October 3rd, 2011

Is Susan G. Komen Denying the BPA-Breast Cancer Link?

By Amy Silverstein
Mother Jones

If you’ve ever bought something pink to support breast cancer research, there’s a good chance a portion of the money went to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest nonprofit in the world solely dedicated to eradicating the disease. Famous for its fundraising races and pink gear, the foundation has been fighting breast cancer for three decades. So it may come as a surprise that Komen has posted statements on its website that dismiss links between the common chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and breast cancer, even while funding research that explores that possible connection.
Which foods have the most BPA? What does BPA do to your body? And does Gov. Paul LePage of Maine really think that the worst-case scenario of BPA exposure is “some women may have little beards”?

BPA is found in all manner of consumer goods, from plastic water jugs to receipts to the liners of food cans. Critics have pointed out that Komen receives generous donations from private industries who use those same chemicals in their products, and who also downplay health concerns. Is that what’s driving Komen’s position on BPA? “Absolutely not,” said Katrina McGhee, Komen’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. In multiple interviews with Mother Jones, Komen executives were adamant that their sponsors have no effect on any of their policy decisions.

“I want to be very clear,” said Komen President Elizabeth Thompson. “We are not influenced at all by any subpart of any one of our funders.”

And yet, it’s hard to ignore mounting scientific evidence that strongly suggests a link between BPA and cancer. The United States’ President’s Cancer Panel concluded in 2010 that “more than 130 studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity, and other health problems.” A number of studies have found that the chemical causes breast cancer in lab animals. In human cell cultures, BPA has caused breast cancer cells to proliferate and has also reduced the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In September, a study by the California Pacific Medical Center found that BPA even made healthy breast cells behave like cancer cells and decreased the effectiveness of yet another breast cancer drug. Frighteningly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that BPA is in the urine of more than 90 percent of the United States population. Researchers believe this figure reflects continuous exposure to the chemical.

In April 2010 Komen posted an online statement saying that BPA had been “deemed safe.” And a more recent statement on Komen’s website about BPA, from February 2011, begins, “Links between plastics and cancer are often reported by the media and in email hoaxes.” Komen acknowledges in its older statement that the Food and Drug Administration is doing more studies on BPA, but also says that there is currently “no evidence to suggest a link between BPA and risk of breast cancer.”

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