Last week, I published the first half of my discussion about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink Ribbon Problem, Part 1: “Pinkwashing” the Truth. Please check it out, if you haven’t already, since understanding both the history and the current forces at work helps paint the complete “pink” picture.
Note: There was an issue with that post back-dating from Oct. 1st (the actual publish date) to Sept. 27th, so those of you in the blog community using the WordPress Reader may not have seen it in your feed, unless you were scrolling way back! I found the cause of the glitch, so it shouldn’t happen again!
In that post, we saw how “awareness” does not equal prevention, when it’s being handled with the underlying assumption that breast cancer is inevitable. That being the case, the “awareness” we truly need is the awareness of cancer’s preventable causes, and of the actions within our power that can help reduce our risks.
After reading Part 1, I hope you’re in agreement that enough is enough! The only one with the power to protect you is you. Plain and simple. So, what can you do?
Well, simply recognizing that you can do something is the most important step! You can take control of your health and your breast cancer (and other cancer) risk starting right now. (Even if you are facing hereditary risk factors for this disease, you cannot give up – in that case, you have an even greater calling to take control over every risk factor you can.)
Of course, there are the common tips, ones that get discussed openly simply because they’re “easy targets” to fault people for violating if they get cancer! But, no doubt, these factors do affect cancer risk, so heeding them is prudent:
- Maintain a healthy weight (here’s one guide).
- Get active! Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (read more).
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit alcohol consumption to max 2 drinks per day for men or 1 per day for women (keeping in mind that risk increases proportionally with the amount consumed).
However, like I hinted at in Part 1, there’s way more to it, which gets swept under the rug and stamped with a pink ribbon. The media won’t talk about carcinogens. Cancer awareness programs won’t talk about carcinogens. But I will.
Carcinogen exposure comes from almost everything you contact: air, water, food, and everyday products. Pollution is a major source of carcinogen exposure, but the way everyday items are manufactured (including food and personal/beauty products) makes them dangerous too. Anything you consume internally is paramount in this battle, but things used externally are equally relevant to cancer risks. If it touches your skin, its chemicals absorb into your bloodstream in under a minute – soaps, lotions, nail polish, perfume, hair products, makeup, etc. Ingredients commonly found in products made by The Big Name Brands, I’m sorry to say, are carcinogens.
So, here are important ways to reduce your carcinogen exposure:
- Eat organic. Everything conventional (not organic) is dosed with unbelievable amounts of carcinogenic synthetic pesticides, like Monsanto’s Round-Up. If nothing else, mind your Dirty Dozen (the items that are typically the worst-contaminated) and at least buy those items organic. (See my post for more on organic vs. conventional.)
- Avoid GMOs, since GMOs are genetically modified to withstand higher doses of those carcinogenic pesticides, or even to produce their own insecticides (!) as well. Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly logo, or buy organic (organic = non-GMO). (Check out my post about understanding GMO vs. non-GMO.)
- Focus on limiting your daily exposure to toxins in your beauty, personal care, and cleaning products. We’re “trained” to ignore ingredient lists – a dangerous error. Having a basic understanding of ingredients to avoid is key. It’s easier than you think to clean up your stash, and you can start learning right here on my site, from my posts on those topics. (And, check out apps that can help you make better choices!) Don’t overwhelm yourself by switching everything all at once – do a couple items at a time.
- If you’re not already filtering your tap water, start now. The list of toxins added to our water (like chlorine and fluoride) is abysmal, and other dangerous contamination can occur too (lead, mercury, pesticides, etc.). You can make a big difference even just using a Brita or Pur filter to reduce/remove many contaminants (except fluoride and chromium-6, unfortunately). See my post about chlorine safety, and this post for more about the recent chromium-6 issue.
- Ditch the scrips. Consider meeting with a holistic practitioner to see if you may be able to treat the underlying causes of your condition, and get off prescriptions in favor of managing your condition holistically. Cancer is a listed potential side effect of many prescription meds, even for conditions which aren’t life-threatening! (Ladies, being on birth control is another risk!)
- Limit processed foods, and focus on whole foods. The more processing that occurs, the more chemical junk gets put in. This especially includes “low cal/low fat” items. Opt for foods closest to their natural state.
- Avoid artificial anything! “Artificial flavor/fragrance” are umbrella terms, produced using chemical cocktails that can contain any number of unspecified toxins, which are undisclosed to consumers by using such vague terms. Artificial colors (especially caramel color), sweeteners (like Splenda), and preservatives are also all chemical junk!
- Reduce/eliminate intake of meat (especially red or processed meat) and dairy. The U.S. government keeps quiet on this, because they subsidize both these industries (a whole other discussion in itself). Regardless, these foods affect cancer risk. (Note that meat/dairy are being linked to higher prostate cancer risk too.)
