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Busted: Breast Cancer, Money, and the Media - How Breast Cancer Statistics Are Being Manipulated

At the edge of the Pacific, women believe they’re part of an unexplained breast cancer cluster. It’s a fear created by media hype and medical researchers who should know better. Since the '90s, the San Francisco Chronicle has published a steady stream of articles claiming the affluent, mostly white women of Marin have the highest rate of breast cancer in the country, as much as 35 percent higher than the national average. A new documentary plans to dispel the myths.

Year after year, breast cancer researchers spend millions of dollars studying why women in the wealthiest communities are targeted by the dread disease. This research agenda is dominated by businesses with skin in the cancer game, including AstraZeneca, Avon, Chevron, Baker Hughes. Meanwhile, women suffer from needless anxiety, terrified that cancer is stalking them.

What if women in Marin are in fact much less likely to get or die of breast cancer than are women in less affluent communities? What if tens of millions of health dollars are being wasted chasing after statistical flukes? Medical experts without corporate ties say there is not a breast cancer epidemic in Marin. Listen to Patricia T. Kelly, Ph.D., the author of “Assess Your True Risk Of Breast Cancer”:

The short story is that affluent women get more mammograms than women with less access to health care. The excessive use of mammography increases the number of small cancers detected. But it also increases the number of false positives, and results in the treating of non-cancerous tissue. Simply put: overdiagnosis leads to overtreatment--subjecting women to surgery, radiation, and chemical toxins that cause painful side effects and cost lots of money.

Yes, some lives are saved by early detection, but the widely believed statistic that "one out of eight women will get breast cancer" is a misnomer. More accurately, nine out of 1,000 American women over the age of 60 die from breast cancer each decade. And black women have by far the highest mortality rates.

The Solution

Supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light is following the money. "Busted" explains how breast cancer statistics are manipulated by governmental and non-profit organizations that can benefit by marketing fear instead of solutions.

Investigative journalist Peter Byrne has interviewed dozens of experts and examined hundreds of medical studies and public records. The documented results of this investigation call on America to reform the science of breast cancer research. Scientists can focus on prevention by modeling risks for individuals and populations realistically.

Unfortunately, our cancer databases are so riddled with errors that breast cancer incidence studies are unreliable. A major study of the California Cancer Registry warned that, "Reporting the quality of care derived from [cancer registry] data with such validity problems could anger providers and seriously undermine public confidence in this process."

Please support this important initiative that is sure to Make a difference to women everywhere--no matter where you live!


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