Pink Ribbons Can’t Prevent Breast Cancer, But We Can
This is a guest post from The Breast Cancer Fund
Turn on the TV and you might see football players covered in pink, leaping across pink ribbon-bedazzled fields all in the name of a “cure” for breast cancer. Purchase moisturizer or lipstick and you might see a pink ribbon slapped on the packaging, even though the product contains ingredients linked to breast cancer. In October, or Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pink ribbons are everywhere.
Yet all of this pink ribbon awareness has done nothing to decrease actual breast cancer rates. One in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime, and we’ve seen a whopping 40 percent increase in just a generation.
The projected cost for breast cancer care and treatment in the U.S. for 2013 is $17.7 billion, and costs are projected to go up to $18.1 billion in 2014. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. If the football teams in their pink helmets were losing that badly, the fans would leave the stadiums, and the owners would be scurrying to find new coaches and players.
But the losing streak can be reversed. A recent report written by a federal advisory committee of leading breast cancer experts found that identifying and eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer presents the greatest opportunity to prevent the disease. More than 1,000 scientific studies — and more every day — show links between toxic exposures and breast cancer. Carcinogens can be found in products that we use all the time, from cleaning products to plastics, from furniture to shower curtains, and more.
Of particular concern are exposures to chemicals that disrupt the body’s hormones — chemicals known as endocrine-disrupting compounds. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an endocrine disruptor used in some plastics, the lining of food cans and sales receipts. Another example is a class of chemicals called phthalates, which are used to soften plastic and can be found in synthetic fragrances.
Ionizing radiation is also linked to breast cancer, and exposure from medical imaging such as X-rays and CT scans has increased by about 600 percent since 1980. CT scans and other procedures contribute to this vast increase in exposure because they deliver high doses of radiation (one CT scan has the equivalent exposure of about 100 chest X-rays). Evidence strongly suggests that these medical procedures are an important and controllable cause of breast cancer.
So what do we do with all of this scientific evidence? Turn it into action to prevent breast cancer. If the big breast cancer organizations focused as much on prevention as they do on “awareness,” it would create a seismic shift in focus for the breast cancer movement. That’s what the Breast Cancer Fund’s Beyond the Pink initiative is about. Thousands of people in our community have pledged to take action to prevent breast cancer before it starts.
Erin is one of those powerful voices. She has faced her own breast cancer diagnosis and heads a support group for young survivors. She has watched 13 vibrant women die in the past year. “I’m Beyond the Pink because what we need is not anymore so-called awareness. What we need is action. What we need is prevention.”
Heather Buren, a firefighter, wonders if the unusually high rates of breast cancer among her colleagues is linked to the toxic chemicals they’re exposed to in burning buildings.
Raise your voice and help pave the way for the future of the breast cancer movement. Pledge to go Beyond the Pink with us. Once you take the pledge, you’ll receive a toolkit full of information on how you can avoid toxic chemicals in your home and when you’re out shopping.
Together we can go beyond the pink and change the odds for women everywhere.
The Breast Cancer Fund works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock