Can We Prevent Cancer Instead of Curing It?

Written by Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

It’s October, and for most of us that means pink ribbons on t-shirts, products and food. I just walked past a popular food chain to find people carrying their salads in bright pink, plastic, to-go containers. Breast Cancer Awareness month should be commended; it has done a lot to bring breast cancer into the public forum, allowing people to share their stories and build community. But why is the conversation always about the cure and never the cause of cancer?

There are many reasons one may develop breast cancer, a delicate dance between our lifestyle, where we live, the food we eat, genetics and environmental factors like toxic chemicals. But what if we could eliminate one of those important and overlooked factors?

According to the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel, appointed by George W. Bush, “. . . the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.” If environmentally induced cancers are underestimated, how many cases could we prevent by simply removing toxic chemicals from consumer products?

Many of the products we use in our daily lives contain toxic chemicals that are linked to breast cancer and other health problems. A common chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), has become a household name. Commonly found in hard, polycarbonate plastic, food can linings and thermal receipts (think of the shiny receipts you get at the gas station), this chemical is ubiquitous.

BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is linked to a host of health effects including breast and prostate cancer, hormone disruption, insulin resistance, early puberty and more. (Here are some tips to protect your family from BPA.) So the question remains, how does a chemical like BPA get on the market in the first place?

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of chemicals used in our consumer products are not tested for safety before they are allowed on the market. Due to antiquated federal laws, we have little assurance that the products we have in our home are safe. The President’s Cancer Panel report even goes on to say that our government agencies are “failing to carry out their responsibilities” and concludes with specific recommendations for overhauling our nation’s out of date laws on toxic chemicals.

So what’s a person to do?

First, I encourage people to check out our quick tip guide. These are steps you can take to protect yourself (and your family) from toxic chemicals.

Second, and most important, we need everyone to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act. This bill passed its first committee in July and marked the first vote to update our laws on toxic chemicals in 36 years!

Third, we’re hosting a Healthy Families Day of Action today.

Here are several ways you can participate in our day of action:

- Ask candidates to reject Big Chemical’s agenda and support the Safe Chemicals agenda.

- Call both candidates campaign offices and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals agenda.

- Share action materials via social media. Visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter and share our action links and images that state “I stand with kids, not Big Chemical!”

- When candidates knock on your door, ask them where they stand on toxic chemical regulation and other issues that are important to you.

- Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper calling on all candidates to support protections from toxic chemicals. Tips for writing a letter can be found here.

At the end of the day, cancer awareness is incredibly important. I hope that we can work together to raise awareness and urge Congress to help us prevent cancer where possible. We shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in our consumer products. Lets join together for a healthier future!

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a coalition of over 450 organizations and businesses dedicated to protecting American families from toxic chemicals. Our goal it to pass strong laws in Washington that increase the safety of chemicals.

Related Stories:

Victory! FDA Bans BPA in Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups

Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need

50 Years After “Silent Spring,” What Would Rachel Say?


Photo courtesy of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families


Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

This is something we've got to think about and check out

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

and the final answer is??????????????

Angel Campbell
Angel Campbell5 years ago

By eaing the right foods and eliminating chemicals from your life yes you can prevent cancer.

Lynn C.
Lynn C5 years ago

Must come back and thank you for the quick list guide to living with less chemical exposure. Will print it for one of those families who are not very well informed about the stuff they're eating and maybe it will be helpful for the health of their beautiful little girl.

Lynn C.
Lynn C5 years ago

Thank you Lindsey. We need to be reminded and talk about this with family and friends. I'm always surprised when I realize how accepting of this poisoning of our environment the people of the country is. They really have little idea how much their lives are surrounded by this blanket of chemicals in our air, water and land. Then just because it doesn't happen immediately, they can't relate it to cancer and other heinous illness caused by these toxins, or more to the point, they don't know what to do about it.

Sandra C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Ken C...toxic chemicals as in Monsanto's Roundup, Genetically Engineered Corn, etc. and a host of other Corporate Giants offer and the FDA turns a blind eye to. As for the politicians taking anyone seriously, they can't as it stand now. The big corporate giants, Citizens United/Super PAC's, and Wall Street own this country. Think about that for a while instead of telling others it sounds like "nitpicking." I'd rather sound like a "nitpicker" than lay down without a fight. We need more nitpickers. We need people that are willing to stand up for this country and willing to fight Wall Street. Money = Power and so far they have it but we can also take it away.

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

Changing the equation for chemicals to be deemed safe before allowed to be put into the environment is also a key prevention element.

Tiffany Doan
Tiffany Doan5 years ago

As much as I appreciate organizations such as Susan B Komen for the Cure, I have never personally donated to them because their priorities are all wrong. PREVENTION is way more important that cure. If no one gets the disease, we won't need any cures. The research dollars should go to finding the causes, not just the risk factors, the actual causes. We have no idea what these are, only guesses. Preventing breast cancer and other diseases is the only way to eliminate them.

Desiree Ponton
Desiree P5 years ago

Although I realize that this won’t be a quick fix, steps must be taken to start getting away from the harmful chemicals, and people made more aware of the major benefits of eating better. It does need to be each person’s choice, but over time I believe people will slowly decide they want the benefits of eating better, for them and their families. It seems like an overwhelming mountain to overcome, but the battle has already begun. There are websites out there that raise awareness for eating better and they give great ideas for eating better without sacrificing taste. At least it is a start. Check out

Fadi M.
Fadi M5 years ago

This is called common sense, something we are being forcefully stripped off by the day because it is good and not profitable in the corporate world we live in today.