By WILL ZANDERS
BeFitBR guest columnist
Friends, I’ll get straight to the point this month. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all either lost someone close to breast cancer or know of someone who has. Quite frankly, it’s rather disconcerting that the greatest country on earth -- a country which spends more of its GDP (gross domestic product) on health care than any other country -- is not even in the Top 25 healthiest countries, according to Bloomberg’s 2012 World’s Healthiest Countries report. In fact, the U.S. ranked 33rd in the listings.
With the aforementioned facts in mind, it’s time for some tough love. According to the National Cancer Institute, the odds that a woman in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime are one in eight. The truth of the matter is that number is slowly trending upward, despite our spending more money on health care and breast cancer treatments than any other country. The purpose of this article is not to reiterate popular talking points on breast cancer prevention. After all, everyone knows that you should eat right, exercise, avoid smoking etc. The irony is that despite our medical advances and scores of medical texts on the subject, the causes of breast cancer are still rather ambiguous at best. What this article serves to do is challenge popular lines of thought in breast cancer prevention, by identifying what current trends in research posit as a likely cause of one of the most common types of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS.
My research of current trends in cancer diagnosis and treatment are indicating that a critical oversight in breast cancer prevention is leading to the alarmingly high rates of breast cancer seen in American women. The picture the research paints is this: It is common knowledge, daresay common sense that radiation can and does cause cancer in lab rats and in people. Despite the oversimplification, the veracity of this claim should be obvious to readers. After all, who hasn’t worn the protective lead vest at the dentist office while the dental assistant steps behind the wall to take an x-ray of our teeth? The vest protects our vital organs from the radiation absorbed dose (or RAD), and the dental assistant wisely vacates the vicinity until after the radiation is dosed. The safety reasons for the vest and the behavior of the dental assistant should be obvious as well. Along those lines, I present for your careful consideration the following example:
If I had a job that exposed my throat to radiation every year for 10 years, would it surprise anyone if I eventually developed throat cancer? Probably not. Well, it should come as no surprise that the incidences of DCIS breast cancer increased 328 percent since the mammographic imaging radiation (or mammogram) became common in the 1970s, according to the British Medical Journal, The Lancet.
It is well known and uncontroverted within the medical community that radiation causes cancer.
X-rays at the dentist’s office or mammograms at the OB-GYN are all forms of radiation. Radiation can cause cells to mutate, and mutated cells are well known as cancer causing agents. But the link doesn’t stop there. The fact that the mammogram can cause certain types of breast cancer should be starting to dawn on you now. What’s worse is that the treatment for most cancers, even those caused by radiation, is chemotherapy, which is simply a higher dose of radiation. The absurdity of that course of treatment should be obvious. Especially, when breast cancer victims who are fortunate enough to survive chemotherapy or mastectomies are asked to come back every year for -- you guessed it -- more mammograms and more radiation. This begs the question, “Why does breast cancer sometimes, almost inexplicably, come out of remission years after “successful” treatment was completed?”
To answer the question, I submit for your approval the following medical experts on the subject. First, the late Dr. John Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. and professor emeritus of Molecular and Cellular Biology at UC Berkeley. Until his death in 2007, Dr. Gofman was widely held as the authority on the effects of radiation on the human body. Dr. Gofman believed that radiation (specifically mammograms and x-rays) was responsible for 75 percent of all breast cancers. Dr. Gofman was also quoted in a 1994 interview as saying that, “We can now say there cannot be a safe dose of radiation. There is no safe threshold.”
Secondly, I submit to you retired neurosurgeon and author, LSU graduate, Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., who estimated that every annual mammogram increased breast cancer risk by 2 percent in addition to what the breast cancer risk already was. So that after 10 years of annual mammograms, a woman’s risk of actually acquiring the disease has increased by 20 percent due to mammographic radiation alone.
Lastly, I give you Dr. Frank Rauscher (deceased), who was appointed director of the National Cancer Institute by President Nixon and who later became senior vice president for research for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Rauscher’s research indicates that each RAD (or radiation absorbed dose) increased cancer risk by 1 percent. This is especially telling given the fact that mammogram radiation has been decreased from 10 RADs to one RAD in current screening methods. This is further evidence that the dangers of mammogram radiation in causing cancer has been known for quite some time or else the RADs would not have been decreased so drastically when the debate about mammogram safety reached its zenith in the late ’70s and early ’80s. If all was well, there would have been no need for such a decrease in the RADs. But even with the changes, you are still increasing breast cancer risk with every mammogram. Now this is the point where you are wondering whether there are any safe alternatives to mammograms. Well, rest assured. That there are.
The method I primarily recommend to my clients is a sonogram (also known as an ultrasound) every 12 months. The sonogram is the same safe, sonic technology that uses harmless sound waves to take pictures of babies during gestation and is less dangerous, less painful, less expensive and more accurate in detecting breast cancer than mammograms are.
So, the next time your physician mentions mammogram, counter with the sonogram, and don’t take no for an answer. Its radiation free, more affordable, more accurate and best of all it won’t cause the disease it’s trying to prevent.