By 2005, breast cancer will become the No. 1 killer in the United States. To combat this disease, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca founded and continues to sponsor National Breast Cancer Awareness month every October. As the manufacturer of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, AstraZeneca is at the forefront of treatment.
Meanwhile, treatment is coming more often for many women. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will get breast cancer, and the rates continue to climb. The American Cancer Society also states that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are genetic, so what causes the other 90 to 95 percent?
No one seems interested in that question. Perhaps one reason is that many cancer studies are funded by big drug companies who have a vested interest in providing a cure, but not necessarily in divining the cause. The venerated American Cancer Society itself is agnostic on the matter, but they're hardly impartial; a murderers' row of Big Pharma execs has chaired its board since its inception. Accordingly, the American Cancer Society focuses on prevention and treatment, but
not on the environmental factors that may cause breast cancer.
Numerous studies, however, have posited a link between certain pesticides and breast cancer, specifically organochlorines like acetochlor. Until a few years ago, when the company's entire
agrochemical division was sold off, acetochlor was manufactured by ... AstraZeneca.
You read that correctly. The same company that makes the No. 1 breast cancer drug also manufactured chemicals known to cause breast cancer. It's a nice, neat little circle of death - and a highly profitable one, too.
In the world of Big Pharma, it's not uncommon that a company produces both harmful chemicals as well as medicine; such incestuous conflicts of interest are the norm because of the tremendous profits to be made and because of the generous donations the pharmaceutical industry makes to both political parties. In addition, these companies employ armies of PR flacks and junk-science doctors who spend millions of dollars trying to convince the public that - ironically enough - the
studies linking pesticides to cancer are junk science. One such example is the seemingly credible Web site junkscience.com, run by Steven J. Milloy, a columnist for Fox News and a fellow at the Cato Institute. The Cato Institute, a Washington D.C.-area "think tank," was founded by the oil, chemical, tobacco and agribusiness industries to fund scholars who would produce the kind of "scientific" reports that those industries need to back up their indefensible practices.
This is an instance, however, where common sense can prevail. On one side of the issue is a group of concerned doctors saying that pesticides and chemicals in our food are harmful; on the other hand is the chemical industry. Ask yourself: "Which one is trying to sell me something?"
Women deserve better than lip service about "awareness." We need to confront the cancer industry about its duplicity and reclaim our authority over companies that take advantage of the sick and vulnerable.
Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.
© 2004 Northern Star. All Rights Reserved. http://www.star.niu.edu/articles/?id=868