Friday, November 28, 2008

The Golden Calf

Pink Ribbon Month

October was breast cancer awareness month and all over Australia and the world, groups formed to raise money for the cause. From retail therapy groups who were sponsored simply to shop, to the group in Oklahoma that decorated bras and hung them in an art gallery; women seemed desperate to fund a cure.

Again, the world focused on finding a cure rather than focusing on a major cause of the disease and again, well-documented research - which, if heeded, could save lives - was swept under the carpet.

The Pill

In July 2005 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer defined the Pill (the world's most popular oral contraceptive) as a Class 1 carcinogenic, placing it in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. This should have been enough for feminists to decry the Pill, but apparently sexual freedom is more important than women’s very lives and Pill use has continued unabated.

In October 2006, a study by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research found that the golden calf of contraceptive technology, the Pill, is associated with an increased risk in the development of breast cancer later in life. In fact, the study showed that there was a whopping 44% risk increase in women who used the Pill prior to their first pregnancy.(1)

These findings were not well-publicised. This is partly because the Pill is a lucrative business and partly because denunciation of the Pill would seem to be a defeat for women. For nearly 50 years, the Pill has been seen as a feminist triumph in a patriarchal society – an emancipation linked with a break from traditional gender roles. But the emancipation is an unsteady one when women’s lives are endangered by the very object which claims to make them free.

Pharmaceutical companies are raking in billions of dollars annually selling a Pill that literally improves a woman's risk of developing breast cancer and groups are out there walking 20 kilometres on a windy Saturday to try and raise money to find the cure. How many more women need die from Pill-related breast cancer before we tell the pharmaceutical companies to break open their coffers and fund a cure?

First step to culling the breast cancer rate: quit the Pill.

(1) Kahlenborn C, Modugno F, Potter D, Severs W., Oral Contraceptive Use as a Risk Factor for Premenopausal Breast Cancer: A Meta-analysis, Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2006;81(10):1290-1302

© Eva Whiteley 2008

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