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Purveyors of panic.

The risk of acquiring breast cancer has been grossly exaggerated by professionals and cancer organizations who should know better.

The American Cancer Society announced in January 1991 that women's odds of getting breast cancer and increased to 1 in 9. When called to account by various critics, the organization's spokespeople admitted that the figure was not exactly true but was used for a good purpose, to prod women into getting examinations and a regular mammogram.

Many cancer specialists are alarmed. They say such scary predictions are repeated by information outlets (television, newspapers, radio) and become widely misunderstood by some family doctors.

The consequences create panic among women and their families. Many begin taking harmful drugs needlessly or rush into elective surgical procedures that include removal of otherwise healthy breasts.

Tamoxifen, a powerful and possibly dangerous anti-cancer drug, is being recommended and prescribed for women who show no signs of breast cancer. The rationale: the drug will most likely prevent the disease. Enthusiastic physicians also tout tamoxifen as an ideal defense against osteoporosis, a disorder that involves shrinking of the bone structure. (Remember, tamoxifen is supposed to work against cancer because it reduces the production of estrogen. Any contradiction? Isn't osteoporosis the consequence of diminished estrogen production?)

Women are terrified. They are constantly worried about the "time bomb" that many in the medical profession say is in their bodies.

Doctors, unfortunately, are not in a position to evaluate what their colleagues are repeating from hearsay. How many know that the American Cancer Society was not correct when they predicted that 1 in 9 will get breast cancer? How many know that a more accurate figure could be 1 in 500 (Professor John A. Paulos, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa.)?

Advertisements continue to be published and sponsored by various hospitals and cancer organizations that portray nine women and pose the question; which of these nine women (your friends) will come down with cancer of the breast? "It can only be assumed that in their enthusiasm to help women, they create an epidemic of fear," commented Dr. I. Craig Henderson, Chief of Clinical Oncology, University of California at San Francisco.
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Title Annotation:risk of acquiring breast cancer exaggerated
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1992
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