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From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
November 2004

Environmental Issues
by Rose Marie Williams, MA
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Breast Cancer and Xenoestrogens
Breast cancer advocates are tired of hearing the same old risk factors repeated every October. Many advocates are pushing to rename October, "Breast Cancer Industry Awareness Month," because the industries that control all the information about breast cancer risk factors, and manufacture drugs used to treat breast cancer, also produce pesticides which are increasingly suspected of contributing to the rise of breast cancer. For example, the Zeneca Corporation, formerly a subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries of Great Britain, makes tamoxifen (Nolvadex), the controversial yet most widely prescribed breast cancer drug in the world. Less known is the fact that Zeneca also manufactures the pesticide, acetochlor (a carcinogenic herbicide), and along with other organochlorine pesticides is increasingly implicated as a causal factor in the rising incidence of breast cancer. Four years ago annual sales for tamoxifen reached 500 million dollars. Sales for acetochlor brought in another 300 million dollars.1

The Zeneca Corporation was praised in a March 8, 1996, article in
The New York Times because their stock "was soaring" after they merged with Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, two of Switzerland's big drug makers. Zeneca has also been buying up cancer clinics around the country. Cancer prevention certainly would not be in the best interests of their stockholders.1

"Breast Cancer Awareness Month" was the brainchild of the Zeneca Corporation, which pays for and controls all the radio and TV spots, all the pamphlets, and all the information related to October as "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," with no mention of environmental risk factors, toxic pesticides, or chemical pollutants. Women are urged to get a yearly mammogram touting early detection as their best protection. There is no mention that all the mammography equipment is made by the General Electric Corporation, which is heavily invested in the nuclear industry. There is no mention that repeated mammograms might actually damage DNA in breast tissue, and increase a women's risk of developing breast cancer at a later time in her life.2

Mammograms for women between the ages of 40 and 49 with no symptoms may increase deaths from breast cancer within ten years after the first screening, as reported in the October 2003 Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).3 However, baseline mammograms are still being promoted for younger women. New findings indicate that mammogram screening for women over age 50 does not result in lower breast cancer deaths. Danish scientists, Ole Olson and Peter Gotzsche looked at all the published studies of screening mammography and found the studies which reported the highest benefit to women, were the most flawed in their methods, whereas studies like the large Canadian study that reported no benefits from mammography were the most reliable. They did find the use of screening mammography led to more aggressive treatment (30% more mastectomies and lumpectomies). "The additional surgeries did NOT translate into more lives saved."4

Insurance companies willingly pay for yearly mammograms but balk at paying for less risky thermograms, which use heat sensitive technology to detect a troubling situation years before a tumor is large enough to show up in a mammogram.

Women with a family member who had breast cancer, or who themselves have had breast cancer, are considered to be of high risk and are therefore urged more strongly to get yearly mammograms. I vividly recall attending a conference on breast cancer at which a soft spoken young woman addressed this problem by asking how ethical was it to urge women of high risk to purposefully expose themselves to radiation of the breast, when radiation exposure is the only proven cause of breast cancer. A good point, indeed. A wiser approach would be to help these women, and all women, learn about environmental risk factors and provide them with information on ways to reduce or eliminate many unnecessary toxic exposures. Promoting alternative diagnostic tools to mammography would also be of great benefit.

The controlled media information that accompanies "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" carefully avoids mentioning pesticides and other chemical toxins as risk factors for breast cancer. The time has come for women to ask the hard question. Is "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" really about protecting women's health, or is it more about protecting corporate wealth? There is very little profit in disease prevention and breast cancer has become big business.

Every year the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, supported by the petro-chemical-pharma-medical complex drag out the same old risk factors for breast cancer—age, family history, personal history, early menarche/late menopause, late pregnancy/no pregnancy. (These risk factors are discussed in more detail in "Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Look at the Environment,"
TLDP #195, Oct 1999, and can be read on the Google web site by clicking on "Rose Marie Williams.") The connection to estrogen is emphasized as though women's bodies were intentionally designed to sabotage themselves. Breast cancer advocates are tired of this myopic explanation, and are looking at the big picture of how environmental exposures may be interfering with estrogen production and function, and are finding many plausible explanations.

