Roy Jobson
Roy Jobson

An incorrigible perversion

This is a story about breast cancer. It is not about a woman who has succumbed to it, nor about a woman who has triumphed over it. It is instead a story about a cold-hearted business decision to make and market a “natural product” which it is claimed contains “nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer”. The product’s name is “Breast Protection Formula™”.

The product is recommended for women who:

— Have breast cancer in the family, or
— drink more than one alcoholic beverage daily, or occasionally binge drink, or
— are taking oral contraceptives, or have done so within the past five years, or
— are on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), or
— eat tinned or canned foods, or
— are overweight.

The dosage is one capsule of Breast Protection Formula™ twice a day. This would presumably have to be a “long-term” preventative therapy to be effective. At R238 for a month’s supply (Oct 2012) and with a substantial number of women at risk, the marketers must surely have thought that they were going to make a fortune.

Does it work though?

There is no evidence that the particular combination of nutrients and plant extracts in the particular concentrations contained in this product will prevent breast cancer. When given the opportunity to substantiate the “help prevents cancer” claim made for their product to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the advertisers were unable to do so. They argued that it is sufficient to show that some ingredients of the product used in isolation may have an effect – but even then, to the best of my knowledge and my own research, there is no individual “substance” that has definitively been shown to “prevent” breast cancer from developing in women at risk.

October is designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month internationally and nationally. The 2004 National Cancer Registry statistics show that the risk of developing breast cancer in South African women is 1 in 29 (Asian women 1 in 20; black women 1 in 53; coloured women 1 in 17; white women 1 in 14). The risk for South African men is 1 in 788 (Asian men 1 in 485; black men 1 in 1352; coloured men 1 in 662; white men 1 in 383). Early detection of breast cancer and a therapeutic excision biopsy (“lumpectomy”) can be curative if there has not been any metastatic spread.

To promote a product to “prevent” breast cancer without evidence must surely be considered by the reasonable person – but especially the reasonable woman – to be both irresponsible and reprehensible.

The ASA ruled against the advertising for the product on February 15 2012. Part of the original complaint had included a reference to Appendix F of the Code of Advertising Practice. Appendix F was a list of diseases and conditions – including cancer – to which no reference for products (treatment or advice) could be made in the advertising unless the products had been registered by the Medicines Control Council. At that stage it was generally unknown that the Board of the ASA had taken a decision on February 4 2012 to exclude Appendix F as it then stood, from the Code. The ASA Directorate ruling on Appendix F on February 15 was based on a Final Appeal Committee ruling of February 2 2012 which had determined that Appendix F did not apply to “prevention” of diseases. An appeal was made that because the very definition of a medicine included “preventive medicines” that Appendix F must apply to Breast Protection Formula™. This appeal was subsequently withdrawn. The ruling however remains in force.

The product complained of is still shamelessly being advertised, making the very same claims at:
(accessed October 6 2012)

Note: Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd has commenced litigation against the ASA itself. The brand “Solal Technologies” is owned and licenced by CAVI Brands. The CEO of Solal Technologies is a director of CAVI Brands, and the CEO of CAVI Brands is the chairperson of the board of Solal Technologies. The first in the list of the “values” espoused by CAVI Brands is: “Acting with integrity and transparency in everything we do.” I would argue that the continued promotion of Breast Protection Formula™ in and of itself, apart from having been ruled against by the ASA, is incompatible with “acting with integrity … in everything we do.”

Disclaimers: 1. I am under threat of litigation by Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd for alleged “defamation and the publication of injurious falsehoods”. I deny these allegations, and will not be gagged. 2. I am writing in my personal capacity. My views are not necessarily a reflection of the views of my employer, Rhodes University; nor necessarily the views of the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa, of which I am a council member.

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    • Claire

      Thank you for this. A very interesting article, not least because the list you cite for recommended users is pretty much every woman I’ve ever met.

    • Laurence

      Good for you. continue this campaign.


    • Toni Benoni

      Thats why in the USA and in Canada all vitamin fall under the drug and medicines councils. OUr minister is trying to do the same, but getting stiff resistance. Solal’s CEo would be in jail in these markets, but here he claim whatever he wants. The reason is simple. Traditional healers can claim what they want to, and medical aids actually have to pay for “traditional” medicine even though the clinical basis for using “healers” has been proven time and time again to be [email protected] If solar said “traditional sangoma breast cancer cure, they would be 100% in line with our banana republic regulations….

    • GrahamJ

      Fear is a great salesman. This product is clearly sold on fear. It is the least ethical message I have ever heard.

