene and toxicological studies.  What is needed is a true picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today, not something based on an out of date, fairytale world of work.

Is The HSE Keeping Women In The Dark On Shift Work Breast Cancer Link?

Working night shifts more than twice a week is associated with a 40% increased risk of breast cancer, found a long term study published online on 28 May in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Yet the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the cancer establishment leave women in the dark by taking a “wait and see approach” to this occupational risk factor for breast cancer.

The Danish research found that working less than three night shifts a week doesn’t affect your breast cancer risk, but that frequent night shifts for several years may disrupt biological rhythms and normal sleep patterns, and curb production of the cancer protecting hormone melatonin. Shift work also increases your rate of developing type two diabetes and obesity.

In a recent article in Hazards magazine, Simon Pickvance, a researcher based at Sheffield University and founder member of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, voiced concern about why the HSE presumes to know better than the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention wants to see action to reduce these cases of occupational breast cancer and calls on the HSE to follow the example set by the Danish Government who offered compensation for those already working up to four nights over several years.

UNISON safety reps should demand effective risk assessments on shift patterns and ensure the least unhealthy patterns are adopted. Workers need information about the risk from shift work so they can make an informed choice about what they can do to lessen the risk.

Women worried about the risk from shift work for breast cancer should contact UNISON for advice.

For further information regarding shift work see UNISON’s negotiating on shift work bargaining support guide for workplaces representatives.

Cancer charity’s screening myth unveiled

Once again mammography screening is put under the spot light, this time it’s the US charity Susan G Komen overstating the benefits of mammography and ignoring the harm it causes. Authors of a BMJ Observations paper state:

“If there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down. There is no way to disentangle lead time and overdiagnosis biased from screening survival data.”

Professors Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwarz point out that the ‘lead time’ * and overdiagnosis means there is ‘no correlation between changes in survival and what really matters, changes in how many people die’.

The authors calculate the actual benefit from mammography is a reduction of only 0.07% percentage points for a woman in her 50’s dying from breast cancer over a 10 year period.

Overdiagnosis in the US means that for means that for every woman who’s life is ‘saved’ by mammography, around 2 to 10 women are over diagnosed. The risk from overdiagnoses (those women diagnosed that would never have developed symptoms or died from breast cancer) is women  receive invasive, potentially harmful and unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

The situation is similar here in the UK with regard to mammography been sold as to help reduce mortality.

“Early detection makes treatment more likely to be effective and helps to reduce mortality. By bringing forward detection and diagnosis, screening helps us find those cancers that might otherwise not be caught until later in life .”

The NHS screening program boasts a 45% rise in the number of women attending screening.

The figures from the UK cancer establishment state that that one life will be saved for every 2,000 women screened for 10 years. About 7 breast cancers are found for every 1,000 women screened as part of the UK breast screening programme.

What the BMJ paper does not go into is that mammography is radiation, a carcinogen even at low levels. Surely it’s about time we have safer and truly accurate detection methods for breast cancer and abolish the myth that screening saves lives and focus instead on primary prevention? When will we stop using carcinogens to detect cancer?

The BMJ Press Release can be found here

Link to pay per view paper

* The lead time in relation to breast cancer is compared to watching a train approach with binoculars, it doesn’t speed up the arrival, it just means you can see (diagnose) the train when its much further away

 

Breast cancer risk + women wor…

Breast cancer risk + women working in auto plastics parts industry @CdnWomensHealth research #JimBrophy #MargaretKeith http://t.co/SFz4RdDJ