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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.