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Questions on Anti-Cancer Events

October 15, 2002

I understand the anger and frustration felt by Peggy Orenstein (Commentary, Oct. 9) at the fact that breast cancer continues to kill women (and men), but I disagree with some of the points she makes. The death rate from breast cancer has been decreasing at a rate of 2.2% per year since 1991. As an oncologist who treats breast cancer patients and a longtime volunteer for the American Cancer Society, I am convinced that the decreasing breast cancer death rate is the result of increased breast cancer awareness and increased funding for research. Maybe pink ribbons are important; maybe it makes one more person look up breast health guidelines or gather up pledges for a walk.

I do agree with Orenstein when she says that people raising money for walks and runs to fight breast cancer should ask pointed questions about where the money goes. I've asked those same questions, and that's why this year, once again, I will be taking part in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk (on Oct. 20 at the Rose Bowl). The money raised that day will go toward research, prevention, free patient support services, early detection education programs and advocacy efforts. And I'll be wearing a pink ribbon.

Christy Russell MD

President

California Division

American Cancer Society

Los Angeles

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Kudos to Orenstein for her provocative and enlightening commentary. Everyone needs to be made aware of the deceitful practices she describes, used to solicit funds for the prevention of breast cancer. An example is chemical companies such as AstraZeneca and DuPont that, while they are corporate donors, at the same time manufacture products that are carcinogenic, polluting the environment and posing the risk of breast cancer.

Women also need to know the facts about the efficacy of mammograms and breast self-examination. Both fall short in regard to the detection of breast cancer and survival rates. Along with better diagnostic techniques, Orenstein points to the need for improvement in treatment beyond the standard forms -- namely, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which she labels "slash, burn and poison."

Thanks to Orenstein for her insistence that profits from "awareness" donations be used to ensure better detection and treatment of breast cancer.

Amy Coury

Torrance

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For many, many years I have been saying to people that the deplorable state of our environment could be the cause of millions of people coming down with some kind of cancer. The response, in no uncertain terms, was that I had no medical or scientific expertise and should keep quiet with my opinion.

When my own husband was diagnosed with liver cancer, I took him weekly to the UCLA oncology clinic for chemotherapy. I was aghast to see the number of people being treated there -- tiny children, teenagers, the middle-aged and the elderly. A plague for all ages. And yet all we hear is that research is being done to find a "cure" for cancer. Cancer is big business.

Ruth Prinz

Santa Monica

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