Shades of Pink: Breast Cancer, Pinkwashing, and the Importance of Prevention

November 29, 2023 , 4:00 pm 5:00 pm EST

While finding cures for breast cancer is crucial, directing resources toward prevention will have a much larger impact on society by reducing incidence of the disease. Prevention efforts can decrease the occurrence of breast cancer, alleviating individuals from the physical, emotional, and financial hardships associated with the diagnosis. 

Research indicates that over half of cancer cases are preventable, with environmental chemicals playing a large role in their development. Given that many of these chemical hazards can be avoided, they represent opportunities for proactive prevention. In Alaska, female breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Alaska Native women. An increasing number of breast cancer cases cannot be explained by known risk factors such as family history, age or reproductive history.

ACAT recently released Protecting Our Mamaqs: An Environmental Health Toolkit for Breast Cancer Prevention, which is designed to train community health aides and other health care professionals about environmental contaminants that are linked with breast cancer. “Mamaqs” is the Yupik work for breasts – the title reflects our commitment to addressing high rates of breast cancer among Alaska Native people.

In this webinar, Nancy Buermeyer, director of program and policy at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, will discuss her organization’s work in eliminating toxic chemicals and other environmental exposures linked to the disease. For the last 3 decades, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners has been leading the way for science-based public education and policy advocacy to reduce the risk of breast cancer and other health harms liked to environmental chemicals.

Krystal Redman (KR), executive director of Breast Cancer Action, will discuss pinkwashing. This term, coined in 2002 by Breast Cancer Action, refers to situations in which a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, while at the same time manufacturing, producing, or selling products that are linked to the disease. KR will discuss Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign, which calls for more transparency and accountability from companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon propaganda.

February 4 is National Cancer Prevention Day and February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States? While it’s true that fewer children are dying of cancer than in the past, the rate of children being diagnosed with cancer has actually increased by 34% since 1975.

Because of the important work of leading scientists and health professionals, we know that toxic chemicals in the environment and in the places where children live, learn, and play are important risk factors for cancer, and that genetics alone cannot explain the rate of increase.

Due to the significant increase in the rate of childhood cancers, a team of over 60 stakeholders and leaders in the health, science, business, policy and advocacy sectors have collaborated on a the report: Childhood Cancer: Cross-Sector Strategies for Prevention.

This coalition seeks to establish a National Childhood Cancer Prevention Research Agenda and Plan to reverse the upward trend in childhood cancer incidence through a dramatic reduction of toxic chemicals, with a strong “all hands on deck” cross-sector approach to childhood cancer prevention.

“We do not know which of these 85,000-plus chemicals may be driving increases in the incidence of childhood cancers,” said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP, director of the Program in Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College. “We are flying blind with no instruments. We must act now on the urgent need to confront the rising incidence of cancer in America’s children. We need to launch a National Cancer Prevention Plan—a second front on the War on Cancer—a powerful program of intervention against the root causes of childhood cancer that will complement and sustain the great advances we have made in cancer treatment.”

Individuals can sign the CCPI letter of support here.

Organizations can sign the Joint Statement on Cancer Prevention here.

Read and share the report:

Watch our recent webinar featuring Dr. Landrigan, Global Human Health & Ocean Plastic Pollution.

Sign up for our February webinar: Will Humanity Survive Plastic Pollution? Toxic Impact of Plastics’ Chemicals on Fertility.

Download our free Healthy Pregnancy Guide or Healthy Baby Guide.

Join our global Coalition.