    • beachcomber

      Yep … although I try to eat and take as natural and organic products to support my health, I am also VERY aware of the for the most part unsubstantiated claims by “natural medicine” companies who carefully use terms like “may be beneficial”, “may be used for” …. when in doubt, follow the money.

    • David Beukes

      There is a very easy way to determine if a treatment being advertised to you is bullshit or not. Pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to advertise to the public in South Africa. If the product could be shown to have any efficacy whatsoever, it would not be legal to advertise it.

      Thus, if it’s being advertised, it’s bullshit. If you’re seeing it in a magazine, or hearing about it on the radio, it’s automatically snake oil.

    • David Le Page

      Well done on taking this action. Supplementation has its place – misleading claims about it do not. Solal should be deeply ashamed of its conduct – quack medicine.

      This is reminescent of the huge and tragically under-regulated “natural remedies” industry in South Africa of people preying on the hopes and fears of people living with HIV.

    • Slow K

      Solal and the medical practioners that promote these products should be ashamed. In fact, the sewers of the northern suburbs in JHB is polluted with this stuff, and other gimmicks. People buy hope, and charm sells.

      It is nothing other than medical quackery akin to the African Prince that brings back lost lovers.

    • Roy

      @ David – you’re partially correct. Any medicine registered as Schedule 0 or Schedule 1 may be advertised to the public. (Schedule 0 medicines may be sold in an “open shop”; Schedule 1 medicines or medicines containing a schedule 1 substance may only be sold in a pharmacy or by a registered health professional. Schedules 2 to 6 may only be advertised to health professionals.)

      Unregistered medicines are not by default “S0″ medicines. They are nevertheless subject to the Medicines and Related Substances Act (Act 101 of 1965). There are over 155,000 unregistered medicines on the market according to the Minister of Health (October 2010) that have not had any regulatory verification of any independent testing of their quality, safety or efficacy. These fundamental requirements for every medicine, of which “quality” is the most important, are simply ignored in the selling of products such as Breast Protection Formula(TM). This and all other “unregistered” medicines are, according to the Department of Health, a serious public health risk. The Department of Health euphemistically refers to complementary medicines as “not well regulated.”

      Serendipitously, the following article was published on 11 October 2012:

    • Lor

      Solal Breast Protection formula directly claims “Contains nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer”. They don’t even bother to put a “may” into the sentence: “may help prevent”.

      Quackery and false-hope peddling at its worst.

    • http://mailandGuardian Michael Naidoo

      thank you Professor Jobson for your brave stance – it’s time people stood up to snake oil salesmen – don’t worry about litigation – they don’t really want to go public with rubbish claims, and the negative fallout publicity from this will really hurt their bottom line.

      have you considered a complaint to the Public Protector?

    • Scott

      Well done, let’s all continue fighting bad science and false advertising.

    • Heather Auer

      Thank you for exposing this. Keep up the good work.

    • Liesl

      Keep on telling the truth, Roy.

    • Patricia Kwenaite

      The professor’s article and revelation has come just at the right time for me to do what is right to protect the vulnerable if possible. Sale of these UNTESTED and UNREGISTERED products in South Africa is on the rise. What is most irritating is that these unscrupulous sellers target mostly women, the sick and the uneducated. I am particularly referring to the DXN PRODUCTS distributed from no 35 Ntemi Piliso/ Commissioner Street, JOHANNESBURG for direct-selling.
      – these are capsules, claimed to have been manufactured from a certain type of Malaysian mushroom.
      – if that is the case why are the importers and distributors not keen to give details of their registration with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa. What causes more suspicion are the big amounts of dosages per day which users are encouraged to take – the more you take is the bigger the sales are.
      Names of doctors and specialists quoted who recommend these RG and GL tablets are in India, Texas, Nevada,etc and definitely none from South AFRICA.
      The million dollar question is WHY? Can somebody please advise as to what steps people can take to ensure that these so called medicinal products are tested and proven here in South Africa for quality and safety to our people. Where do they check if they are registered with all legal bodies.

    • Leanne

      Thank you for having the courage to stand up to this despite the threats.

    • Roy

      Some very interesting and informative comments about Solal’s Breast Protection Formula(TM) from David Gorski – surgeon and breast cancer scientist at:

    • Bronwyn Millar

      I would like to see some of your righteous indignation directed at the oncologists who continue to perform full mastectomies on patients even though evidence has shown that these drastic measures are not necessary and actually, extremely risky and harmful.

      What about the fact that a recent survey showed that 80% of oncologists would not use chemotherapy on themselves if they came down with cancer but they still prescribe it to all of their patients? Why? Because it kills more than it cures. Iatrogenic death is the 3rd leading cause of death in the states. I will take my chances with the supplements thanks. I doubt this harmless supplement has ever killed anyone.