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Breast-cancer campaign: 'Too much awareness may not be good for your health,' doctor says

October 19, 2010

October's pink hue is starting to lose its luster among some who think National Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be overdoing it -- not just from a marketing perspective, but from a medical one.

"I'm a physician who has had concerns about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for years. They persist despite my wife's breast cancer diagnosis a decade ago (for the record, she's fine and shares my concerns)." So begins an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth Medical School. Read the full story "The risk of being too aware."

Welch earlier raised concerns about what he calls "overdiagnosis" regarding the use of mammograms in detecting breast cancers that are non-lethal and result in women getting unnecessary treatments in a Los Angeles Times story "The trouble with mammograms." As that piece pointed out: "A routine mammogram can find cancers that would never have become life-threatening, subjecting women to painful and toxic treatments they never actually needed."

Welch isn’t a lone voice. Medical sociologist Gayle Sulik, author of "Pink Ribbon Blues," has recently gained attention for contending that the breast-cancer awareness campaign has indeed been a success story -- just not a health one. But from an attention-getting standpoint, she says, it has worked.

For a snapshot of the recent hoopla, check out the news and resources about breast cancer at HealthKey.com.

--Mary Forgione / For the Los Angeles Times

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