Tipping Point North South and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention are partnering on a new campaign designed to increase the level of debate and public awareness concerning one issue – breast cancer and its links to the wider (polluted) environment.
October 2015 saw us build on our Open Letter in the Spring, to Breakthrough Breast Cancer (now called Breast Cancer Now) concerning their refusal to accept environmental links to breast cancer, and signed by a number of campaign groups.
For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 16 organisations and networks (UK/EU, USA, Philippines) signed our petition calling for breast cancer charities to acknowledge the every growing body of evidence linking environmental and occupational risks to the disease.
We have now set up a petition at Change.org where the general public can learn about our call and sign.
You can also visit our new dedicated site for latest campaign news and information
Environmental and occupational links to breast cancer are hardly discussed yet they are a vitally important element of the wider picture if we are truly understand this disease – now at epidemic proportions where more and more women face a diagnosis of breast cancer. Far too many women lose their life to the disease and so we need to ask the question: ‘are we doing the very best we can to ensure the debate addresses ALL possible causes of the disease?’
The answer is ‘no’. The time has come for all the key players – cancer charities, industry, drugs companies and government – to recognise the role of environmental factors in this complex disease. This means doing something about it. In other words,‘prevention’.
Figures released by the WHO show that the incidence is growing rapidly around the world, including increased incidence in the developing world. Despite the overwhelming presence of the Pink Ribbon and all its (global) attendant activities, this aspect of the breast cancer debate still remains hidden from view. There are many reasons for this – many ‘barriers’ to understanding true prevention – stopping the disease before it starts. We consider ‘vested’ interests to be part of this – and this is an area of work we are exploring as part of our ‘From Pink To Prevention campaign’.
From Pink to Prevention
From Pink to Prevention is a new initiative formed in 2013 by Deborah Burton (Tipping Point North South), Helen Lynn (Alliance for Cancer Prevention) and Diana Ward (Working Group on Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer). It draws on our campaigning expertise over the past two decades in drawing public, media and political attention to the issues of environmental and occupational links to cancer – especially breast cancer. Initially, at the Women’s Environmental Network, through work on Putting Breast Cancer on the Map which began in 1996 through to the publishing of Breast Cancer: an Environmental Disease (2005) by the UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer and the development of their campaign No More Breast Cancer.
From Pink to Prevention follows up the work started at the No More Breast Cancer Campaign – created as a result of our document ‘ Breast Cancer, an environmental disease’. In that document, we explained our belief that there were many ‘barriers’ to understanding primary prevention ie stopping the disease before it starts.
Why it Matters – breaking new ground and speaking out
Included in that ‘barriers’ list was vested interests. We consider these to be a major barrier to getting primary prevention onto the public and political agenda. From Pink to Prevention will raise this issue which is profoundly absent from the breast cancer debate. It is precisely because vested interests are a relatively unexplored, diffuse and covert field of enquiry in relation to breast cancer prevention, that we believe this work should be undertaken and why it is worthy of a campaign-style focus.
We aim to explore and reveal what some of these key ‘vested interests’ are and the potential impact of them on cancer policy, from government through to the cancer establishment. This would include a retrospective look at the type of responses from the cancer establishment to reported science and research on links between environmental and occupational exposures and cancer; and then to compare this with responses to research citing lifestyle factors as the main cause of cancer. From Pink to Prevention aims to provide readily accessible and thoroughly referenced information for the general public with simple but innovative actions that can take to bring about positive change.
From Pink to Prevention activity 2013
More on Pink Ribbon Inc below.
- Ground breaking ‘Toxic Tour’ and links to cancer, Central London.
Cancer Prevention: A Toxic Tour June 2103
No running, no fundraising – just a ‘what do you know?’ tour giving you the lowdown on why we need to tackle environmental and occupational links to a disease that affects an increasing number of women of all ages. The alternative tourist-health walk takes in green spaces, shops and parliament. It will give you a whole new perspective on how you can learn more and influence the key players in the breast cancer debate in the effort to get them to take on board a much ignored aspect – the environment around us, from our first environment the womb, through our work and lived environments. By address the issue of breast cancer prevention we will look at all cancers connected to environmental and occupational exposures. Talk led by six expert speakers.
Full Transcript here.
From Pink to Prevention 2014
We aim to raise awareness around our ‘barriers to prevention’ (9 in all) – a framework for understanding why environmental and occupational links to breast cancer are marginalised in mainstream debate.
Leading on from this, we intend to investigate and identify specific areas that constitute our primary key ‘barrier’ – vested interests.
Connected to this, to take a retrospective look at the type of responses from the cancer establishment to reported science and research on links between environmental and occupational exposures and cancer.
And to fold all this work into specific ‘call to action’ campaign activity with our partners here and across the EU.
Finally, we also plan to host more film related events – including new work coming from the African continent on this issue.
Film: Pink Ribbons Inc
As part of our work in 2103, we worked with the film ‘Pink Ribbons Inc.‘ – a film which reveals the extent to which corporations have ‘hi-jacked’ the breast cancer debate in order to benefit commercially.
Samantha King, author of the book Pink Ribbons, Inc., suggests that the big players in the cancer establishment have boards of directors with representatives from the pharmaceutical, chemical and energy industries. It is thus almost impossible to separate the people who might be responsible for the perpetuation of this disease from those who are responsible for trying to find a way to cure or, even better, to prevent it.
