Posted by in wellness

Think Before You Pink

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.

Many corporations today run campaigns to raise money for breast cancer awareness, which is great. But where is that money going? Avon claims to be the largest corporate supporter of the breast cancer cause in the US. Estée Lauder’s Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, known as “The Power of a Pink Promise” and Revlon’s 5K Run/Walk are high-profile efforts to raise money for the cause. The problem is that all 3 of these companies opposed a California bill that would require cosmetic companies to disclose their use of chemicals linked to cancer or birth defects. In a 2005 report including a list of “Top 20 Brands of Concern” based on toxicity, the Revlon and Estée Lauder brands were ranked 8 and 9 on the list, respectively. None of the three companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to remove hazardous chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives. Instead, they fight to keep the cosmetic industry unregulated.

Seems strange that these companies refuse to address that their products contain ingredients linked to breast cancer, all the while presenting themselves as leaders in raising money for the cause. If these companies were authentic in their support for the cause, they would take steps towards using safer ingredients instead of defending their use of hazardous chemicals. Jeanne Rizzo of the Breast Cancer Fund puts it best: “It points out a lack of sincerity about the issue. They chose breast cancer because it’s women and that’s their market”.

Rizzo does point out that having an iconic symbol like the pink ribbon is not a bad idea. For many women, wearing the pink ribbon and participating in community events is important and validating. But the pink ribbon focuses on “awareness” and “hoping for the cure”, not prevention. With a disease as widespread as breast cancer, step one should be preventing women from getting the disease in the first place. After prevention comes detection and treatment.

The co-founder and major sponsor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is AstraZeneca (formerly Zeneca), the world’s third largest drug company and manufacturer of the cancer drug tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed breast cancer drug to date. When National Breast Cancer Month was created in 1985, Zeneca was owned by Imperial Chemical Industries, a multi-billion-dollar producer of pesticides, paper and plastics. In 1990, the company was named in a federal government lawsuit for allegedly dumping DDT and PCBs into the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors.

What we have here is a serious conflict of interest. AstraZeneca, a spin-off of one of the world’s biggest manufacturer of carcinogenic chemicals, not only has control of breast cancer treatment and chemoprevention studies, but control of the message of National Breast Cancer Month as well. The message? Focus on early detection and treatment. Detection and treatment are undeniably important for women who currently have cancer but the message does not address the equally important factor of preventing women from getting breast cancer in the first place. They make the chemicals and run the treatment centers. No wonder they don’t tell you about breast cancer prevention.

While it seems that at first glance cosmetic companies with pink ribbon campaigns and pharmaceutical companies with treatment options are committed to supporting breast cancer awareness, why won’t they promote prevention? According to the Think Before You Pink campaign, pink ribbon campaigns actually do more for a company’s profits than they do for the breast cancer cause. Even the American Cancer Society has exhibited questionable behavior towards cancer prevention strategies. They are frequently quoted in the press urging cautious interpretation of evidence linking chemicals to breast cancer stating “there are real uncertainties about animal studies”, despite the fact that the US National Toxicology Program says animal studies on phthalates (a harmful chemical found in many personal care products) are likely to predict negative reproductive effects in humans.

Cancer is everywhere and it has become everyone’s problem, but everyone needs to be part of the solution too, especially wealthy corporations who brand themselves to breast cancer. Before you purchase a “pink ribbon” product, ask yourself a few things. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic? To what breast cancer organization does the money go and what types of programs does it support? How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

We want to win the fight against breast cancer but to get there we need to start with prevention. Take the necessary steps to remove hazardous personal care products from your daily routine. Support and donate to campaigns focused on preventing the disease. And of course, don’t be fooled by the pink ribbon packaging.

Allyson the Assistant



21 thoughts on “Think Before You Pink

  1. Carole

    Great article, Allyson! It’s amazing how much money we spend trying to find a “cure” for cancer. The cure isn’t in a pharmaceutical drug. If we’d clean up our act – and our world – we wouldn’t subject ourselves to the cause. Shame on the companies that use these hormone disrupting chemicals!

