SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Prevention or Detection
By Rob Holston


February 22, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - My grandmother used to say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." & ten pounds of detection, I'll add, so make sure you know the difference. I can still picture a billboard along side Interstate 90 on the outskirts of Spokane, Washington. The year was about 1998, as I recall, and the eye-catching graphic, a partially exposed female human breaston a billboard? Yes! But what really caught my attention was the message in huge letters, I now paraphrase, "PREVENT BREAST CANCER WITH REGULAR BREAST EXAMS".

This billboard message seemed to be part of a nationwide campaign by the American Cancer Society, as similar ads also appeared in a few magazines during that same time period. I often spend time picking on drug companies and food companies but here I'll make an exception. Although I applaud any organization's attempt to "prevent" cancer, from my perspective the billboard message was misleading and detrimental to those actually promoting prevention.

With all due respect to the powerful American Cancer Society, "detection" is NOT "prevention". It seems to me that this example is simply the tip of an iceberg of misinformation that keeps the American public reacting to and treating disease states rather than focusing on the true causes of those diseases.

It empowers a woman to do self-breast exams and determine if she does have a suspicious lump, as early detection is a great second step to saving that person from a breast cancer death. The more important "first" step should be prevention. As you watch television or read magazines over the next several days or weeks, take notice of how many ads are in the media that relate to your health. Well kind of, I guess relate to your health or so they would like you to believe. Most of these advertisements actually relate to your illness or disease states.

I like to monitor advertisements as a way of observing market and cultural trends. A vast majority of the health related ads out there today seem to be in the business of selling drug therapy that will manage a disease state you are suffering from. The theory goes like this, if a particular drug gives you relief from a symptom or symptoms related to a disease state, you would continue to take the drug to sustain this relief. The companies producing these drugs hope you will take this medication for the rest of your life. Because curing a disease seems to be much more difficult than "managing" a disease and also much less profitable for the huge drug companies, drug companies prefer you continue taking their drugs for ever.

Although prevention does not seem to be a high priority of drug companies, it should be a high priority for each and every one of us. Proper eating, exercise and hygiene can actually prevent disease. It is rare that a vegetable or fruit company has enough in their budget to tout a product that can actually prevent disease such as breast cancer. I do recall one such add. During the same time period that I saw the breast billboard I saw an ad in a magazine that was perhaps a response to the billboard campaign. This ad also showed a woman's breast and was sponsored by the State of California Prune &/or Fig Growers Association. This ad did state that eating their products would measurably reduce your risk of breast cancer.

I forget whether it was the fig association or the prune association, but they had science behind their claims. Here are just a couple of studies relative to breast cancer and fiber intake. "The approach to breast cancer prevention should include an increase in fiber consumption to 25 to 30 grams per day" (Medical Oncology and Tumor Pharmacotherapy, 1990). "The study provides strong support for recent conjecture that foods rich in dietary fiber may be protective against breast cancer."(Intern J. Cancer, 1994 Jan 15:173-6).

Next time out shopping, think prevention and purchase some figs and prunes. Add them to your diet as a way of getting the 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day that your body deserves and your health craves. Remember, detection is important, but wouldn't you rather have no cancer to detect? Prevention is the truly healthy alternative and science shows once again what your grandmother taught you is true, "Eat your fruits and vegetables."


Contact Rob Holston at holston[at]

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