Runners Come to Mall for Race for Cure

By Lisa Rein and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 3, 2006; 1:02 PM

The Mall was awash in pink Saturday morning as about 50,000 people took part in the 17th annual National Race for the Cure.

There were pink ribbons, pink t-shirts and pink balloons, all signifying breast cancer awareness, throughout the 5-kilometer race, which raises money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The organization funds breast cancer research and screening programs.

American women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women. Only lung cancer causes more deaths. The rate of new cases diagnosed in the U.S. has been growing every year since the 1940s, in part because of more screening. But the death rate has been dropping, largely due to earlier detection and improved treatment. More than 200,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.

Many of the men and women who took part in the race have a personal connection to the disease. Some have it now. Some count themselves among the survivors. And some already lost someone dear.

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 51, lost her mother to breast cancer 21 years ago. This morning, hours after returning from a diplomatic trip to Vienna, she rallied the walkers and runners at the starting line at 10th St. and Constitution Ave., her personal trainer by her side. They demonstrated squats and hip-flexing stretches. In blue sweatpants and a 'Race for the Cure' T-shirt, with her hair pulled into a ponytail, Rice brought marquee appeal to the annual fundraising event as she waved to the crowd.

"I now marvel at the treatment options that weren't there for her back then," Rice said, referring to her mother. "I just think we have to get the word out to people that while there's no cure yet, there are so many things you can do with diet and exercise. My message to people would be to make sure to take advantage of the screening options available to you."

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Patricia Berg, of Accokeek, Md. is a physician who directs a breast cancer research laboratory at George Washington University Medical School. Through a grant from the Komen Foundation, she is studying a gene called BP1 that is activated in 80 percent of breast cancer tumors. She hopes to develop a blood test for the gene.

"One thing I'd like to bring to women's' attention is that 5 percent of breast cancers are a very aggressive strain that's not detected by a mammogram. Half the time, there's no lump. It first appears as a red spot. It looks like an inflammation," Berg said.

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Nancy Brinker, 59, of Florida and the District, made a vow to her sister, Susan, when she died of breast cancer in 1981: She would do everything she could to find a cure. Today the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is the county's largest private organization devoted to breast cancer research.

"My hope is to engage our work on every continent in the world, to make the world and our work become flat," Brinker said. "I am proud that our organization is helping medically underserved populations. Ninety-five percent of the women in Kenya have never had a clinical breast examination."

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