NOW Unites with Breast Cancer Groups for Research on Causes and Prevention

by Nicole Hill, Communications Intern

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addressed the need for candidates and voters to make funding for research on breast cancer a priority issue for the 2000 elections.  Photo by Sevaun Palvetzian.

Breast cancer is an indiscriminate killer. All women are at risk. A National Cancer Institute (NCI) study found that the number of women who will develop breast cancer has increased dramatically, from 1 in 50 in 1950 to 1 in 8 today. NOW is working in coalition with members of Congress and over 70 organizations to increase funding for research not only on detection and cure, but also on causes and prevention of breast cancer and to further explore the role of environmental risk factors.

The Breast Cancer Fund held a news conference on Oct. 27, 1999, which included NOW President Patricia Ireland and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.  Feminist leaders encouraged candidates and voters to make women's health and prevention of breast cancer priority issues for the 2000 elections.

"Prevention is our best protection," Ireland explained.  "We need to demand the resources necessary to make breast cancer prevention a reality."

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer claimed the lives of over 40,000 U.S. women in 1999. The World Health Organization predicts that more than 500,000 women worldwide will die from this disease in 2000. Breast cancer has reached epidemic proportions, and yet its causes are still largely unknown. NCI reports that more than half of all cases cannot be attributed to known risk factors such as heredity or prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy. As a result, NOW and others are encouraging researchers to turn their attention toward environmental links and related studies.

A large body of scientific research has correlated cancer development with exposure to toxic chemicals. According to The Breast Cancer Fund, studies have identified over 200 synthetic chemicals in human breast milk. This is a concern that impacts both women and children, and the public should demand that these chemicals, their toxicity, and any ensuing health effects be identified.

Conclusive Research on Breast Implants Needed

Hundreds of women across the country are also working on health issues concerning breast implants. The effect of implants is highly debated, and there is little consensus as to their safety. Several key studies, including one conducted by the Mayo Clinic, indicate that implants are highly dangerous, linking them to problems that include decomposing breast tissue, chronic pain and resulting physical deformities. Conflicting research—most of which has been financed by implant manufacturer Dow Corning—maintains that the products are safe. NOW recently called upon Congress to finance independent research that will resolve questions about the relationship between breast implants and women's health.

NOW and other members of the breast cancer coalition are working to ensure that women's health issues are given the attention they deserve in 2000 and beyond.

"All of the conflicting evidence surrounding the issues of breast cancer and breast implants indicate that we simply don't know enough about them, and women are dying because of it," stated Ireland. "Political action is the greatest tribute we can pay to the women who have battled breast cancer and who have gotten terribly sick after getting implants. We must not ask only for what we are told we can get, but for what women really need for our health."

For more information on breast cancer, connect to and or call the Breast Cancer Fund at 1-800-487-0492.  For more information on breast implants, please call the Command Trust Network at 310-556-1738.

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