At the beginning of October, 2012, KSHB Channel 41, an NBC TV station in Kansas City, MO, aired an interview with a spokeswoman from the Komen Foundation about breast cancer “myths”. This interview was also being sent around the Internet to be used by other websites. The first alleged “myth” was the bra/cancer link.
According to the Komen “expert”, the “popular scientific literature” does not support the link, which has apparently been “debunked as unscientific”. I called the station and spoke with a news department assignment editor, and told her that the story was wrong. I explained that there is a 1991 Harvard study that found bra-free women have half the incidence of breast cancer as bra-wearers. Of course, this implies that over 100,000 US women could be spared this disease each year by eliminating the harmful habit of wearing tight bras. I also explained to her that our research at the Institute has shown bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men, and the rate climbs the longer and tighter the bra is worn. I also explained that there are NO studies that refute this, and that the Komen Foundation refuses to consider the bra issue as worthy of research.
This is not a myth, I said, but a cover-up. And I also explained that the American Cancer Society is part of the cover-up, as well, promoting bra wearing (“Put on your pink bra”), calling the bra/cancer link a “myth”, and claiming the link is too ridiculous for research consideration. They should all be calling for more studies, not suppressing and censoring the information, I asserted.
As I hung up the phone hoping my call would get their story changed online, I found another TV station, WPBF in Florida, which is an ABC station, posting a “25 breast cancer myths” slide show. This slide show was being posted around the web, much like the Channel 41 story, except this station did not originate the story. It was originated by Health magazine. In this slide show Myth #2 was about the bra/cancer link, saying, “Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific. The consensus is that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.”
I called that station and spoke with a news director, telling him that there is NO research refuting the bra/cancer link, that there IS evidence supporting the link, and that this is a cover-up. He said he would look into it and that it was not the policy of their station to post incorrect news.
What happened with my complaints at the two stations was extremely interesting and revealing. The ABC station contacted the source that was distributing the “25 myths” story, and the slide about the bra/cancer link being a myth was removed. This applied to numerous news sites that carried the incorrect information, although the original Health.com article was not changed and is still spreading this misinformation.
The NBC station had a different response. They were standing by the Komen Foundation, which they also gave a full online page on their news website. In fact, they were giving the Komen people weekly news spots throughout October. And their story was going around the Internet, so they were defensive.
I had to speak with the regional news manager for Scripps Media, which owns that station. Actually, we didn’t just speak, we yelled. He was very defensive and stated in an email to me that their story, “merely points out that noted medical studies have not found any link between bras and breast cancer. I encourage you to provide any information and allow us to evaluate it accordingly. For now, the story pertaining to the cancer myths will continue to be reported on KSHB.”
I explained again that there are NO such medical studies and insisted that he check his source and ask the Komen people for references to these alleged studies. It was like pulling teeth. To him the Komen people are the ultimate authorities, and the media has no responsibility to check out what these “experts” say.
After much debating and shouting I had the news team at Channel 41 agree to ask Komen for their studies. Of course, there were none.
As a result, the station changed their story. On the video they deleted the reference to studies not supporting the link. And in the online article about the story, the text also was changed. But it was a small improvement. They still call the bra/cancer link a myth, and falsely state, “Your underwire has no connection to breast cancer risk. Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific.”
I was still not satisfied. How could they still call this a myth after realizing that there is no scientific basis for opposing this link, and evidence that supports it? I threatened to file a complaint with the FCC for news distortion. The station didn’t care. So I filed the complaint.
Ironically, the Hearst Media group also runs a Hearst Foundation dedicated to honesty in news reporting and investigative reporting. I contacted the president of the Foundation and shared with him the irony that a Hearst TV station was distorting the news and refusing to look into the fact that the leading breast cancer charities are suppressing and lying about the bra/cancer link. Where is the honest news? Where is the investigative reporting?
I had another problem with NBC back in 1995, when Dressed To Kill was first released. The show Dateline was interviewing me for a story on the link, which I didn’t realize was meant to be critical and dismissive of my work. The producer of the segment, however, found a medical historian who was very impressed with our findings and said we had resurrected awareness of the role of the lymphatic system in the creation of cancer. Soon, the story became positive.
The story was then killed. The producer told me that NBC, which produces Dateline, is owned by General Electric. GE has a policy that nothing on Dateline can negatively impact the sales of other GE products or services. As it happens, GE manufactures mammography machines.
The moral of this story is not a pretty one. The media works closely with industry, and the news has become infomercials. “Truth” is apparently what experts say it is, regardless of the facts. And big corporate interests trump all else.
Ladies, you’re on your own. Only you can prevent breast cancer.
Read Dressed To Kill, spread the word about bras and cancer, comment on websites about this important link, and don’t believe what the “experts” say.