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Beyond The Pink Ribbon


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and it got me thinking:  how many women do I know that have or had the disease?  I stopped counting when I reached 15, and was somewhat shocked when I realized how high the number was.  

Statistics say 1 in 8 women today are expected to develop breast cancer. The rise in the rate of the epidemic has been eclipsed by a rise in awareness and campaigns advocating research and treatment. No doubt, you've seen those ubiquitous pink ribbons that have become the iconic symbol for breast cancer. The Susan B Komen Foundation had a large hand in the proliferation of the their use in their annual Race For The Cure, one of the most successful charity events held. Now pink ribbons appear on everything from consumer products at the grocery store to celebrity lapels as they walk the red carpet.

Is the pink ribbon helping or hurting the cause? 

I recently came across a term (and a great blog) called Pinkwashing, which is a word 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 rising rates of the disease. It affirmed a sentiment I often have when I see the pink ribbon appear on a product that is known to have carcinogens and other proven cancer causing agents. I find it deceptive and, quite frankly, dangerous that this type of messaging can encourage a woman to purchase something they feel will help with the fight against breast cancer, when it actually is putting them at risk. To advocate only for the cure and treatment of the disease is short-sighted and a disservice to women. It treats the symptom, not the cause. What we must place the focus on is prevention, and arming women with facts about how to reduce their risks of exposure the harmful chemicals we can encounter in everyday life.

This is why I love the Breast Cancer Fund. While the Breast Cancer Fund supports finding a cure and recognizes genetic disposition to the disease, they work to connect the dots between breast cancer and exposures to chemicals and radiation in our everyday environments. Their primary focus is prevention and giving women proactive steps to take to protect themselves (and it is no accident that no pink ribbons appear on their site). This month, they have launched their State Of The Evidence report, which summarizes and evaluates the scientific evidence linking exposures to chemicals and radiation in our everyday environments to increased breast cancer risk. It also links the science to actions we can take to reduce the risk. Help them in sharing this incredibly comprehensive report by downloading it or sharing it with other women. Or even make a donation, to help them continue to do this powerful work. 

All the actions you can take to prevent breast cancer add up. Your yoga practice is a great place to start (even MD Anderson Cancer Center recognizes it as a positive way to reduce your risk), but it important to keep yourself informed, as we live in a world full of opportunities to expose ourselves to harmful substances.

Stephanie Bernstein is the Founder and CEO of To-Go Ware. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for 12 years and currently resides in Berkeley, CA


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I has been thinking about this very thing for some time now. I didn't know there was a term for it. I'll be sure and check out this Pinkwashing blog. Thanks!

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