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Breast cancer: remove the pink blindfold


Caroline Lucas, EDM, elephant in the room, from pink to prevention, breast cancer, environmental causes, Why are preventable occupational and environmental breast cancer risks being ignored?

As we near the end of the global fundraising phenomena that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign group From Pink to Prevention is asking if environmental and occupational links to the disease are the elephant in the room.

Caroline Lucas MP has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) drafted by From Pink to Prevention calling upon the government to include environmental and occupational risk factors in all National Cancer Plans and strategies.

The main text is ‘That this House:

recognises the ever rising incidence of breast cancer in the UK, up by 64% since the 1970s; (1)

notes the considerable body of independent scientific evidence that connects a wide range of everyday environmental and occupational factors, such as carcinogens and hormone disruptors and night work, to breast cancer, including at least 216 chemicals to which women are daily exposed in their homes, workplaces and wider environment (2), (3) and 1,000 chemicals in regular commercial and industrial usage which can interfere with the endocrine system (4);

understands that  life-long and pre-birth cumulative and combined exposures to certain chemicals may also increase the risk of breast cancer (5), (6);

believes that, along with lifestyle causes, better treatment and care, women’s everyday exposure to environmental and occupational toxicants is the crucial missing piece of the breast cancer jigsaw and the public’s right to know demands urgent attention;

welcomes calls to action by leading public health bodies, the World Health Organisation (7), (8) , and the American Public Health Association, and their recognition of occupational and environmentally related breast and other cancers (9);

[and] calls upon the Government to support and act on primary prevention through the urgent inclusion of environmental and occupational risk factors into all National Cancer Plans and strategies.

We need to get as many MPs to sign it as possible, so please email your MP and ask them to support it.

And From Pink to Prevention is asking this BIG QUESTION of the breast cancer charities:

WHY do they persist in refusing to acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational toxicants by ignoring decades of evidence up to the present day on the link between our lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to toxics and the escalating incidence of breast cancer?

And this:

Why do breast cancer charities continue to focus solely on ‘lifestyle’ risk factors such as diet and exercise, while ignoring the potential 60 per cent of breast cancer cases for which they have no explanation.

And this:

What about the role of chemical, environmental and occupational exposures in this?

Better diagnostics and treatment is not mutually exclusive with looking at how our profoundly polluted environment, homes and workplaces impact on our bodies and health, while also taking into consideration the ‘precautionary principle’ – ie better safe than sorry.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that prevention – which is not the same as early detection – offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.

So why do we not see this reflected in the UK’s cancer plans and strategies?

Why is primary prevention – stopping the disease before it starts – not addressed equally along with better treatment and care?

Why are those with the power to influence decisions on breast cancer policy not acting on what we already know?

It is, as campaigners say, disturbing to discover the failure of leading breast cancer charities to inform women about all the risk factors, and they question the exclusive focus on lifestyle factors (alcohol, exercise and smoking) and the 10 per cent of cases linked to genetic factors, to the exclusion of the impact toxic chemicals are having on the health of every single one of us.

From Pink to Prevention has produced an online ‘tool-kit’ to help the wider public understand the nature of the problem we are facing – both in terms of the links between environmental and occupational risk factors as well as the inaction of those with the power to address it.

It includes an interactive webpage, PDF and poster which brings together some of the leading experts, writers and campaigners from across Europe (Belgium, France, Germany and the UK), USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines. Please share the toolkit!

As a first step it says it wants the annual awareness event renamed ‘Breast Cancer Prevention Month’.

And you can join the campaign to remove the pink ribbon blindfold:

Take a photo of yourself removing the blindfold and share on your Facebook page or via social media: Twitter @pink_prevention; Instagram – pink_to_prevention; Flickr group – From Pink to Prevention

Write to your Breast Cancer Charity to ask them the big question. Please send From Pink to Prevention a copy of their response. There is an example letter on the website. This is suggested text only – please feel free to adapt and personalise it.

Visit From Pink to Prevention’s Facebook page for a poster to share.

And click here and sign the petition.

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