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Stem Cell Research and Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is a disturbing reality for many women in the United States today. One out of every eight women will acquire breast cancer in her life time. Forty-thousand women were expected to die just last year alone from breast cancer and over 276,000 women have been diagnosed with new cases of breast cancer since 2003. Breast cancer is the leading cancer detected among Caucasian and African American women in the United States today. Swift action must be taken to eradicate breast cancer in America and throughout the world now. Many promising options exist in the fight against breast cancer, yet none has the potential to have a greater effect then stem cell research.

Today, the exact cause of breast cancer is still somewhat of a mystery. Therefore, prevention options are very limited. Women with a family history of breast cancer, or who are overweight, or smoke and use alcohol, or who have their first full term pregnancy after thirty, or who are never pregnant, or have either an early start or late end to menstruation are just a few of the women who may be exposed to breast cancer at some point throughout her life span. These women, and others who are also at risk, are encouraged to take precautionary measures to combat the onset of breast cancer. One option recommend is the use of pre- ventitive medications such as tamoxifen. This drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for women who are at high risk for obtaining breast cancer. Women also in danger are encouraged to practice early detection methods. This includes monthly self examinations, yearly doctor examinations, and yearly mamograms for women over the age of forty. Women who suffer the greatest risk of exposure to breast cancer are even asked to consider the aggressive measure of preventive surgery. A removal of breast tissue, called a mastectomy, is an option for those women at the highest risk levels to prevent breast cancer from beginning.

Women who use any or all of these measures reduce their risk of breast cancer. Even so, these women are still in jeopardy of contracting breast cancer. The fact is, the specific cause of breast cancer is unknown. These treatment options do not guarantee that at risk women will not be burdened with this deadly disease. What is needed to eliminate completely this terrible killer is stem cell research and therapy.

Stem cells are the basic building blocks of each and every aspect of our bodies. Stem cells occur naturally in everyone. These cells have the potential to create every cell our body needs. There are currently two types of stem cells that researchers have the capability to work with, embryonic and non-embryonic (otherwise know as adult stem cells). Currently research, although limited, is being conducted using both types of stem cells. Non-embryonic adult stem cell therapies are even being used to treat diseases today. This includes therapies to treat over seventy different diseases, though scientists have had little success using non-embryonic stem cells to treat breast cancer. Non-embryonic stem cell are only believed to be able to develop into the type of cells that they originated from, limiting their use. Scientists believe that embryonic stem cells have the potential to be manipulated into a wider variety of needed cells. Cells that can be used to treat breast cancer effectively and prevent it for good. The problem is that in August of 2001, our government banned the scientific development of new embryonic stem cell research. This ban left scientists with the use of the 60 existing embryonic stem cell lines. Scientists claim that there are not enough existing lines and that cells in these lines have been contaminated, according to an article published May 8, 2005.

Research allowing the development of new embryonic stem cells must be implemented. With access to new lines, scientists can develop the necessary stem cells needed to fight breast cancer. These new lines will allow scientists and researchers to cultivate the needed stem cell which can directly attack the deadly cancer cells that are prevalent in breast cancer, as opposed to the mass treatment of cells, harmful and not, which our current treatments provide.

If permitted, this stem cell therapy can reduce breast cancer to a footnote in medical history, much like polio is today. This therapy can save over 200,000 women yearly in the United States alone from the horrors of breast cancer. Countless wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. can be spared. We have the technology to save them. All that is necessary, is an end to the federal government's ban on new embryonic stem cell research.

This research can be had virtually free of cost to the federal government and the American tax payers. Hundreds of private laboratories are poised to fund their own research to develop the needed embryonic stem cell lines and begin developing treatments. State hospitals can divert existing funding to this potentially far reaching field. The infrastructure to continue what began before August 2001 is in place.

Opponents will argue that embryonic stem cell research violates human's right to life, as the embryo is destroyed after obtaining the necessary cells. Yet science cannot agree when an embryo is "alive". Some in society believe that at the moment of conception, an embryo becomes a living human being. What about in a lab, when an embryo is created scientifically, not conceived naturally with sexual intercourse between a man and a women? One could argue that is type of embryo was never alive to begin with, that it is simply a lab tool, equal to a cell culture or a rat used in experiments. Others say the embryo is a human when it's spinal cord develops, allowing it to feel sensation after



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