Alternative Cancer Prevention

Alternative approaches to cancer prevention

A new coalition of independent health organizations - including the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, DES Action and the National Women's Health Network - is prescribing a very different approach to cancer prevention and public health policy.

At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), results from studies on new drugs and drug combinations will be touted as breakthroughs in cancer prevention and treatment.

But Prevention First, a new coalition of health organizations that refuse to accept any funding from pharmaceutical companies, is urging the public to be wary of the reports. "Many drugs touted for disease prevention actually cause disease substitution; when a drug that appears to reduce the risk of one health problem increases the risk of another," says Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a member organization of Prevention First. "But drug manufacturers make money from developing and selling these pills and little research is focused on true prevention because there is no way to make a profit from it."

Once new drugs are approved, the coalition points out, companies promote them in multimillion-dollar ad campaigns and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks the resources to adequately monitor both the advertising and the safety of the medications.

"Many people think the FDA reviews all drug ads to make sure they're accurate before they run. But that's not true," says Judy Norsigian, executive director of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century and a member organization of Prevention First. "What's more, five years ago, the FDA didn't have to deal with the volume of drug ads it faces today. It doesn't have the resources to be an effective watchdog."

Together the member organizations of Prevention First have nearly a century of experience working on public health issues. The founding members are the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Breast Cancer Action, the Center for Medical Consumers, DES Action, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, the National Women's Health Network, the Women's Community Cancer Project and the Working Group on Women and Health Protection (Canada), represented by Breast Cancer Action Montreal.

Source: Prevention First Coalition Media Release

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