Everywhere you look this month someone, somewhere, is selling breast cancer awareness – on the football field, at the gas station, the bank, the cosmetics counter, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, of all places!! (Despite the fact that we know that overeating of fast foods leads to obesity, a major risk factor for breast cancer.) That last one is an alliance that smacks of breast cancer UNawareness if you ask me and I’m not the only one saying so…. indeed there’s a big difference between awareness and action. Isn’t it time to go beyond “pinkwashing” to cleaning up our act, i.e., making the lifestyle improvements scientists tell us can make a dent in this disease: like losing/or maintaining a healthy weight, eating foods that are not sprayed with pesticides or shot up with synthetic growth hormones, getting enough sleep, exercise, and balance in our lives to stay ahead of the curve and steer clear of breast cancer.
Early detection and treatment while still the cornerstone of cancer control have not yet yielded the results we want: a dramatic reduction of risk or eradication of this disease in our lifetime. For all the billions of dollars raised each October for breast cancer research, some experts say that the risk of surviving malignant breast cancer is not significantly different today – about 1 in 3 – than it was 50 years ago when the only treatment was mastectomy. We know that a huge number of breast cancers are linked to poor lifestyle, poor diet, obesity, high stress, use of HRT, and hormone imbalances (estrogen excess in particular) – risk factors that scientists call “modifiable.” In other words – preventable – yet out of the entire National Cancer Institute’s research budget, less than 10% is allocated for research into PREVENTION.
I raised this issue with the grocery checkout gal the other day when she urged me to ’round off’ for breast cancer research. “I will contribute my spare change and ’round off’ for breast cancer when they start to prioritize prevention,” I said, ” the more breast cancer we prevent, the less we will need to treat.” She stared at me like I was a terrorist of some sort…. “Oh, I’ve never heard anyone say that before.” Really? she had never heard anyone talk about preventing breast cancer in the first place? Maybe not. Dr. John Lee, the pioneering physician who defined “estrogen dominance,” states on the very first page of his penultimate breast cancer prevention book that “talk of prevention is virtually non-existent.” Since the book was written in 2003, paying lip service to the P word has picked up along with the rising cost of health care, the Women’s Health Initiative, and a growing number of ‘actively aware’ researchers, educators, medical professionals, patients and health care consumers. Breast cancer rates are dropping in tandem with the decreased use of synthetic HRT, more people are balancing their hormones naturally, eating organic food, and exercising in some way, shape or form. There’s even a movement to stop calling October breast cancer awareness month and name it breast cancer prevention month instead. Touche, what are we waiting for? Since Dr. Lee died eight years ago yesterday, that unfortunate figure of one in eight women who will develop breast cancer in her lifetime hasn’t budged. Enough pink already, stats like that make me see red!
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, by John R. Lee, M.D. and David Zava, PHD. Anticancer: A New Way of Life, by David Servan Schreiber, M.D., another excellent book on the subject. Visit the best website on the subject: www.theseventhwoman.org – a must read for the wise woman.