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Women, Obesity and Breast Cancer. New Study Shows Links But Is That The Real Story?

A new study is out today in the American Cancer Society's journal Cancer that shows an association between obesity and greater likelihood of women having recuring breast cancer and causing death.

Dr. Joseph Sparano, lead researcher, shared with Reuters/NBC News the following:

"Obesity seemed to carry a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence and death - even in women who were healthy at the time that they were diagnosed, and despite the fact that they received the best available chemotherapy and hormone therapy," he said.

This study should be truly concerning for African American women because we have seen a general increase in our nation of obesity rates and the fact that when African American women do develop breast cancer it is usually the more aggressive form.  But this concern is only a small part of the real story.

The main focus by the mainstream media on this new study is of course the obvious, obesity.  They are pushing the simple story line that if you are obese or over weight, a disease such as breast cancer can be hard to beat.  But that is more than likely the truth for other illnesses such as Heart Disease.  What is missing in the discussion so far though is the connection between our food, consumer products and environment with health issues such as obesity and breast cancer.

Obesity has become a hot topic in America and for most people it is the belief that those that are obese choose to be obese.  Most recently we have watched a somewhat ignorant part of this blame it on lifestyle choices  message unfold as it relates to African American women and their hair.  We have seen attempts by Bronner Brothers and the Surgeon General to highlight (what we believe is a dangerous new stereotype) that African American women simply do not exercise because they spend so much money and time on their hair.  This ongoing story line turns a disease like obesity into a “choice” and removes any blame from those who make food and consumer products that actually are a large part of the reason for increase in obesity rates.

The story around obesity is one that is becoming eerily similar to the public health discussion that took place in America a few decades ago relating to tobacco.  When the first attempts were being made to raise awareness of the serious health risks associated with the use of tobacco, many individuals and corporations did their best to suppress medical information that demonstrated the true health risk.  It took decades of public health campaigns, legislative battles and legal action to finally bring out to the public the truth about smoking.

Fast forward to today and we see that those who would be linked to obesity are taking a similar position to the campaign used by big tobacco, but with one very big difference.  Instead of simply trying to block and suppress information, individuals and corporations are using the additional public relations strategy that makes obesity a disease of personal choice.  If you are obese it is because you allowed yourself to become obese.  It can’t be that the food you eat or the chemicals in the cosmetics that you use are the reason.  No it must be that you are lazy or that you spend too much money on your hair to exercise and stay in good health.

There have been far too many studies in the past few years linking chemicals such as bisphenol-a (BPA), which is used in water bottles and food containers, to illnesses such as obesity and breast cancer.  Yeap you read that right, obesity and breast cancer.  Yet our own U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have taken little to no action on BPA.  Every time organizations such as the Environmental Working Group push for regulation of BPA, the chemical industry pushes back with studies and information of their own that “show no health risks” with BPA.  While this game is being played in the United States, nations such as China, Malaysia, Canada and the European Union are taking aggressive actions to remove BPA from consumer and food products.

What is really needed now is not another story by the mainstream media that simply reports the results of another study.  We need the mainstream media (Hello NBC, Time, CBS, ABC, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, etc) to do their job and ask the tough questions about chemicals such as BPA.  Until we start to get the type of activism from the mainstream media that they showed with tobacco we will never get to the point of actually dealing with obesity.

You can read the abstract of the new study on obesity and breast cancer by following the link.  We close by thanking Dr. Joseph A. Sparano and his team for conducting and publishing this study.

New Study Links BPA Exposure To Heart Disease. Evidence Against BPA Contiues To Grow.


A new study is out and it continues to add to the quickly growing pile of evidence that bisphenol A (BPA) is a serious problem for our health.  Past studies have tied BPA to everything from breast cancer to health problems for children.  This latest study indicates that exposure to BPA can cause heart disease.

Reed Miller, theheart.org , explains the results in his story:

“Dr David Melzer (Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Exeter, UK), and colleagues compared urinary BPA (uBPA) levels with the grade of coronary stenosis measured by angiography in 591 patients in the MAGICAD study, which was primarily designed to evaluate the proton-nuclear-magnetic-resonance (1H-NMR)-based metabonomics test for coronary disease.

