Monday, October 5, 2015

Think Before You Pink

Today would have been Verna’s 51st birthday and she died from breast cancer, so allow me to rant about October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I hate breast cancer awareness. Who isn’t aware of breast cancer and how it has affected our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends, and children?

We don’t need more awareness; we need more money for research especially into metastatic breast cancer, the rates of which have basically not changed over the years.

Instead of blanketing everything pink—from football goalposts to baseball bats to ribbons and balloons everywhere—why not look at the ways in which we can reduce the incidences of cancer that are often attributable to products from companies who tout their high level of awareness?

For example, the Personal Care Products Council in concert with the American Cancer Society hold free workshops and donate free beauty care products for women with cancer. However, many of these products have either been linked to cancer or have been shown to thwart breast cancer treatments, according to Breast Cancer Action. Methylparaben, for example, has been found to interfere with the cancer drug Tamoxifen.

The organization that raises my ire the most is Komen, probably one of the most well-known cancer “awareness” organizations on the planet. But less than 20% of the money they raise for their host of well-known activities goes to breast cancer research. They promote pink drill bits for an oil company. As the Washington Post reported, “More than 700 chemicals are used in the process of drilling and fracking for oil and gas. In a study of about 350 of those chemicals, researchers found that up to half can cause health problems, including nervous, immune and cardiovascular symptoms. More than one-third can disrupt the hormone system. And a quarter of the chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde, increase the risk of cancer.”

Another example, noted Amy McCarthy in Bustle, is Campbell Soup, “In 2012, Campbell’s Soup became the target of significant criticism after it turned many of its famous soup cans pink to support These pink soup cans, most contaminated with bisphenol-A (BPA), a suspected carcinogen with scientific links to breast cancer, helped generate over $800,000 in donations to in 2006. At the same time, Campbell’s was selling millions of cans of soup, generating over $755 million in revenue across all the company’s brands. In 2012, Campbell’s made a big announcement that they would be removing BPA from cans. In what many health bloggers called a great victory, Campbell’s managed to punt the issue until at least 2015, likely because they still don’t know how to produce close to 95% of their canned goods line without using BPA.”

So spare me, please, all these efforts to pinkify the universe with often well-intended concern for breast cancer awareness. My wife died five years ago, five weeks shy of her 46th birthday, and breast cancer continues to be pervasive in part because corporations and companies make cancer-causing products. And not enough money is being allocated to find a cure. How many more wives and mothers and daughters and sisters and friends have to die before we think before we pink and start doing the right things?

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