ABC Slams Companies for Donating to Breast Cancer Research

     Companies can’t win – even when they literally give away money. ABC attacked businesses for helping “the corporate bottom line” by funding breast cancer research. In the process, the network relied on a critic of routine mammograms to make its attack.


     On the October 12 “World News with Charles Gibson,” reporter David Muir turned a critical eye to businesses such as the makers of Campbell’s Soup or Yoplait yogurt that engage in breast cancer fundraising efforts.               


     “These pink ribbon campaigns often mean much more to the corporate bottom line than they do to people living with or at risk for breast cancer,” scoffed Barbara Brenner, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action.


     Nowhere in his story did Muir mention that corporate fundraising efforts such as Yoplait’s “Save Lids to Save Lives” are often made in direct partnership with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, perhaps the leading national advocate for breast cancer research and treatment.


     Brennan was the only breast cancer research advocate featured in his story, but Muir suggested to viewers those views were shared by research proponents broadly.


      “Advocates say” despite raising money for research, “they’re raising their profits a whole lot more,” the ABC reporter closed his story.


     What Muir left out was how unorthodox Brenner’s group is and how some argue those views are a distraction in the fight against breast cancer.


     A look at Brennan’s Web site reveals her organization is skeptical of, if not downright hostile to corporate sources of research financing. For example, her group refuses any contribution from health insurance or pharmaceutical companies.


     But perhaps more disturbing is that her group disputes the wisdom of regular mammogram screenings for women.


     “The benefit of routine mammograms for healthy premenopausal women is unproven,” Brenner’s group asserts in a Web page entitled “What You Should Know About Mammograms.”


     “Healthy premenopausal women should not have mammograms as a routine matter. The risk of radiation, combined with the high incidence of both false negatives and positives, means that routine mammography for premenopausal women may well do more harm than good,” Breast Cancer Action asserts.


     Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, an epidemiologist and Business & Media Institute (BMI) adviser, told BMI that such a claim was “wholly irresponsible.”


     “I’m really shocked that they would say that. The benefits of early screening are overwhelmingly important,” Whelan countered, adding that “none of this recognizes what’s happened in the last eight years. It’s become largely a curable disease” when the cancer is caught early, thanks in part to drugs like Tamoxifen, Whelan argued.


     Whelan added that it wasn’t surprising corporate donors would hope to get good PR and a boost in sales from their philanthropy, but added that media scrutiny would be better served finding where money is spent by breast cancer advocates, including Brenner’s group.