No disease was found in 120 of the patients, while 86 had intermediate disease, and 385 had severe disease in one to three vessels. The unadjusted median urinary BPA concentration was 1.28 ng/mL in subjects with normal coronary arteries and 1.53 ng/mL in subjects with severe coronary disease.”

At some point the discussion inside the United States regarding the safety of BPA has to move beyond the public relations talking points by the American Chemistry Council and focus on the growing scientific evidence that there are health problems related to BPA exposure.  This means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and our elected officials need to have an honest discussion about BPA and take necessary action to protect consumers.  If nations such as China can do this there is no reason the United States can’t.

We hope that our readers will continue to take these types of stories into consideration when shopping.  If you can you should by fresh vegetables and fruits and try to avoid canned foods that use BPA as a liner in the can.  Some companies, such as Amy's, have stopped using BPA in their canned foods since March.

You can read the abstract for this latest study by following this link.  We want to close by thanking the team lead by Dr. David Melzer for doing this study and sharing the information with the public.

Media Strikes Gold In Stories About Our Hair

We have stayed out the whole Gabby Douglas hair discussion because we did not believe that the original story was actually news.  For us, The Daily Beast created their own news to draw attention to their site, increase traffic and in turn increase ad revenue.  We will never understand how some random Tweets and facebook posts from people no one has ever heard of (and maybe they were fictional people/accounts so the reporter could quote them and create outrage over these tweets and facebook postings) is news?

What is interesting though is the fact that the hair debate is still being discussed in the mainstream media.  Here is just a sample from today’s headlines:

African-American women talk about embracing their naturally textured hair” – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York)

Examining the black hair obsession” – The News Journal/Delware Online

Black hair and the Olympics:  Musing on the good, the fab, the pretty – and black hair obsession as a cultural fact” -  The Grio/NBC News

In fact this discussion how also gone international.  Here is just a taste of one headline:

Gabby’s great hair debate heats up” – Trinidad & Tabago Express

We know the hair issue is one that will probably never go away.  But what is truly interesting to us is that the focus of these stories always seem to trivialize and make fun of how African American women feel about hair.

We wrote earlier in the year how we believed that the public relations attempt by the Bronner Brothers to have the Surgeon General attend their hair show and create a whole new stereotype that African American women don’t exercise because of their hair was ridiculous and harmful to African American women.  A few months later as Gabby Douglas was becoming the first American woman to win team and individual gold in the Olympics (the real news) we somehow allowed the "media" to flip the script and report that African Americans felt Gabby’s hair didn’t look good enough while competing (exercising).  Does anyone else see the conflict in these two story lines?

At some point we should realize that these stories by the media about African Americans and “their hair" are nothing but attempts to create “conflict” and sell ad space.  If these same media organizations and/or journalists actually were interested in real issues that surround “hair”, then they would be digging deeper and asking questions about the health risks women face by using relaxers when pregnant.  Or asking why hasn’t anyone looked into the long term health issues of exposure to the chemicals used in these hair products?  Yet those real issues are not the discussions we see.

We hope that our readers will start forcing those type of real discussions and stop feeding into the “conflict hair stories” the media creates to sell ad space.

Michigan Releases New Data For Infant Mortality Rates. Alarming Rise In Deaths For African Americans.

The State of Michigan recently released their newest data for infant mortality rates and unfortunately they seem to be following the alarming numbers we are seeing around the nation.  According to the latest data, 14 out of every 1,000 African American babies born die.  For Caucasian babies it is 5 out of every 1,000 and for Hispanic babies it 7 out of every 1,000.

The Michigan data does provide a small glimpse into the problem.

