Paul Goldberg, the intrepid editor of The Cancer Letter, reports that Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., have watered down both the House and Senate versions of their controversial breast-cancer bill in order to get the votes needed for the legislation to pass.
Since the bill -- now apparently renamed as the Young Women's Breast Health (rather than Breast Cancer) Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young, or EARLY, Act -- was introduced last spring, Wasserman has wrangled enough votes in the House to ensure its passage there. Klobuchar, however, experienced no such luck in the Senate. The bill has been stuck in the Senate's Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Why? Largely because of opposition from leading breast-cancer scientists and women's-health advocates, who argued that the bill is based on the mistaken premise that risk factors for breast cancer in young women (those under age 45) are firmly understood and modifiable. ...
So what is different in the amended version of the bill? Most notably, the new version -- including its title -- refers to "breast health awareness" rather than to "breast cancer awareness."
The new version also no longer includes one of its most highly contentious provisions: the promotion of breast self-exams for girls under the age of 15.
Most experts agree that breast self-exams have not been shown to be effective at reducing breast cancer deaths in women of any age -- and may even be harmful by causing unnecessary worry and medical procedures. ...
Not all breast-cancer experts and advocates think that the EARLY Act is the best breast-cancer use of that money.
"As a taxpayer, I don't believe that the amended version of the EARLY Act is a responsible use of $45 million over a 5-year period," wrote Christine Norton, co-founder of the Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition, in an e-mail to me on Monday. "A lot of money will be spent on surveys, media campaigns, and follow-up surveys to determine if the media campaigns were successful. [And] as a former high school teacher, I strongly object to beginning the public education campaigns with 15-year-old freshman and sophomores."