Why Isn’t More Being Done About the Breast Cancer Epidemic?

I was shocked and saddened to hear that golfer Phil Mickelson is leaving the PGA tour because his wife, Amy, has breast cancer. I will miss Phil. He was fun to watch. But that’s not what hit home most. It’s the prevalence of breast cancer today that leaves me bewildered and worried.

Growing up in Jamaica, I cannot remember hearing of one woman who had breast cancer. I know, there are better screening methods today, so there may have been cases that were not diagnosed. But if someone died of breast cancer, surely the doctor signing the death certificate would have known. Today, living in Florida, I see the scourge of breast cancer everywhere. Recently, it cast its horrible shadow over my family; my nephew’s wife is battling a cancer that started in her breast and spread to other parts of her body.

cancer ribbonIt seems that no one is safe from breast cancer today. When my wife, Sandra, went for a recent follow-up to her regular mammogram, there was a man in the waiting room. What on earth is going on? Is it our diet? Environmental pollution? Stress? Hormone therapy or other medications? No one seems to know.

Looking for answers on the web, I came across an article by Dr. Dixie Mills, which discusses the probable causes of breast cancer.  Here’s an excerpt:

No one knows what causes breast cancer, and no one can clearly say why we are seeing an increase in breast cancer cases. More women develop breast cancer than men — about 100 cases in females for every one in a man. Women’s bodies make more estrogen than men’s. Therefore, the conventional wisdom has been that estrogen causes breast cancer.

Some would label this guilt by association; many direct links are missing. One of the biggest missing links is that women’s estrogen levels actually fall as they age, decreasing dramatically after menopause, but the incidence of breast cancer increases with age. The risk ratio that we all hear about — that one in eight women get breast cancer — is for women over 90 years of age. The rate for women in their 50’s is more like one in 50.

So obviously there is much more than estrogen going on in the development of breast cancer, and it is being over-simplistic to think of estrogen as a bad poison when it comes to breast health. Estrogen is a very beneficial hormone in general — it stimulates tissues to grow when we need it to, and it is also a helpful player in response to stress. Let’s explore what we know about the causes of breast cancer, what we don’t know, and what this may mean for you.

What we don’t know, but researchers are studying, is how estrogen works in the breast tissue. We now realize that estrogen is probably secreted or produced directly from breast tissue — some from the fat of the breast, some from the ducts themselves. How and why this production continues throughout life is unknown. We also now realize that the body has many self-regulating or balancing mechanisms — that one hormone is usually balanced by another.

One thing we do know is that nature did not intend for women to maintain high levels of progesterone after menopause. Artificially doing so may pose additional health risks depending on your health history. Consequently, we don’t recommend using progesterone of any kind for more than 12 months if you’re post-menopausal.

You can read the rest of the article here:

http://www.womentowomen.com/breasthealth/estrogenbreastcancer.aspx

Dr. Mills’ article leaves me with a flurry of questions… Why do world health authorities get so excited about swine flu, which appears to be a passing threat, yet seem to pay so little attention to the persistent menace of breast cancer? Why is the American government so quick to declare an economic emergency and pour trillions of dollars into the financial system, yet so slow to address the breast cancer epidemic? Why does the scourge of breast cancer receive so little media attention? Why is so little progress being made when so many private individuals are donating money and participating in events to raise funds for research? Why do we value youthfulness so much that we are willing to risk our lives to slow our bodies’ natural aging cycle?

Obviously, more – much more – needs to be done to understand and combat the causes of breast cancer. And with governments around the world preoccupied with more high-profile threats – nuclear proliferation, global warming, economic collapse, war, starvation, oppression and neglect – this rapidly spreading plague is being left on the back burner.