November 5, 2021
By Dr. Alain Rauss, MD, Biostatistician, for the Cancer Rose collective
INCa and Cancer Rose have been at odds for years over the usefulness of breast cancer screening. Furthermore, Cancer Rose's criticism is directed at the INCa's failure to provide clear, objective, and neutral information to women, trapping them in a process initiated by the INCa based on successive cancer plans .
However, the question is not to favor or against screening but rather to allow each woman to make a personal decision based on her history and fears, rather than a decision guided by factors other than sanitary ones.
Finally, it appears that the issue is elsewhere. Why frighten people and use methods that are more akin to manipulation and propaganda?
Instrumentalization of fear
Today, if we look closely, we can see that INCa uses the fear of having breast cancer and dying to achieve its goals.
The fear of death has enabled us to live, save our lives, and arrive here. Despite all our societies' evolutions, we still have this fear in us. On the other hand, playing on fear is a shameful attitude because when fear is present, it becomes more difficult to use discernment, which is the problem. As previously stated, playing on people's fears is manipulation.
Awareness of all risks
There are numerous risks of dying throughout one's life, one of which is breast cancer. The INCa's hype of breast cancer causes at least a part of the population to lose sight of the fact that there are numerous other risks in life. This hype leads us to stop relativizing and consider that if screening is implemented, it will somehow make the woman "immortal."
The table below shows the total causes of death for men and women and changes between 2015 and 2016. Notably, of the 290,300 deaths observed in women in 2016, breast cancer is the 8th leading cause of death. Before the mortality from breast cancer, there were other causes, nervous system diseases, respiratory system diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, mental and behavioral disorders, external causes, and ischemic heart disease.
Thus, breast cancer mortality, although not negligible, represents only 4.27% of women's deaths. In contrast, the first 7 causes of death represent 48.5% of deaths (and we are not counting the other causes of death of the circulatory system that are not precisely individualized, representing 44,000 deaths per year, i.e., nearly 15% of deaths).
If women had to feel all their fears to the level that the INCa tries to bring out for breast cancer (as shown in the box in the latest INCa leaflet below), a woman's life would quickly become unbearable. With the risk of dying from another cause nearly 25 times higher, everyday life with this pressure on the risk of death would quickly become intolerable.
Taking advantage of a situation in which there is no consciousness of all the risks
We can see that INCa takes advantage of the fact that all other sources of risk of dying are absent from the media hype, leaving the field open for INCa on breast cancer and highlighting a fear that can stimulate irrationality in a woman's attitude toward breast cancer screening.
The INCA takes up 1 MONTH of the year in the media space for 4.2% of the deaths, with this month's "Pink October" being enormous. Imagine what life would be like if we had a particular month for one or another risk that kills more than breast cancer?
It is evident that if fields of cardiology, neurology, or pneumology put forward the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, nervous system disease, or respiratory disease with tenfold means in light of the risks that may exist, the "noise" about breast cancer would be stifled.
However, on closer examination for these causes, which account for most deaths, prevention exists in many instances instead of screening. This means that it is possible to implement measures that will significantly reduce the risk, potentially saving hundreds of lives (as opposed to a battle over 1 or 2 fewer deaths over a 10-year follow-up in the case of breast cancer screening in 1000 women).
Thus, INCa takes advantage of a situation in France that could be described as monopolistic in terms of the fear of dying.
Reducing the fear of dying from breast cancer
All of this seems to indicate that it is critical to be aware of the numerous risks of death!
Women have multiple risks of dying in everyday life, not just from breast cancer, far from it. We accept risky behaviors that are responsible for many deaths, such as smoking and drinking. The rise and decline of cancer deaths follow those of smoking, with a few decades lag. Smoking increases the risk of many cancers, particularly lung cancer, which is by far the deadliest, accounting for more deaths than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined. 
Is it reasonable to be afraid of dying from breast cancer and being manipulated but not be scared of dying due to our risky behaviors?
A return to common sense appears to be necessary to ease the stress that the INCa places on women, especially since it focuses on one single cancer.
The right to choose AFTER adequate information
Each woman must evaluate all the risks of death for her based on clear, reliable, complete, and honest information. Each woman must be able to determine which risks she is willing to accept and which she is not.
Her decision will then be in harmony with her history, her preferences, her environment... This choice is her own, and it should not be influenced by anyone, especially not by the medical profession or any other organization. This is what every woman should require from our health authorities:information and respect for her choices.
If there was only the fear of dying
In this screening propaganda, INCa is not only playing on the fear of death by cancer but also on the fear of developing breast cancer. The fear of losing her identity and her femininity is perhaps even more devastating for a woman. Without even thinking about death, the psychological consequences for this particular cancer are enormous. Many healthy women believe that by getting regular screenings, they will be able to avoid breast cancer.
Arguments such as "The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances of recovery" or "I participate in organized breast cancer screening every two years. It has finally become a habit, and it reassures me and my family " are only there to instill the idea that by participating in screening regularly, healthy women will avoid damage to their bodies and of their identity as women. INCa lies to them exploits their naivety on the subject and especially their fear.
The appeal to fear is an influence technique used to increase screening participation, as detailed in an academic article outlining all the methods used to persuade women to undergo screening; we had discussed it .
A culture of understanding risk
Living today without understanding the risk (as we have just seen with the INCa play without any notion of relativization) exposes the population to a climate of fear easily exploitable by unscrupulous people who want to achieve their goals.
Because of this lack of explanation of what a risk is, these ultimately ill-intended people can use a kind of "hysteria" around risk.
As we mentioned earlier, without understanding the risk, fear arises, and discernment becomes extremely difficult to exercise.
Gerd Gigerenzer, a Berlin psychologist and author of "Thinking about Risk - Living with Uncertainty," denounces the misuse and torture of statistical data that occurs every pink October in every country.
Let us defend the end of the use of fear to guide women's decisions, let us support clear information about the risks (without catastrophism)
(summary table of institutions using influence methods).