Thinking Pink (and Green) During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month, a month which is particularly close to my heart. I lost my incredible Mom to a 17 year battle with breast cancer in 2010. I wear my pink ribbon with pride all the time, but when October rolls around, I become a slave to all pink ribbon marketing. Water bottles, calendars, can openers, bags of lettuce and yogurt cups with a pink ribbon on it – you name it, I buy it. I went so far as to start a “Think Pink” awareness week in college, which fueled my pink ribbon passion further.

While “thinking pink” is a great idea, many breast cancer researches recommend “thinking green” as well. While the definition of environmental breast cancer is broad and encompasses almost all factors leading to cancer other than genetics (such as obesity), traditional “environmental protection” factors, such as exposure to chemicals, have been linked to an increase risk of cancer. Chemicals such as BPA, BBP, and TCDD, found in products as common as plastic water bottles, have been linked to genetic mutations that later cause increased cancer risk. We should take something from these studies – maybe the pink ribbon water bottle should also be BPA free. The building that installs pink floodlights during October should be cleaned with chemical-free products, and the bag of lettuce and cup of yogurt should be produced without hormones and pesticides.

Considering only 10% of breast cancer cases are estimated to be purely genetic in nature, other factors should be remembered, especially during breast cancer awareness month even if there has been no definite link between these factors and human instances of breast cancer. Why take the risk? I am not saying a picture of a forest or pandas in the wild need to replace the pink ribbon, but am saying that it may be smart to think pink and think green when discussing breast cancer prevention.

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