Natural Estrogens and Xenoestrogens
Xeno from the Greek means foreign. We are learning that many petroleum-based environmental chemicals behave as estrogen mimics—upsetting the body's natural balance of hormones, thereby causing a huge variety of subtle and not so subtle problems. One of the liver's many important jobs is to maintain proper hormone balance by breaking down natural estrogen and other steroid hormones to facilitate their excretion. Impaired liver function could result in abnormally high levels of estrogen. Excess estrogen is considered a risk factor for breast and prostate cancers as well as other cancers of the reproductive system. Synthetic chemicals interfere with normal liver function, thereby disrupting the body's healthy balance of hormones.5

Women are told their body's own estrogen may be a risk factor for breast cancer when the underlying cause may actually be the xenoestrogens from synthetic pesticides and other petrochemicals, including pharmaceutical estrogens in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Hormone replacement therapy has been pushed on women as a solution to problems associated with menopause. HRT has been advertised to help women look and feel younger. HRT was promoted for maintaining healthy heart function and sharper brain activity. It was praised as an antidote to osteoporosis. In other words, just about any age-related syndrome could be improved by using HRT. Finally, the truth emerged. The Women's Health Initiative (WHI), an on-going study of 11,000 women over seven years of taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was halted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2004, when the agency found an increase in risk for heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer.6 One must ask why pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market dangerous drugs with impunity, and derive enormous profits while harming vast numbers of innocent consumers. Perhaps the answer is in the question.

Estrogen tells cells to replicate, make more cells. This leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation known as cancer. Estrogen is one of many hormones produced by the female body. Males produce estrogen too, but in lesser amounts. The right balance of hormones is critically important to carry out the many functions required of a healthy body. Cancer of the breast is the most common cancer among women and has been rising steadily since the advent of the widespread use of synthetic chemicals. It is theorized that hormonally active synthetic chemicals are responsible for the rise in breast cancer incidence and deaths among older women by increasing their overall estrogen exposure. The chemicals may harm directly by acting as estrogen mimics, or indirectly by interfering with the body's ability to produce and metabolize estrogen. It is further theorized that prenatal exposure to estrogens may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer in adult life by sensitizing her to estrogen exposure.5

The chemical industry insists there is no proof that chemicals cause breast cancer, but are reluctant to initiate the in-depth research that might show unequivocal harm. Current tests required by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only look at one chemical at a time even though commonly used products are made up of more than one chemical ingredient. Hormone disrupting chemicals can act together creating a much more serious effect, even in very small doses, as has been demonstrated with breast cells in culture. Estrogen sensitive breast cells individually exposed to small amounts of 10 different estrogenic chemicals found no significant cell growth. When the identical quantities of the same chemicals were given together, the cells showed pronounced proliferation.5

In the past 60 years more than 70,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced to the industrialized nations. Many of the petroleum-based organochlorine chemicals have estrogen mimicking qualities. Some scientists claim we are swimming in a sea of estrogens. Most of the 70,000 chemicals have never been tested for long-range health effects, and the ones that have been tested use a very poor testing paradigm. The EPA only requires chemical manufacturers to test one chemical at a time. Consumer products are composed of more than one chemical, which may have a synergistic effect increasing the potency or toxicity of the product. The chemical industry is reluctant to admit that the synergistic effect of chemicals could pose a health risk, but readily add certain chemicals to formulations to specifically increase potency, or extend toxicity of products for longer periods of time.7,8

The question of breast cancer risk and deodorant chemicals is getting another look. Oncology expert and lead researcher, Phillipa Darbre, at the University of Reading in Edinburgh, has revisited the issue of what risks might be associated with deodorants. The study found paraben chemicals in samples of breast cancer tumors. Parabens are synthetic chemical preservatives used in more than 13,000 cosmetic and personal care products. Though small (the study included only 20 tumors) it was determined that the chemicals are easily absorbed through the skin. These estrogen-mimicking chemicals persist and accumulate in breast tissue in their original form without being degraded.9,10

