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Losing the Cancer War

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The American Cancer Society

  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Ties to the radiology industry

Just as interlocking interests with major chemical manufacturers go a long way toward explaining the Society's resistance to prevention initiatives, close connections to the mammography and cancer-drug industry shed light on its treatment recommendations. Five of its past presidents were radiologists. In every move, it reflects the interests of major manufacturers of mammogram machines and film, including Siemens, DuPont, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, and Piker. If every premenopausal woman were to follow its mammography guidelines, the annual revenue to health care facilities would be an additional $2.5 billion.

The mammography industry conducts research for the Society and its grantees, serves on its advisory boards, and donates considerable funds. DuPont, a major manufacturer of mammography equipment (in addition to being a major petrochemical manufacturer), is a primary supporter of the ACS Breast Health Awareness Program. The company sponsors television shows and other media productions touting mammography; produces advertising, promotional, and informational literature for hospitals, clinics, medical organizations, and doctors; produces educational films; and lobbies Congress for legislation promoting access to mammography services. In virtually all important actions, the American Cancer Society (ACS) aligns itself with the mammography industry, failing to pursue viable alternatives to mammography.

The ACS urges premenopausal women to get mammograms even though evidence suggests that premenopausal women are more sensitive to cancer risks from radiation; there is no evidence of benefit or effectiveness for premenopausal women; false negatives—as well as false positives—are common because the dense breast tissue of premenopausal women confounds test results. The NCI no longer endorses premenopausal mammography, nor is it practiced in Canada or Europe or any other country in the world.

Mammography is truly an ACS crusade, and the annual "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month" campaign is at its center. ACS representatives help sponsor promotional events and stress the need for mammography every October with the campaign's centerpiece, National Mammography Day. Absent from the proselytizing is any information on environmental and other avoidable causes of breast cancer. This is no accident. As the multimillion-dollar funder of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca influences every leaflet, poster, and commercial product produced by the campaign. It's no wonder these publications focus almost exclusively on mammography while ignoring carcinogenic industrial chemicals and their relation to breast cancer. When it founded Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985, AstraZeneca (formerly known as Zeneca before it merged with the Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra) was owned by Imperial Chemical Industries, a leading international manufacturer of industrial chemicals and carcinogenic pesticides. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a masterful public relations coup for AstraZeneca, providing the company with valuable, albeit undeserved, goodwill from millions of American women.

Excerpted from “The High Stakes of Cancer Prevention” by Samuel Epstein and Liza Gross, Tikkun Magazine, Nov/Dec 2000

Press Release: Breast Cancer Unawareness Month


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