Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.

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A Flawed Study in Opposition to the
Value of Breast Self Examination

By James W. Coleman, Ph.D.

A study to evaluate the efficacy of Breast Self Examination (BSE), recently released to the media, was done by scientists at: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization), Seattle, WA; Station for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, Shanghai Textile Industry bureau, Shanghai, China; and Institute of Medical Biology, University of Tromso, Tromso, Norway. The principal investigator and lead author of the study is Dr. David B. Thomas of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The published study concluding that breast self examination was of no value in reducing the number of breast cancer deaths was fatally flawed. (J. of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 94, 1445-57, October 2, 2002.) This study was conducted to determine whether an intensive program of BSE instructions would decrease the number of women dying of breast cancer. Women associated with 519 textile factories in Shanghai, China were randomly assigned to two groups. One group consisted of 132, 979 women who received intensive BSE instructions over a period of 5 years, while the second group, 133, 085 women, received no instructions. Both groups were followed for 11 years. At the end of the study, there were 135 breast cancer deaths in the group that received instructions and 131 deaths in the group that was not taught.

Since there was no statistical difference between the death rates of the two groups, the investigators erroneously concluded that BSE has no value and then made the quantum leap that women instead should rely on mammograms for early detection of breast cancers and thereby reduce the death rateƝfrom these diseases. It is faulty science to speculate on a conclusion when the study could have and should have been designed to carry out annual mammograms on approximately the same number of Chinese women in a third group. The investigators missed an opportunity to conduct a credible study by not carrying out such mammograms. Therefore, women are well advised to ignore the intended meaning of this study in its entirety.

It is truly disheartening to see that taxpayer funds were used to conduct such a poorly designed study, which was elementary in both character and scope. Public health would be better served if funding would be redirected toward studies aimed at finding the sources and causes of breast cancers. Then, women could make informed choices about what to avoid -- or at the minimum, choose to reduce the frequency of use.

James W. Coleman, Ph.D.
Cancer Research Center of America, Inc.
8622 Blackpool Drive
Louisville, KY 40222-5667

Tel (502) 339-1282
Fax (502) 339-1134

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