- Reduce intake of refined sugar, as it’s inflammatory, and strains the immune system. Plus, cancer cells have more insulin receptors than normal cells, and uptake glucose at faster rates than normal cells. They unfortunately wait to tell people this until they’re already battling cancer.
- Reduce/eliminate intake of soy. Soy mimics estrogen, and higher levels of estrogen are linked to higher breast cancer risk.
- Avoid drinking/eating from plastic containers (especially hot food). If you still use plastic, buy only BPA-free, and do not expose it to heat (like in a dishwasher), as that encourages the breakdown and release of toxins. Do not microwave food in plastic containers! Ditto for styrofoam too! Read more about plastic’s dangers. (We eliminated 95% of plastic in our kitchen, opting for glass or ceramic, including Pyrex storage containers instead of plastic ones.)
- Opt for reusable glass or stainless steel travel beverage bottles. Not only are they more eco-friendly, but safer than drinking from plastic. Sorry, Tervis!
- Try to buy food items in glass jars rather than cans, due to the risk of BPA and other chemical liners used to prevent corrosion. If buying canned, look for BPA-free cans.
- Include as many anti-inflammatory foods and spices in your diet as possible, as inflammation is usually a precursor for many cancers (and other chronic illnesses).
- Lean toward intake of alkaline foods, while avoiding acidifying foods. Tending your body toward the more alkaline end of the pH spectrum can help prevent cancer, since cancer thrives in low-oxygen, acidic environments. Here’s an article to get you started.
- Don’t forget to detox! Eat foods reputed for their detoxification abilities (some may claim this is mumbo-jumbo, but these foods are delicious additions to meals anyways, so hey). In addition, drink lots of (filtered) water and eat plenty of fiber for helping eliminate toxins efficiently through bodily waste. And, don’t underestimate the power of working up a good sweat – it also detoxes!
Last, but not least, I think it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of the “traditional” prescribed yearly mammogram regimen. On one hand, we’ve got big-name cancer organizations stuffing mammograms down our throats and saying that the benefits outweigh the radiation risks, but on the other hand, there are screening alternatives growing in use which are safer and (said to be) even more effective.
Mammography is a very, very broad topic, and I encourage you to do your own thorough research before making screening decisions.
Circling back on “Pinktober,” allow me to clarify that I’m not against cancer research. While I find it exceptionally frustrating that alternative medicine is not included in this formal research (like the power of cannabis oil and coconut oil in cancer treatment), I’m not anti-funding. However, I encourage you to be wary of how you go about that funding.
This October, please “pink wisely”! Don’t buy products with a pink label on them if they’re products that contribute to cancer risk! Everything from KFC to toxic makeup gets covered in pink ribbons – oh, the irony. Remember, companies that manufacture junk food or junk beauty products clearly don’t care about their customers’ health – why should they be able to exploit the pink ribbon by making it a marketing ploy?
Buying other products with pink ribbon packaging (ones that do not profit from or directly contribute to cancer rates) is certainly fine to do if you choose, but only when you can clearly see the information about the donation. You need to know:
- How much is being donated [what % of each sale, and if there’s a cap on the total donation amount]
- When it’s being donated [i.e. sales from when to when are being included]
- To whom it’s being donated [which specific organization(s)]
If you don’t see (or can’t easily find out) that information, then you shouldn’t be bamboozled by what’s probably just a marketing ploy.
You can also consider making direct donations to the organization of your choice. There are many, many more organizations out there than the super common big names like Susan G. Komen, so please look into it!
There too, with a direct donation, information should be disclosed regarding how exactly your money will be used. Here’s an article discussing the issue with duplication of cancer research efforts, including what you should know before donating (like if they’re researching causes too, not just cures).
One such organization, which I discovered while writing this, one that actively pushes for identifying causes, is Breast Cancer Action. If you’ve seen anything from ThinkBeforeYouPink.org, that’s their program. A big plus of this organization is that they are not connected to the corporate or pharmaceutical-funded research agenda!
Another good one is the Breast Cancer Fund, which also focuses on avoiding toxin exposure as a preventative measure.
I sincerely hope that both parts of this post helped shed some light on aspects of Breast Cancer Awareness Month that you hadn’t known about before. The rabbit hole goes very deep, so always consider who stands to profit.
Likewise, I hope that my tips can be a catalyst for you taking control of your own risk factors. Remember my motto: every change counts! I welcome you to browse my site, since I’m chock-full of tips for making better choices!
Finally, I’d like to close with a very pertinent quote:
“Companies that swath their brands in pink, claiming to care about breast cancer while producing or selling products that expose people to chemicals linked to the disease, are doing untold damage to efforts to prevent breast cancer. I’ve had enough of the all-American sport of marketing pink to cover up poison.” – Jeanne Rizzo, President & CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund
Wishing you healthier, happier days, my friends.
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