It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month so what better time than the present to learn more about it! Here are 5 things you may not know about breast cancer.
1. Before it was Pink it was Peach
Everyone recognizes the pink ribbon associated with breast cancer awareness, but how many know where it came from? It all began with Charlotte Haley, the granddaughter, sister, and mother of women who had battled breast cancer.
Determined to start a grassroots movement, Charlotte began making peach-colored ribbons in her dining room, attaching a card that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion; only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Charlotte distributed thousands of ribbons to local supermarkets and by writing to prominent women, including former First Ladies.
As breast cancer awareness was rising, Self magazine and Estée Lauder teamed up to create a Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue and envisioned a breast cancer ribbon displayed on cosmetic counters throughout the country, only to realize that someone had already done it. They called Charlotte offering her a partnership, but she turned them down because she didn’t want to commercialize her message. Charlotte designed the ribbon as a tool to inspire women to become politically active, not to sell products, many of which contained carcinogens in them.
Unfortunately, her dream was not realized as lawyers advised Estée Lauder and Self Magazine to choose another color. This is how the pink ribbon was born, and Charlotte Haley’s peach ribbon disappeared, overpowered by pink ribbons ever after.
2. Pinkwashing Is A Thing
You've heard me talk a lot about greenwashing, when companies make organic, ethical and eco-friendly claims yet continue to use ingredients and practices that are directly harmful to people and the environment. But, did you know brands pinkwash too? Pinkwashing is when companies claim to care about breast cancer by promoting products with a pink ribbon, and/or donating to breast cancer programs, while continuing to produce and sell products that are linked to the disease. To prevent yourself from getting pinkwashed, pause to ask yourself if the products you are purchasing contain toxins that increase your risk of breast cancer, and how much money is actually getting donated to breast cancer programs from your purchase.
3. Annual Screening Mammograms May Not Be the Answer
Women are frequently told that annual screening mammograms, those performed without symptoms present, save lives. The American Cancer Society recommends annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. However, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, it's estimated that a woman's false-positive risk after 10 mammograms is close to 50 percent, with the risk of unnecessary biopsy at almost 20 percent. It's also estimated that mammography screening has increased the number of mastectomies by 20 percent and the number of mastectomies and lumpectomies combined by 30 percent. A 17-year study in Denmark also concluded that screening mammography does not reduce the incidence of advanced tumors, however, it does increase the diagnosis of lesions that would never have led to health problems.
Now, to be clear, I'm not advising against your annual mammogram! But I am recommending that you become fully aware of the benefits, risks, and disadvantages of mammogram screenings so you can make the best decision for you.
4. Carcinogens are Abundant in Everyday Products
Environmental factors contribute to a large amount of breast cancer diagnoses. We know fewer women are dying of breast cancer today, but why are they getting the disease in the first place? There is much talk about pharmaceutical interventions and therapies, yet limited discussion about prevention strategies and causes. And while cancer organizations and doctors continue to say that there is not enough evidence to link chemicals in our environment, food, and products to cancer, I beg to differ.
- Skincare. Many chemicals used in personal care products such as parabens, phthalates, triclosan, fragrance, and PEGs have been linked to cancers. Studies have shown that continued use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants and deodorants are linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.
- Cleaning. Most cleaning products contain a number of ingredients on my ingredient watch list, including known carcinogens TEA, DEA, 1-4 dioxane, harmful fragrances, ammonia, and chlorine bleach. Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, it isn’t always as easy as checking our labels as most states don't require companies to disclose the ingredients in cleaning products. Even products marketed as natural often contain harmful toxins. Check out the Environmental Working Group Guide for product ratings. My go-to brand is currently Better Life.
- Plastic. BPA, BPS, and phthalates, found in many plastics, are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. These toxins can leech out when the plastic is heated. The best way to avoid these is to avoid single-use plastics and to heat leftovers on the stove or in glass containers.
5. Cancer is Often Overtreated
Scientists at Yale University analyzed data of thousands of breast cancer patients nationwide by dividing tumors according to their biological features. Many of these features could predict whether a small tumor would grow into a big one. What they found is that most don’t, and the ones that do grow so quickly that mammograms rarely identified them before patients could feel a lump.
Over the past several years, radiologists have learned to detect cancers as small as 1 millimeter. And, until recently, many researchers believed that breast cancers become life-threatening within three to four years of detection. However, the study revealed that most life-threatening cancers progress within a year or two, with many small cancers taking as long as 20 years.
Because breast cancer is often diagnosed among women in their mid 50-60s, it’s possible that these patients may never actually get cancer. Not only could the expense and side effects of treatment be avoided, but they would also save themselves a lot of mental stress. Fortunately, the Choosing Wisely campaign aims to raise awareness about overtreatment. It advises doctors not to provide more radiation for cancer than necessary, and to avoid screening for tumor markers after early breast cancer detection.
Just as it's important to be an educated consumer, it's equally as important to be an educated patient and to know and understand your options, as well as the latest research.
Love + Light,
P.S. To celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month we are offering 20% off our organic Deodorant Paste. Enter code: BREASTCANCERPREVENTION at checkout to save!