October has been Breast Cancer Awareness month since 1985. In the coming days, pink ribbons will emerge in abundance, symbolizing the efforts of educational and fund raising events that take place to find the "cure", and offering hope to those already diagnosed.
These local and national events will generate millions of dollars. As the "Race for the Cure" continues, how can women incorporate preventative measures into their daily lives? Prevention is the hope that you will not be one of the growing numbers of women being diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Women are repeatedly told that "early detection is the best protection". Early detection is vital if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but this is not the same as prevention. While researching for this article, I realized that "early detection" is often confused with actual "prevention".
Sue Macleod, a breast cancer survivor and health care professional, observes that since the petro-chemical era of the 1930's, the incidence of breast cancer has risen from 1 in 50 women to 1 in 8 by the year 2000. To date, research continues to explore the links between breast cancer and the environment. The study, "State of the Evidence: What is the Connection Between Chemicals and Breast Cancer?" presented by the Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action explores and summarizes the research about links between breast cancer and the environment.
The document points out that we can no longer ignore the increasing evidence that repeated exposure to certain chemicals are contributing to the rising incidence of breast cancer each year. Chemicals such as parabans, pesticides, cleansers and pharmaceutical drugs act like estrogens in our bodies. This is troubling, because a woman's vulnerability to breast cancer increases as her lifetime exposure to estrogen increases.
The mounting evidence linking synthetic chemicals to the rising rates of breast cancer is empowering women to make healthy choices in their everyday lives. These choices are preventative.
What can be done to prevent breast cancer and minimize risk?
*Choose 100% pure, synthetic chemical free cosmetics. Individuals can make healthy choices regarding the personal products they use daily. Many of these, including lotions, cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners, contain chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer. According to industry estimates, on any given day, a woman may use as many as 25 different cosmetic and personal care products containing more than 200 different chemical compounds. Avoid rubbing these toxic cocktails into your skin by choosing healthy, organic and natural products.
*Be a more informed consumer. Ask critical questions about "pink ribbon promotions" before you purchase a product. The cosmetic industry has been criticized for raising money for breast cancer research by promoting products that may actually contribute to the rising tide of breast cancer. See www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org for ways to demand safer products from cosmetic companies.
*Include high dietary intake of carotenes: dark leafy greens and green and yellow produce. *Eat foods rich in Vitamin E and Selenium: sunflower seeds, freshly ground wheat, olive oil, flax oil, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. *Reduce consumption of animal foods that contain hormones, such as milk, chicken, beef, and pork. *Increase consumption of organically grown foods. *Create sufficient consumption of Vitamin D: sunlight, 10 minutes daily; sardines and tuna. *Discover what really moves you and keep moving: gardening, yoga, dance, walking, etc. *Reduce or eliminate the use of plastic containers for food storage. *Avoid unnecessary radiation; radiation is cumulative over a lifetime. *Avoid using pesticides (weed killers, insecticides, etc) in your yard or home.
Join community action groups that support organizations that are investing in research that focus on cause and prevention. Support the "race for the cause".
So when you see those pink ribbons emerge this month, consider that they proclaim "Prevention is the Cure". Laura Weinberg, co-president of The Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition says it best, "The old pink ribbon is hope for the future. This pink ribbon is saying there is something we can do today."
Resources: Breast Cancer? Breast Health, Susan Weed State of Evidence, www.bcaction.org, www.breastcancerfund.org Pathways to Prevention, The Breast Cancer Fund Stop Cancer.org Cancer risk: Could beauty products have an ugly side? Sue Hutchinson, San Jose Mercury News, September 20 2005. Use With Discretion, India Statesman, Women's Feature Service, September 4, 2005 ### Pamela Cronan-Maddox, herself an ovarian cancer Survivor, is the visionary and president of The Alchemist's Apprentice, Inc. www.alchemistsapprentice.com., an online apothecary dedicated to providing 100% pure, organic and healthy personal care products.
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