Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Single Ribbon Pink
I couldn't let the month of October slip by without getting on my soapbox about "Breast Cancer Awareness Month."  There is risk in criticizing this month and the associsated hype.  Many people either have had breast cancer or have had family and/or friends suffer from this terrible disease so they are very emotionally tied to the idea of finding a cure - and rightly so.  In my own family, both of my mother's sisters and my father's sister have suffered from this disease.  However, I cringe when I see pink ribbons on clothing, products, banners, or posters.  Why?  Because since so many people have links to breast cancer, most people are already aware of the disease.  We don't need more awareness, we need a cure and, more importantly, prevention.  

Buying a bottle of fingernail polish or a pair of jeans will not create a cure.  First of all, the companies that advertise that they donate a portion of sales from their pink ribbon products put a cap on those donations.  So, not every purchase funds research.  In addition, some of those items are more expensive than the identical, but non-pink ones.  This means that consumers and not the corporations are actually making the "donation."  Lastly, the monies that do go to research, go to companies that are developing more treatments (i.e., chemotherapy) and will make a very tidy profit from those treatments.  And even if these companies did find a cure, wouldn't it be better if we discovered how to prevent breast cancer in the first place?  

Looking around the modern world, one need not venture beyond one's own home to discover a plethora of carcinogens.  The awareness we need is to learn that carcinogen means "cancer causing."  So much of our food and possessions are either created with carcinogenic chemicals or contain them.  For example, parabens have been found in the tissue of 99% of breast cancer victims.  Parabens are found in antiperspirants, fingernail polish, and other personal care and cosmetic products.  Growth hormones given to cows, and thus transmitted through the beef we eat and the milk we drink, have also been linked to breast cancer.  Various studies throughout the years have linked BPA, pesticides, aspartame, and other chemicals to breast cancer.  Yet these carcinogenic products still remain on the market.  In the European Union, over 1300 chemicals have been banned.  In the US, the FDA has banned 11.  (Check out the Organic Consumers Association and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to learn more.  This article by Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is very telling.)

I resent it when organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure continue to call early detection "prevention" - it's not prevention once someone has the disease, no matter how early you detect it.  And early detection has skewed the survival statistics.  Finding breast cancer earlier than in past decades means individuals are aware of the disease for a longer period of time.  Thus, even if they do not survive the disease, because it was detected earlier, it appears as if the survival rates have increased.

There is money to be made on breast cancer.  Moving beyond awareness - and the search for more of the same type of treatment - would mean identifying and removing from our environment the products that trigger the cancer in the first place.  The problem is, there is no profit in that.  I think we would give more honor to victims of breast and other cancers by focusing on prevention rather than by buying a pink product.  The awareness we need, is awareness of what is really happening behind the ribbons.  And maybe what we really need is "Carcinogen Awareness Month."


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

My TV is taking a lot of verbal abuse this week between the vice and 2nd presidential debates, and now the 5 Hour energy drink PINK lemonade breast cancer awareness commercial.

EcoGrrl said...

Always love when you bring the "pinkwashing" to light - so much that I've tweeted this post. Good stuff, good reminders.

The Walmart / Yoplait commercials for BC awareness is my current annoyance. Yoplait is full of corn syrup - I wonder how many people even look at the ingredients in yogurt to realize how many are not simple dairy products.

Keep on keepin' on...

Cherie said...

Shona, I'm so glad I don't have TV anymore. :)

EcoGrrl, I buy just plain yogurt and mix it with homemade granola and sometimes fruit. A few months ago I was tempted by and bought a "fruit" yogurt, only to get it home and discover it had aspartame! Grrr...

EcoGrrl said...

yep, when i get a craving i do the same, only thing is i hate the plastic packaging, so i now consider yogurt a 'treat' kind of like tropical fruits like bananas (those because of the carbon miles), until i learn how to make my own :)