Breast cancer awareness: What the pink ribbon ignores

Are environmental issues the cause of breast cancer?You may have noticed one or two, or a kazillion pink ribbons commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Screening is the primary focus this month. Most activities rally around the Susan G. Komen for the Cure battle cry, “Early detection saves lives!”

Is screening the most current and critical message out there?  Or does tunnel vision on detection and treatment deter us from the elephant in the breast cancer living room; environmental toxins. Unlike family history, these are within our control.

The raw truth is that over 50% of breast cancer cases have no known risk factors.


Link between environmental toxins and breast cancer

In 2007, the Silent Spring Institute conducted the most comprehensive review to date of scientific research on environmental factors that may increase risk of breast cancer.

After a group of research powerhouses identified 216 chemicals that cause mammary tumors in animals, they emphasized the need for better assessment in humans. They argued for integrating these findings into policies that govern chemical exposure. Silent Spring Institute executive director Dr. Julia Brody stated, “We have a great opportunity to save thousands of lives by identifying those links, limiting exposure, and finding safer alternatives.”

What are we waiting for?

The precautionary principle of public health

This principle states there is a responsibility to protect the public from harm when scientific investigation has found a possible risk, not absolute proof. The one doing potential damage is responsible for taking action while uncertain science continues to explore alternatives.

It’s an approach that concentrates on prevention rather than cure.

It says, “Hey, maybe we should stop exposing people to synthetic estrogens and chlorinated hydrocarbons until we know more. Better safe than sorry!” It’s pure common sense.

A call for action

I am a big fan of personal responsibility. It is my job to reduce my risks by not living life like a drunken sailor. Considering my family’s legacy of breast cancer, I will also continue routine screenings despite my misgivings about mammogram efficacy.

But I want to see awareness campaigns take a proactive stand in educating the public about household and occupational toxins that might actually cause more disease than individual lifestyle and family history.  I’ll leave the “why” this isn’t happening up to the more well-versed, anti-“pinkwashing” advocates. If you’re interested, check out KomenWatch or Breast Cancer Action, to name a few.

Kudos to the breast cancer awareness movement for making great strides in women’s health. But science has been pointing us in a new direction and the message is still getting lost. Time for mainstream advocates to take the next step in “awareness” and include environmental risk factors in the rally.

The link between the environment and breast cancer?

Want to learn more? Visit these sites. Please share any new or more current information you find!

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About Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer with nearly 20 years of experience in community health education, non-profit program management and mental health counseling. Amy works on projects that promote greener, healthier living through pragmatic approaches. She is an avid fan of reality therapy, small town farmers markets and dishing out home cooking with unsolicited advice. You can also follow Amy’s adventures in realistic wellness.

  • Solargroupies

    There’s an old saying that goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It seems like it would make a lot more sense for Komen and others to focus on prevention rather than throwing money at an out of control epidemic.

  • Robin Adler

    You make some great points in this post that I really agree with! Why all the focus on “awareness” and not on prevention? It all comes down  to profiits… which is really sad for the millions of women who could actually have prevented their disease by being more educated as to the controllable risk factors.

  • Joe Mohr

    Not to mention–producing all of the plastic pink trinkets and BC awareness shirts is probably causing cancer as well. The pollution from plastic production and conventional cotton growing send immense amounts of cancer-causing toxins into our environment.
    Less pink, more think…says I!

    • Amy Johnson

      Good point Joe. The ingredients to their new Promise Me perfume are pretty scary too. 

  • Donna L. Creamer

    PINK LIES !!!!!
    The American Cancer Society claims that after all the money spend on research for a cure there is still none to be found.
    PINK LIES!!!!!
    I have a list of cures and I am 21 months Cancer free from Stage 4 Stomach Cancer. I used only diet and nutrition…no chemo, radiation or surgery.
    I’ll share the info with any that WANT the TRUTH. Donna L. Creamer on Facebook or

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  • Breast Cancer Awareness

    “Prevention Is Better Than Cure” and to prevent breast cancer, we should create awareness about breast cancer causes and symptoms.

  • Donna L. Creamer

    Prevention starts with proper nutrition. Cancer cannot grow in a body with the proper PH balance.
    Start with “The Macrobiotic Way” by Michio Kushi if you really want to prevent any cancer.
    The benefits are amazing!

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