Parabens now join the list of environmental estrogenic chemicals found to accumulate in human breast tissue, which already includes polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), just to mention a few. The question of synergy comes into focus again, and what effects the interaction of all these environmental pollutants may pose as additional risk factors for breast cancer. Dr. Darbre had tried for years to get funding for a study on parabens and breast cancer. Needless to say, she was unable to secure funding through the usual means. Not willing to give up, she convinced a small number of colleagues and friends to finance the study, which explains why it was not a larger study.10

While not a definitive study, it is reasonable to believe that these chemicals do not belong in the human body. The San Francisco based Breast Cancer Action group and other grassroots coalitions advise women to avoid personal care products that contain parabens and phthalates, and to recommend consumers urge cosmetic companies to remove these chemicals from their products. To learn more about this issue, and how to take action while finding safer products, visit Breast cancer advocates are raising questions about the ethics of cosmetic companies eager to advertise their company's support for "finding the cure," while profiting from the sale of cosmetic products that include chemicals with estrogenic qualities that may actually increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.9

Every customer is important to a company. If a company gets several phone calls, emails, or letters from consumers, they will pay attention. The consumer votes with their dollar and should never underestimate this power. Most companies can be reached via their web site if they don't have an 800-phone number.

An August 2003 study in the journal of Nature Medicine reported that small doses of the heavy metal cadmium could mimic the female hormone estrogen, suggesting it may be a risk factor for breast cancer. Given how different cadmium is from estrogen compounds, the researchers were quite surprised at "cadmium's ability to functionally mimic estrogen," claiming, "its effect on cell growth is quite remarkable." Relatively low doses of cadmium were found to affect mammary glands and sexual development of animals. Cadmium is commonly found in pigments, alloys, and batteries.

Cadmium has been implicated as a risk factor for prostate cancer as well, particularly among battery workers and others frequently exposed to the toxic heavy metal.11

It is an air pollutant produced by burning fossil fuels. It is in foods, especially shellfish, liver, and kidney. Smokers encounter two to four micrograms of cadmium in each pack of cigarettes.12

Men Get Breast Cancer Too
The vast majority of breast cancer information is aimed at women, but in real life, men get breast cancer too. Though small, only one case in a hundred diagnosed breast cancers will be a male, the numbers have jumped by 25% in 25 years. Because men do not expect to get breast cancer, they easily ignore some of the telltale signs, and don't seek treatment until the cancer has advanced to later stages.

Not a great deal of research exists on male breast cancer but some information indicates they share similar risk factors as women. For example, men of Jewish or African-American heritage, or who have a family history that includes genetic mutations associated with breast cancer.13

The environmental connection may still explain some of these shared risk factors. On Long Island, a high percentage of breast cancer is in Jewish neighborhoods, where a higher socio-economic base allows for professional landscaping using a great deal of pesticides, and scheduled indoor pest maintenance using more toxic chemicals. Higher income individuals often spend weekends at the golf course, where more pesticides are used. Breast cancer is not as common among Jewish women living a few miles away in New York City where there are no lawns. As for Afro-Americans, their situation often reflects the opposite end of the economic spectrum. They often reside in neighborhoods earmarked for dirty polluting industries that contaminate their air and water with a mixture of toxic chemicals.

