October is nearing its end and, so too, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now that we’ve all pinked-up our level of awareness of breast cancer, allow me to increase your awareness a bit more. Some of the more unpleasant breast cancer facts that might not have been included with your receipt when you purchased that darling pink teddy bear, Breast Cancer Barbie or glittering rhinestone ribbon pin – some of the facts that won’t be found on the underside of those pink yogurt lids you’re saving are these:
-excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer among women
-a woman’s current lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 7; in 1980, the risk was 1 in 14 (See the difference twenty years of “awareness” campaigns has made?)
-black women are more likely to die from breast cancer
-more than 50% of breast cancers occur in women with no identifiable risk factor other than age
-only 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to inherited gene mutations
-breast cancer kills (despite the relentless campaign to celebrate survivors) at a rate of one woman every thirteen minutes
-mammograms do not prevent breast cancer and miss over 25% of all breast cancers
-low income breast cancer patients have 5 year survival rates 9% lower than higher income patients
-74% of women with health insurance report having had a mammogram in the past two years. Of women without health insurance, only 40% had mammograms
-uninsured women and those on Medicaid are diagnosed later and are 30% more likely to die
-of 100,000 chemicals in commercial use, 90% have never been tested for human health effects
-48 chemicals in use today are known to induce mammary tumors in lab animals
-non-industrialized countries have lower breast cancer rates than industrialized countries, and women from non-industrialized countries who move to industrialized nations acquire the breast cancer rates of the industrialized country
Yes, a “cure” for breast cancer is needed, but too much of the pink flag waving awareness campaigning is distracting us from other avenues of research and political action. The poor outcomes for low-income women, for instance, suggest a socio-economic correlation that deserves more publicity and study. Lack of health insurance affects the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed and is linked to higher mortality rates. The suggestion of links between environmental factors and breast cancer are strong. More research into possible environmental causes of breast cancer must be accomplished.
How many of the corporate pink ribbon campaign sponsors do you suppose are working towards universal health care, or restrictions on the dumping of toxic chemicals into our air and water?
Tomorrow . . . results of my email inquiries to corporate sponsors of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the meantime, check-out these neat-o, super cool ideas for pumping up your level of pinkness to passionate. My favorite? “In the Pink” contests for your office. Do it! And, don’t forget to put out a bowl of pink M&M’s ’cause who wants to be reminded of the role that weight plays in breast cancer rates? Let’s just have fun.