“The leading cause of infant death is being born too soon. One in eight babies is born too soon. State and national data indicate that accidental infant suffocation/strangulation deaths caused by unsafe sleep environments continue to be a leading cause of infant death, especially for African-American and Native American infants. The infant mortality rate is significantly higher among younger women than among women ages 20-39. There has been no significant change in the past 10 years. Except for the youngest mothers (less than 15 years of age), the high incidence of infant mortality among women younger than 20 is attributed to lower socio-economic status, little or no prenatal care, and lack of social support.”

So once again we are facing a new set of data that demonstrates that any alarming number of African American children are not surviving the first year of their life.  If this was just happening in Michigan maybe we could say it is a local issue, but it’s not.  We have written about similarly alarming rates happening in Maryland and Nebraska.  At some point we need to start having a national discussion on what is happening and what must be done to correct it.

Just as with the alarming rise in new HIV/AIDS infections among “black women”, we cannot sit by and believe that this is only a problem in one part of the nation and that the community I live in does not face these issues.  It is time for organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, Urban League, religious organizations and others to start addressing these growing disparities in healthcare issues.

As always we hope that our readers will share this story with their friends and family, but we also need to start asking our elected officials what they plan on doing to address these disparities in care.  You can read the entire media release by the State of Michigan by following the link.

State of Florida Hides TB Outbreak. Poor African American Men Most Of The Sick Ignored.

A disturbing story has been published by the The Palm Beach Post in Florida describing an effort by the State of Florida to suppress information about the worst TB outbreak in the state in 20 years.

“The CDC officer had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop.

That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.

As health officials in Tallahassee turned their focus to restructuring, Dr. Robert Luo’s 25-page report describing Jacksonville’s outbreak — and the measures needed to contain it – went unseen by key decision makers around the state. At the health agency, an order went out that the TB hospital must be closed six months ahead of schedule.

Had they seen the letter, decision makers would have learned that 3,000 people in the past two years may have had close contact with contagious people at Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, an outpatient mental health clinic and area jails. Yet only 253 people had been found and evaluated for TB infection, meaning Florida’s outbreak was, and is, far from contained.”

Of course this story gets worse.  In the report issued by the Center for Disease Control staff stated that many of the victims of this TB outbreak “wasted away before ever getting treatment, or were too far gone by the time it began.  Most of the sick were poor black men.”

For so many reasons this story should cause outrage not only in Florida but across the world.  We already have a problem in our nation, created by our history, of underserved and underrepresented populations not trusting the medical establishment.  To read this story and see that the clear inabilities and incompetence demonstrated by Florida health officials to take action on the CDC’s report will only add to this distrust.  How will we be able to convince African American men to trust our healthcare system with stories like this?  They likely won’t and for good reason.

We are not that far removed from the Tuskegee Experiment.  When government deliberately takes no action to stop a serious outbreak of a disease, such as TB, because of incompetence or lack of caring most people will conclude that those in charge of ensuring the public health don’t truly care about the health of all the public.

While we should all be outraged by what has happened, the important part of this story now becomes what will Florida do to immediately ensure the public that they are addressing their lack of action?  First Florida must ensure that they will never again turn their back on a disease such as TB just because it is affecting a segment of their population that lacks a political voice.  Beyond that Florida must take immediate action to stop the spread of this strand of TB before it becomes resistant to treatment.  This is one of our worst fears in medicine.  That a disease, such as TB, will not be treated properly and because of that it develops into a super bug that cannot be treated.   Finally the state of Florida, hello Governor Scott are you listening, must investigate why those in charge of the public health did not respond to the CDC report in April.  Yes we have read that the Governor and Legislature made the idiotic decision to cut funding for the public health infrastructure and close the hospital that had treated hard cases of TB for 60 years, but that does not excuse the lack of action by public health officials.  The voters in Florida will get to decide the fate of those elected officials who created this mess but while they wait for the next election those that currently hold elected office need to start a very public investigation/hearings on how this could happen.

We close by thanking The Palm Beach Post and their reporter Stacey Singer for digging deep on this story.  If it was not for this dedication to seeking the truth and upholding their responsibility to share these type of stories with the public it is likely that Florida would still not be taking any action.

You can read the full story by visiting The Palm Beach Post website.