Updated Oct. 23, 2012 – 3 p.m.

A seemingly routine vote to authorize the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team to host a “Volley for the Cure” event last week sparked a brief, but lively discussion at the District 208 school board meeting on Oct. 9.

Volley for Cure was an event that benefits the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, a group that raises money to fund breast cancer research and other activities.

The school board voted 6 to 1 to waive admission fees for the Oct. 18 home volleyball game against Morton High School and instead encourage people to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation. A pink ball was used in the match and players wore pink T-shirts during warm-ups and used a pink volleyball in the match.

School board member Dr. John Keen, a radiologist, objected to hosting the event and cast the only vote against participating in it.

Keen, citing an article in a medical journal, said that Komen uses deceptive advertising and vastly oversells the benefits of routine mammography for women.

“In my opinion, we’re subsidizing an organization that is unethical,” Keen said. “We’re basically subsidizing this organization, and perhaps we don’t really need to subsidize them. They don’t quite tell the truth about everything. That’s what bothers me.”

The article in the August issue of the medical journal BMJ that Keen gave to the Landmark concludes that the benefits of routine mammography are not nearly as clear cut as Komen’s advertising claims. The article states that routine mammography leads to false positives and overdiagnosis.

“For every life saved by mammography, around two in 10 are overdiagnosed,” the article states. “Women who are overdiagnosed cannot benefit from unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. All they do is experience harm.”

The article claims that Komen advertising routinely overstates the benefits of routine mammography.

“Women need much more than marketing slogans about screening: they need – and deserve – the facts,” the article states. “The Komen advertisement campaign failed to provide the facts. Worse, it undermined decision making by misusing statistics to generate false hope about the benefit of mammography screening. That kind of behavior is not very charitable.”

Without getting into the details of the debate over mammograms, board member Laura Hruska said that she favored supporting something that the students cared about.

“It’s important to them,” Hruska said. “They’re asking us for approval so that they can do this. … It’s a philanthropic endeavor, and I think we as a board should really support our students when they identify these areas to do this kind of philanthropy.”

Keen challenged Hruska, saying that he saw no evidence that the impetus for this came from the volleyball players.

“Where is your evidence that this is driven by students,” Keen asked. “Komen is marketing all this stuff.”

Hruska suggested asking Principal Pamela Bylsma for her opinion about whether volleyball players were really interested in Volley for the Cure.

Bylsma said that she has attended Volley for the Cure events the past two years.

“They do get excited about wearing the T-shirts,” Bylsma said.

Four years ago the volleyball team hosted a Volley for the Cure event and donated $6,812.74 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, according to a memo from head girls volleyball coach Dan Bonarigo.

This year Bonarigo hoped to raise $5,000, in addition to whatever is donated at the door. There was a split-the-pot raffle, and the team sold pink logo T-shirts, raffled off the pink game balls and held a bake sale.