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At the edge of the Pacific, women believe they’re part of an unexplained breast cancer cluster. It’s a fear created by media hype and medical researchers who should know better. Since the '90s, the San Francisco Chronicle has published a steady stream of articles claiming the affluent, mostly white women of Marin have the highest rate of breast cancer in the country, as much as 35 percent higher than the national average.
Year after year, breast cancer researchers spend millions of dollars studying why women in the wealthiest communities are targeted by the dread disease. This research agenda is dominated by businesses with skin in the cancer game, including AstraZeneca, Avon, Chevron, Baker Hughes. Meanwhile, women suffer from needless anxiety, terrified that cancer is stalking them.
What if women in Marin are in fact much less likely to get or die of breast cancer than are women in less affluent communities? What if tens of millions of health dollars are being wasted chasing after statistical flukes? Medical experts without corporate ties say there is not a breast cancer epidemic in Marin. Listen to Patricia T. Kelly, Ph.D., the author of “Assess Your True Risk Of Breast Cancer”:
The short story is that affluent women get more mammograms than women with less access to health care. The excessive use of mammography increases the number of small cancers detected. But it also increases the number of false positives, and results in the treating of non-cancerous tissue. Simply put: overdiagnosis leads to overtreatment—subjecting women to surgery, radiation, and chemical toxins that cause painful side effects and cost lots of money.
Yes, some lives are saved by early detection, but the widely believed statistic that "one out of eight women will get breast cancer" is a misnomer. More accurately, nine out of 1,000 American women over the age of 60 die from breast cancer each decade. And black women have by far the highest mortality rates.
Supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light is following the money. "Busted" explains how breast cancer statistics are manipulated by governmental and non-profit organizations that can benefit by marketing fear instead of solutions.
Investigative journalist Peter Byrne has interviewed dozens of experts and examined hundreds of medical studies and public records. The documented results of this investigation call on America to reform the science of breast cancer research. Scientists can focus on prevention by modeling risks for individuals and populations realistically.
Unfortunately, our cancer databases are so riddled with errors that breast cancer incidence studies are unreliable. A major study of the California Cancer Registry warned that, "Reporting the quality of care derived from [cancer registry] data with such validity problems could anger providers and seriously undermine public confidence in this process."
Please PLEDGE what you can so that the vital information presented by "Busted" will be heard by the people who need it the most.
Our multi-part investigation promises some relief to worried women in Marin and other misidentified breast cancer clusters in Seattle, Long Island, Orange County and Ohio. We will provide updates in the reporting as we interview the researchers and public health officials who struggle with the myth of suburban breast cancer clusters.
And in the face of hard questioning, key scientists are already hedging claims of a breast cancer epidemic in Marin. Here is Dr. Christina A. Clarke of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California:
This is a local story of tremendous national significance. Make a difference to women everywhere—no matter where you live! Your PLEDGE will enable the Point Reyes Light to complete and publish this investigation in June 2015. First, it will be printed in the newspaper. Then, we will publish the "Busted" ebook that links readers to the medical studies, video interviews, and public records that back up the facts.
The rewards for PLEDGING include copies of the "Busted" series in newsprint, the "Busted" ebook, and a two year subscription to the Point Reyes Light. Wonderfully, several world-class restaurants located in West Marin are donating dinner dates with Peter and Tess:
We are looking for $9,500 to finish researching, writing, editing and formatting the project. The Fund for Investigative Journalism has contributed $2,000. That leaves $7,500 for the crowd to PLEDGE. Stretch funding will enhance circulation of "Busted."
Risks and challenges
Most of the investigative research for "Busted" is complete. We are in the process of writing, editing and formatting the story for print, online and ebook publication, with explanatory graphics and links to interviews, medical studies, and public records. Peter Byrne and Tess Elliott have impressive professional achievements. Short of an unforeseeable disaster, this investigation will be published.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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