by Allyson Drosten-Brooks
Our country is currently facing a breast cancer epidemic. More women have died of breast cancer in the last 20 years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. Breast cancer used to be seen predominantly in postmenopausal women but now it is the second leading cause of death in women age 25-54.
What’s going on?
Increasing evidence shows environmental factors are to blame. Breast cancer rates are much higher in industrialized countries such as North America and northern Europe than in developing countries. According to State of the Evidence 2006: What Is the Connection between the Environment and Breast Cancer?, a report that summarizes more than 350 studies on the environmental links to breast cancer, “Compelling scientific evidence points to some of the 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today as contributing to the development of breast cancer, either by altering hormone function or gene expression”.
Some chemicals of concern are those that mimic estrogen in the body. Scientific evidence has shown that higher exposure to estrogens over a woman’s lifetime leads to a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The culprit? Hormone-containing personal care products. Parabens, a common ingredient found in lotions, shampoos, and other cosmetic products, are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function.
Pinkwashing: a term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to the rising rates of the disease.