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10.1.2013 7:51 AM

5 'Beyond the Pink' Facts about Breast Cancer

A new Breast Cancer Fund campaign urges a switch from breast cancer awareness to prevention.

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Breast Cancer Fund Beyond the Pink Campaign Logo

By Dan Shapley

October has been so well-branded as Breast Cancer Awareness Month that pink has all but replaced Autumn's reds and golds as the color most associated with the month.

But the Breast Cancer Fund believes that we are now fully aware of breast cancer, and need to shift the conversation "beyond the pink" (#BeyondThePink). What it means: It's time to act on research that might make traditional backers of some breast cancer awareness campaigns uncomfortable, and start both urging women to avoid exposure to chemicals that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer, and fighting for better national policies on research and education focused on prevention of the disease.

Despite the increase in awareness, the non-profit advocacy group points out, there has been a 40 percent increase in breast cancer diagnoses. While the complex stew of genetics and environmental factors that trigger disease is far from fully understood, there's enough evidence, this group contends, to avoid chemicals found in common products in the U.S. marketplace, ranging from certain personal care products and household cleaners to most canned goods, which are commonly lined with a hormone-mimicking chemical, bisphenol A.

With most low-level chemical exposures from products like these, there's no research that demonstrates any one chemical definitively causes the cancer, but more often suggestions of links in laboratory animal studies between exposure and increased risk of developing certain cancers. The fact that we're all exposed to so many chemicals on any given day also makes it difficult to tease out the influence of any one chemical alone, given some exposures might magnify or mute the effects of others.

On the policy side, the group says that just 10 percent of federal breast cancer research dollars are directed toward environmental factors and prevention.

Here are the facts underlying the campaign:

  • Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in their lifetime.
  • Most breast cancers occur in people with no family history, suggesting that environmental factors are likely to play a significant role.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer in the United States, and the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide.
  • Black women experience the highest death rates from breast cancer despite lower incidence rates than white women.
  • Breast cancer incidence rates in Asia and Africa have increased dramatically in recent years.

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