While Pink Ribbons, Inc. doesn’t seek to undermine those who gain hope, strength and a sense of community from pink ribbon fundraising, it does ask critical questions about the industry and the pink ribbon brand.
In the film Pink Ribbons, Inc., King reflects: “It wasn’t until Reagan came to power that we saw explicit policies designed to shift responsibility for health and welfare from the government towards private entities, philanthropic organizations, along with the encouragement specifically for corporations to participate in that.” Or as Reagan himself said, “A buck for business if it helps to solve our social ills.”
The term pinkwashing is used to describe companies associating with a cause that people care about in order to increase their sales and to market pink products. Breast cancer is the poster child of cause marketing. The irony is that many of the products sold, specifically cosmetics, perfumes, plastics and petrochemical-based products, contain ingredients linked to breast cancer.
“The evidence is overwhelming on the impact environmental and occupational exposures have on this disease,” says Dr. Jim Brophy, one of the experts interviewed in the film. “Very little of the resources are going to looking at pesticides, combustion products, plastics, petrochemicals and solvents, many of the things that millions of women are being exposed to every day, either in the general ambient environment or their workplaces.”
(Read Helen Lynn’s full review/article of the film here.)
Background & Key Information
‘From Pink to Prevention’ has its roots in a ground-breaking report written in 2005 by the UK Working Group on Primary Prevention, with lead author Diana Ward.
Breast Cancer: an Environmental Disease (2005)
If you would like to know more about breast cancer and the case for primary prevention, please read the report Breast Cancer: an Environmental Disease (2005) by UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer. Although the report is published in 2005, the underlying case to be argued remains the same. This report was the first comprehensive review of its type on environmental links to breast cancer.
Why are more and more of us getting breast cancer?
The From Pink to Prevention campaign wants the link between breast cancer and everyday exposure to toxic chemicals taken seriously. Breast cancer cases have continued to rise. Yet fewer than 50% of cases are attributed to acknowledged ‘risk’ factors – age, obesity, late-age pregnancy, late onset menopause. In the UK, government, industry and mainstream cancer organisations consistently marginalised this aspect of the debate. We argue that lifelong, low-level exposure to the cocktail of hundreds of toxics and hormone-disruptors in our everyday lives – from pesticide residues in food to chemicals in consumer products and in the workplace – is linked to ever-rising rates of the disease. As part of this, we want the British government to mark a new approach by ensuring the substitution of all carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals with safer alternatives, as soon as they are available.
An ever rising number of diagnoses.
- Around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, including around 4,500 in Scotland.
- Each year, about 5,800 additional women (including more than 450 in Scotland) are diagnosed with an earlier (non-invasive) form of breast cancer, called in situ breast carcinoma. These are confined to a specific area of the breast (usually milk ducts) but may later develop the ability to spread.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the UK.
- One in eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
- 12,000 women a year will die from breast cancer (UK).
- Around 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, including around 25 in Scotland.
Source: Breakthrough Breast Cancer 2013
- Incidence rates have risen from 1 in 12 in 1995 to 1 in 8 now.
- Working night shifts more than twice a week is associated with a 40% increased risk of breast cancer, found a long term study published online on 28 May in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Johnni H, & Lassen, CF. Nested case-control study of night shift work and breast cancer risk among women in the Danish military, OEM, Online First, 28 May 2012, doi 10.1136/oemed-2011-100240
- While survival rates have shot – your survival are 95% in year 1 – they drop to 77% after 10 years. (Source CRUK)
- Cost of breast cancer in the UK breast cancer £1.5bn (encompassing economic losses, health care costs, and the burden of unpaid care). (NCRI) (BBC news Nov 2012)
For every 500 women screened for breast cancer, only 1 life will be saved and 499 others will be given what could be a damaging dose of radiation.
- 4000 women receive unnecessary treatment
- Over diagnosis and over treatment can’t distinguish between harmless cancer that would never give symptoms and those that are dangerous.
- Screening does not cut breast cancer deaths by 30%, it saves probably one life for every 2000 women who go for a mammogram.
Lifelong, low level exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals
- There are 800 chemicals which are known or suspected of interfering with our hormones.
- Breast Milk: 300 synthetic chemicals have been discovered in human body tissues and secretions including breast milk. (WECF briefing)
- Between 137 – 232 toxic chemicals have been found in the umbilical cord blood form new-borns. 132 of these reported to cause cancer in humans/animals, 110 toxic to brain or nervous system, 133 cause developmental and repro problems in mammals
- Chemicals found include BFR’s used to make products flame retardant, PCB’s which were banned in Canada in 1977, PFCs found in non-stick coatings and organochlorine pesticides.
- All of earth’s inhabitants have the right to gestate in a healthy environment free from toxic chemicals. Chemicals that are capable of travelling into the placenta have no place in any product, any workplace or any environment.
Source: Helen Lynn Wildcard Research; Facilitator Alliance for Cancer Prevention.
June 19th, 2013
June 29th, 2013
From Pink to Prevention Walk ~ Cancer Prevention – A Toxic Tour (Central London)
To learn more, go to Resources.
From Pink to Prevention’s website.