Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month May Have Ended, but We Can Still Spread Awareness and Prevention!

With October here and gone before we knew it, the famed “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” has come to a close.  Less than a month ago you could not go anywhere without seeing a pink ribbon, but now the various items in your local shops with pink ribbons on them will slowly disappear off the shelves.  Unfortunately, awareness of the disease will also seem to lose steam with some.  So while Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an important 31 day rally, we think awareness AND prevention should be recognized all year round!
Something I found interesting was that in spite of all of the donation drives and awareness efforts taking place, the rate of breast cancer in this country has steadily increased over the last 40 years.  How could this be true? 
One take is that perhaps all of these pink ribbons and the billions of dollars going into the campaigns are at the root of the issue.  Medical sociologist Dr. Gayle Sulik’s book Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health argues that the pink ribbon campaign has moved the disease to a superficial level and actually serves to distract the public from the reality of breast cancer and the need for prevention.  Dr. Sulik adds that there is a lot of money to be made off of a campaign as large as the pink ribbon one—going so far as creating a strong incentive not to stop the disease.  For many, this is a hard pill to swallow, especially because the pink ribbon campaign is so optimistic in nature.
Of course, the pink ribbon campaign is not all bad for the public.  In fact, it has done some great things for awareness about breast cancer.  Particularly in the beginning it was able to inform and mobilize people and bring attention to a disease that has since affected millions. But to some the campaign lacks a clear direction that will have an actual impact on stopping breast cancer.  
Dr. Sulik argues that the in order to really have an impact on this disease, much more attention and resources need to be paid to the environmental links to breast cancer.  In an interview with, Dr. Sulik shed some light on the state of breast cancer research stating that
There's already a lot of focus on behaviors that influence risk factors—eat right, exercise, limit alcohol intake—but only 30 percent of all breast cancer cases are found in people who have these known risk factors.  So, for 70 percent of the cases, we don't know what causes it.  That creates this false impression that by doing certain things, you'll prevent breast cancer.  But in 70 percent of cases, there's a lot of evidence that the environment is having a lot of influence.
There is a growing field of research looking into the affects that environmental chemicals have on breast cancer and our health in general.  A recent report from the Breast Cancer Fund looks into the links between the chemicals in our environment and breast cancer.  Janet Gray, the author of this report, concludes that data on this issue is sufficient to warrant serious concern about the chemicals around us.  Furthermore, it is important that the practical implications of this research be disseminated to the general public so that necessary lifestyle changes can be made.
The most recent report from the Breast Cancer Fund found that the following factors may increase the risk of developing breast cancer: plastic agents like BPA and phthalates, pesticides, radiation from CT scans, x-rays, and mammography equipment, and flame retardant chemicals.
Knowledge is power.  This information can help us control what chemicals we interact with and thereby make healthier decisions about our lives.
Here is a list of tips that will reduce the chemicals in your environment:
·         Buy organic, this goes for food as well as products such as makeup, fragrances, and cleaning supplies.
·         Avoid any products made of vinyl.
·         Replace your old and crumbling furniture.
It is important that we are all aware of the risk of breast cancer and start to place more of a focus on prevention—but without losing site of continued awareness!  
~ Jessica
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