BEFORE YOU PINK
by Whit Gibbons
October 15, 2006
Do you think
environmental issues only concern snail darters, spotted owls, and other
feathered, finned, scaled, or furry animals? Think again. If you're a
woman, or if you have a mother, sister, wife, or female friend you care
about, here's an environmental concern you should be interested in: the
growing incidence of breast cancer. "Think before you pink"
is a slogan that relates to this issue.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The traditional emphasis is on
teaching women how to detect breast cancer in the early stages and to
get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Annual mammograms are recommended
for women over 40 or for younger women with a family history of breast
cancer. The Breast Cancer Action (BCA) Web site (www.bcaction.org)
also considers the problem from another angle.
knows that pink is the color associated with breast cancer. Besides making
a verb out of a noun, "to pink" refers to wearing pink ribbons,
contributing financially to breast cancer research, and buying products
that help support efforts to eradicate breast cancer. The BCA appeal to
"think before you pink" urges people to give in-depth consideration
to how to reduce breast cancer in the country rather than simply wearing
something pink or contributing money to the cause and giving it no more
thought. In other words, think about how we might reduce fundamental sources
of breast cancer.
A 2002 worldwide
survey identified breasts as the most common site in the body for cancer
in women, twice as high as the next most common, uterine cancer. Even
more alarming is that, according to one source, one in 20 women was at
risk of getting breast cancer 50 years ago. Today the odds are one in
eight! The BCA Web site mentions increasing evidence "that various
environmental toxins are contributing to our high rates of cancer and
other diseases." The site advocates decreasing "the use and
production of environmental pollutants in an effort to stop the increasing
rates of cancer."
promotes education programs to alert the public, including local elected
officials, to the link between environmental pollution and cancer and
to inform them of ways to minimize exposure to toxic chemicals in the
environment. Resistance to banning the use of certain environmental pollutants
can be expected for economic reasons. A company making a high profit margin
in sales does not want to concede that their product does more harm than
good. An agricultural endeavor having higher productivity because of a
specific chemical does not want to hear that it is no longer available.
certain chemicals probably do more harm to the many than they do good
for a few. The BCA cites a report that identifies certain known, probable,
or possible causes of cancer that we all recognize. Fumes from combustion
of diesel fuels, compounds in pesticides and prescription drugs that disrupt
hormone function in the body, and antibiotics or growth hormones used
on poultry, cattle, and pigs are a few of them. Any one of these has a
low probability of causing a particular incidence of cancer. But the cumulative
effect of synthetic chemicals that we inhale or consume cannot ultimately
be good for us.
are identifying potential industrial sources of environmental pollution
linked to cancer and attempting to curtail or limit their production.
A major thrust of the "think before you pink" campaign relates
to retail sales that feature pink ribbons with the promise of contributing
to the cure of breast cancer. BCA suggests we ask a merchant selling products
under the pink ribbon banner several questions Two seem particularly pertinent:
"To what breast cancer organization does the money go?" Second,
"What is your company doing to assure that its products are not contributing
to the breast cancer epidemic?"
A final question
is, "Before I buy these products, can you assure me that they are
as beneficial to women with breast cancer as they are to your company?"
Learning to detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer in the early stages
will always be critical. But it's also important to "think before
you pink": ask whether a particular product is benefiting society
overall or just making a profit for the company, and perhaps causing cancer.
you have an environmental question or comment, email