Breast Cancer Action: Focusing on systems, social causes of cancer

Breast Cancer Action: Focusing on systems, social causes of cancer
Breast Cancer Action: Focusing on systems, social causes of cancer

Breast Cancer Action is one of my favorite medical organizations; I came across them when I was in physician assistant (PA) school in the late 1990s.

One of my classmates, a registered nurse studying to become a PA, had noted in conversation her belief that breast cancer is a political disease, and that if men got breast cancer at the same rate as women, that there would have been a cure long ago.

This was around the same time that I encountered Breast Cancer Action. Their feisty, quick-witted, feminist and environmental take on the breast cancer story really caught my attention, as did their focus on the root causes of cancer, including corporate behaviors resulting in an increasingly toxic environment.

They've always challenged the pharma-created "think pink" movement, asserting that the very companies contributing to breast and other cancers hide behind their pink ribbons, obscuring our view of the real causes of cancer.

They've also never held back in calling out the hypocrisy of having big pharmaceutical companies, who reap billions of dollars in profits from marketing cancer treatment, leading the "think pink" movement. I was finally hearing an organization say what I had long sensed.

That sentiment is the backdrop for the recent Breast Cancer Action's campaign, "Pink Drill Bits? Tell Komen to Stop Pinkwashing.” Here's how their web site describes it, in the organization's characteristically spirited fashion:

"File this under “you can't make this sh*t up”: Susan G. Komen has partnered with Baker Hughes, a leading global fracking corporation, to distribute 1,000 pink drill bits “for the cure.” This “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” partnership is a classic,  and egregious,  example of pinkwashing.

Baker Hughes and Komen claim to care about breast cancer, but at least 25% of chemicals used in fracking increase our risk of cancer. So why is the largest breast cancer organization in the world partnering with a corporation that is increasing our risk of cancer?"

I've been a monthly donor to Breast Cancer Action for several years, although I have no other personal, family, or financial connection to them. I love how they focus on systems and social causes of cancer, and their willingness to take on organizations such as Komen, often seen as untouchable.

Here's to keeping the focus on ways that systemic causes cancer and other disease.

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is a physician assistant in Seattle, WA.

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