  2. Pinky

    Wow, great article. Really good point—power of the purse. Another additive in cosmetics and shampoo that is awful is aldehyde, in any of its many forms. Nasty stuff to be putting on one’s body to ‘beautify’ it! It stinks, too.

  3. Nourishing Nancy

    So much information is coming out now about every topic imaginable. Humans are ready for the truth now apparently. Time to ask corporations to take note of that fact. Wonderful job on this article! I’ll be sharing on my facebook page and may do a post on my blog about it. Shikai is a nice shampoo brand….I will check for aldehyde now though. Good gosh, I’m going back to coconuts and a stone.

  4. BEAU

    GREAT ARTICLE… girl has mad writing skills!!!! This was definitely worth all the work you put into writing and research.

  5. Critical View

    While Allyson Drosten-Brooks makes many supposedly factual statements, she has rendered her article worthless. When making statements of such importance, supporting references must be made. Otherwise, the article becomes just another rant.

  6. Delhi Nutrition

    Great article enjoyed..
    Delhi Nutrition site is providing information about products, related with
    Pure Organic and plant based Nutrition & Wellness Products for Good Health:
    -Weight loss plan
    -kids Nutrition
    -Women Health product
    -Vitamin and Minerals
    We also provide FREE Health & Nutrition Consultancy.
    Organic Nutrition store

  7. Nurse Martha

    What the author leaves out is that abortion increases your risk for breast cancer acknowledged by the National Institute on Health, Dr Louis Brinton. The use of estrogen, aka the pill also increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer. The World health Organization has called synthetic estrogen, female steroids, the #1 carcinogen.

    Komen won’t tell you that. How can they when they support the nation’s number one abortion provider. It isn’t about saving lives, if it were, it would be about prevention, not a cure.

  8. Rawganoman

    To Critical View. Since when does the truth need back up references. If the content concerns you, do your own research, and get back here, and share it with us.
    Of course, if you are a ‘sock puppet’ for Big Pharma, and others, your small minded job is done here.
    If the latter is untrue, then my apologies
    Relating to the content, ‘blind Freddie’ must see what is happening with cancer, and the treatment of. 60 odd years of research, billions of dollars, 1000’s of scientists, and they are still using treatments they had 50 years ago. And they don’t work, or have about 3% effectiveness. (this is documented)
    It took science about 12 years or so, and way less money, to land a man on the moon.
    ’nuff said here.
    C’mon ‘blind Freddie’, lets go and have a cuppa!

  9. Fooled No More

    Both this article and the other one about the chemicals found in our commercial cosmetic products is profoundly astonishing to say the least! Ironically I had recently been doing some research about common chronic diseases like breast cancer, lupus and diabetes. I am NO expert but I do pay attention to what goes on around me and it would only seem logical that when supply and demand went up – the companies that manufacture our commercial items like soap, lotion and make-up had to find a way to get it to the public faster and be sure the ‘shelf life’ would be last longer. I have long since known that scientific tampering with our everyday products and other services are major contributors to our sudden decline in health and the exploding number of people getting cancer. Can’t we not see the common denominator here? We all eat some form of processed food (in a can, box, or fast food item) and are consumers of other commercial products. From food to shampoo to technology. It’s all become too synthetic for our naturally organic HUMAN systems.
    I said all that to bring me to this point, I watched a few documentaries about Dr. Max Gerson and his theory about how to cure many chronic diseases. This doctor discovered a cure (by accident) for most of these diseases back in 1928! When he migrated to the US from Germany in the 1940’s – the US government suppressed his research and labeled him a ‘quack’. All because he was about to ruin their big plan to make lots of money off of gullible American citizens using pharmaceuticals and other deadly treatment plans. ‘Prevention’ and ‘Cure’ are two things the pharmaceutical companies are not in the business of. Otherwise they would be out of business for sure.
    People, we CAN prevent the harmful effects of our modern day consumptions. We can start by spending more time in our kitchens cooking our own meals, reading product labels to ensure the safety of ingredients, researching ingredients found in what we consume and quit giving our money to fast food places that are KNOWN to serve items not worthy of being called ‘food.’
    Check out videos [and books] online for Dr. Max Gerson’s theories and make your own decisions about your health. Medical doctors are trained to practice MEDICINE and know less about the human body than Sean and some of the other wonderful experts he and his team have introduced to us over the years. I commend Sean, Allyson and the rest of this wellness team for being on the right track and I appreciate their diligence in informing the public for FREE- where possible (they do have to make a living). I thank them and the many other folks out there like them that will share their knowledge for free. Without them – we would all still be misinformed about so many things we could never have expected a physician or a government regulation department to share with us in truth! (Documentary Names – “Dying to have known” , “The Gerson Miracle”, and “The Beautiful Truth”)