Scientists believe other common factors may be excess body weight and chemicals in the environment—both of which raise estrogen levels. Sharon Giordano, researcher at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, predicts 1600 new cases of breast cancer in males will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.14

Detoxify for Health
Dr. Sherry Rogers, renowned expert on environmental illness, editor of Total Wellness, and author of numerous health books, recommends several ways to rid our bodies of accumulated toxic chemicals. Her book, Detoxify or Die, explains clearly how modern life is fraught with toxic exposures, how chemicals accumulate in our bodies until our immune systems become so overburdened they fail to protect us and we develop disease. Dr. Rogers suggests a variety of supplements and emphasizes the benefits of the far-infrared sauna to assist the immune system with eliminating health-compromising toxins.14

The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy, written by Ninah Sylver, PhD, and reviewed in the Aug/Sept 2004 issue of the TLDP, is another excellent book that deals with the benefits of far-infrared saunas for the purposes of detoxifying. The book is very readable for consumers with enough technical information to satisfy professionals.15

Janette D. Sherman, MD, author of
Chemical Exposure and Disease, and Life's Delicate Balance—Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer suggests that women with breast cancer have a lipid tissue biopsy performed to learn what toxic chemicals reside in their bodies. Dr. Sherman recommends ACCU-CHEM Lab in Richardson, TX (1–800–747–2878). This is particularly revealing to do before and after a detox protocol. Men with prostate cancer, or any cancer patient may want to know what chemicals are in their bodies.1

1. Williams, R., "Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Look at the Environment," TLfDP, #195,0ct. 1999.
2. Gofman, J., MD, PhD,
Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause of This Disease, CNR Bks., PO Box 421993, SF, CA 04142, 1996.
3. Wolfe, S., MD, "Breast Cancer: New Information About Screening Mammography and Genetics,"
Health Letter, Public Citizen Health Research Group, (, Wash., DC, Vol. 20, No. 1, Jan 2004.
4. Spanier, B., "Do Annual Mammograms Save Lives?"
Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer ( 518–435–1055), Vol. 6, No. 3, Summer 2004.
5. Colborn, T, et al,
Our Stolen Future, Dutton Bks. (Penguin Grp.), NY 1996.
6. Culbert, M., ScD, "HRT: 25 years of harm to menopausal women?" International Council for Health Freedom, (, 858–581–6640), La Jolla, CA, Fall 2004.
7. Williams, R., "What is Meant by Inert Ingredients?"
TLDP, #251, June 2004.
8. Williams, R., "More on Inerts,"
TLDP, #252, July 2004.
9. Klien, K., "What about deodorant and breast cancer?"
Breast Cancer Action Newsletter (877–2STOP-BC), S.F., CA, #81, May/June 2004.
10. Arditti., R., "Cosmetics, Parabens, and Breast Cancer,"
Women's Community Cancer Project (617–354–9888), Cambridge, MA, Summer 2004.
11. Williams, R., "Environmental Clues to Prostate Cancer,"
TLDP, #196, Nov 1999.
12. "Battery ingredients linked to cancer,"
Breast Cancer News (, July 28, 2003.
13. Chiffriller, M., "Silence Can Be Deadly—Men and Breast Cancer," Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund ( appears to be out of date as of July 2005.)
14. "Study Shows Breast Cancer on Rise in Men,"
Celebrate Life, Newsletter of the Oncology Support Program at Benedictine Hospital (845–338–2500), NY, July/Aug 2004.
15. Rogers, S., MD,
Detoxify or Die, Sand Key Co., Inc., FL (1–800–846–6687), 2002.
16. Sylver, N., PhD,
The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy, The Center for Frequency, PO Box 952, Stone Ridge, NY 12484–0952, 2004.

Health Risks and the Environment
by Rose Marie Williams, MA
President of the Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
PO Box 533, New Paltz, NY 12561
Cost $20 (free postage within US)
Specify VIDEO or DVD (60 min.)
Check or money order payable to Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.

How environmental risk factors affect health more than inherited genes is discussed in this candid talk by health advocate, Rose Marie Williams, with suggestions about reducing toxic exposure in and around the home. Included are contact numbers for inexpensive water testing, pesticide information, and useful books and pamphlets.

The Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc. is a 501©(3) grassroots health and environmental organization dedicated to raising public awareness about pesticides and other pollutants and encouraging use of safer products. Video sale proceeds help support these goals.


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