Komen Fails to Protect Women with the Truth

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.


Lost in the media frenzy concerning Susan G. Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood was the fact that Planned Parenthood is an enormous national provider of two causes of breast cancer: induced abortion and oral contraceptives.


Assumed in the many reports in the media was that Komen, as the country’s largest breast cancer advocacy group, is a wonderful icon serving the needs of breast cancer survivors and providing needed information  and money for breast cancer research.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Up until 2005, according to Komen’s STEP Grants information published on the internet, less than 1% of the nearly billion dollars they had raised since 1984 was given to entities that did breast cancer research to find a cure. Shocking I’m sure to its many donors. 

It makes women feel great to gather in pink sweats and running shoes to raise money for a cure. The camaraderie is exhilarating. The mutual support is gratifying.  Doing something that matters to conquer that dreaded cancer that has taken so many women, mothers, sisters, and friends is empowering to women. But is all the “feel good” that the many races engender in the participants just an incredibly successful Pink Money marketing device? 

As a breast cancer surgeon, I see Komen as a purveyor of misinformation to the women who look to them as a reliable source.  Komen states on its web site that although oral contraceptives slightly raise the risk for breast cancer, a women’s risk will go back to normal after she goes off the pill for ten years, as if no harm has been done. 

The truth is that since 2005, the World Health Organization’s International Agency on Research of Cancer listed oral contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical and liver cancer. Group 1 is also where cigarettes are listed as a cause for lung cancer. The truth is that if you are unlucky and the Pill caused a breast cancer cell to start growing in your breast, it would take about 10 years for the cancer to get big enough for your doctor to detect.  Hence, if it hasn’t shown up by 10 years, you were lucky and your risk is no longer increased. You’re normal risk again. Komen has not done anything to protect women and reduce their risk by avoiding known carcinogens. When 15 million women stopped their hormone replacement therapy in 2002 after they learned it increased their breast cancer risk, by 2007 the number of postmenopausal breast cancers decreased 11%. 

In 2010, 88% of young women take the Pill, a known carcinogen. Yet there is no awareness campaign for these women. The Pill contains the same drugs as hormone replacement therapy but in doses that are nearly 10 times higher! Imagine all the breast cancers that could be prevented in young women if half of them stopped the Pill.

Komen also denies the abortion breast cancer link.  It does this by not only citing the findings of the National Cancer Institute – which denies the link – but also by stating that the studies that show a positive correlation (there are 50) and those that are statistically significant (there are 31) are tainted by “recall bias.”  Recall bias assumes that a significant number of women will not report their abortion history accurately:  that they will not admit their abortions to researchers thereby by skewing the study’s results. This is despite the facts that 1) there are studies that have internally controlled for recall bias and have found no bias;  2) other studies state that, because induced abortion is so common in some countries, investigators report that recall bias is not an issue;  3) that a study specifically looking for recall bias by comparing computer records and interview data did not find a significant result (except that women recalled abortions that had not been recorded in the computer).

If an organization respected women, it would give them the truth so that they could make an informed choice.  For more information on risk go to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute at www.bcpinstitute.org.

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