  10. Eileen

    This is precisely why I don’t wear those pink ribbons as a breast cancer survivor. This post is exactly how I feel about the whole pink washing nonsense…it is pure hypocrisy! I give my money to the society of integrative oncology and

  11. Jeanmarie

    Well done, thank you very much. Prevention through good nutrition and pure water, air, and products.

  12. Cody Zediker

    Thank you for an additional terrific article. Exactly where else could anyone get that kind of info in like a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m around the appear for such details.

  13. Paola Criley

    Hi there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  14. Sharon

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! For years and years I would attempt to tell people that the REAL war on cancer is done BEFORE it happens – in prevention. Trying to tame a lion once its let of of its cage is MUCH, MUCH more difficult than taming it contained in its cage. And cancer in many ways is like an untamed animal.

    We have been lulled into thinking that all this pink ribbon hoopla is somehow helping with number of breast cancer deaths on the “decline”. I know first hand how those new statistics are ridiculously skewed. I have had 2 sisters and a mom die from this disease. One of my sisters died within 3 years of diagnosis and was considered a victim of breast cancer. The other sister who managed to live for 14 years ( of very poor quality) and eventually died from the disease is considered a breast cancer survivor because she managed to live past the magic five year mark. Survivor? Hmmmm – sure sounds good on paper, but passing away from a disease is passing away from a disease no matter HOW many years past diagnosis. Facts are breast cancer is on the rise. More needs to be done in the area of educating people on basic things like lifestyle, stress and eating habits. Much of our food in North America hardly has the right to be called food anymore.

    Interestingly… grandmother had breast cancer. Back then they weren’t so free to blast your immune system with poisonous mustard gas or radiation. She didn’t have any of that – just the double mastectomy. She lived for over 20 years past diagnosis and died of other causes at a ripe old age in her late 80’s. Breast cancer wasn’t even an issue for her other than the initial diagnosis.

    I am so glad to see this kind of information come out into the light. The whole pink campaign sends shivers up and down my spine. Such clever marketing when you pull on the heartstrings of uniformed generous people to open up their wallets for industry profit. Does wearing a pink ribbon somehow magically equate to “something” being done in the war on cancer? Oh, something IS being done alright….but that something includes money…a lot of money and unfortunately too often if you follow the money trail it leads to corruption and deceit. Keep spreading the word.

  15. sw

    What about the effects, having an abortion has on women? There is a direct correlation between abortions and breast cancer.

  16. debborah

    Views of medical organizations
    A number of major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, World Health Organization and the United States National Cancer Institute have analyzed larger studies regarding induced abortion and breast cancer. Their uniform conclusion is that there is no causative link between induced abortion and breast cancer.[6][10][11][20]

    The American Cancer Society noted with concern that: “The issue of abortion generates passionate viewpoints in many people. Breast cancer is the most common cancer, and is the second leading cancer killer in women (lung cancer is the first). Still, the public is not well-served by false alarms. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer.”[27

  17. Beth

    Who do you work for Critical View? Revlon? Allyson- please submitt a few references so that this guy/gal can’t discredit your hard work and Powerful Message that all Americans are aware of but need more education. Knowledge is Power! This would be a great Documentary-Interview the companies like Revlon and Avon….go to the Breast Cancer Awareness races sponsored by these companies and interview the corporate volunteers. Let’s hear what they have to say? Could be very interesting! The thought of these woman who survived the Battle Blindly running in these races for the cure sponsored by companies like Avon is just plain SAD!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *