What can women do?

It’s not enough to be ecofashionable in our gas-mask bra, or to just watch what you eat. We recommend a well-rounded diet of political action.


Here are several actions you can take to help PREVENT breast cancer.

Eat your vegetables

Fruits and vegetables help protect you from cancer by contributing antioxidants to your body. Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are also thought to lower “bad estrogen” levels. Wash them carefully to decrease pesticide residues.

Be cautious about mammograms before you’re 50

Industries that profit from mammograms are pushing them for younger women, and they’ve duped some powerful women in Congress. But to date, there is no conclusive evidence that routine mammograms reduce the death rate for younger women. Denser tissue makes it difficult to spot tumors. False positives are a problem, leading to unnecessary biopsies, and women who rely on mammograms may neglect self-examination. Some researchers believe the radiation from mammograms may actually increase a younger woman’s risk. Nonetheless, if you feel a lump in your breast, don’t hesitate to get one.

Raise some hell!

Pitched battles are shaping up on key issues that will affect breast health for years. Industries that want to resist environmental scrutiny or have a vested interest in existing cancer treatments are well-organized. We must be, too.

Support the Chlorine-Zero Discharge Act,
which bans paper manufacturers from discharging organochlorine compounds within five years. It also sets up a process for banning other sources of organochlorine pollution.
Support the Delaney Clause,
which prohibits carcinogenic additives to our food. The Food Quality Protection Act (H.R. 1627), introduced in 1993, would repeal Delaney. Don’t let it.
Push for prevention funding.
Less than 17 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget goes to primary prevention. Contact groups (see below) that are lobbying for more funds to examine the link between breast cancer and pollution.
Discourage organochlorine production.
Avoid those laundry bleaches, weed killers, paint strippers, and other household products that contain them.

Don’t drink heavily

Heavy drinking equals high risk. A number of studies over the last decade suggest that even moderate alcohol consumption places women at a 40-to-100 percent increased risk for breast cancer.

Breast-feed your baby

Breast-feeding has been shown to lower the risk of premenopausal breast cancer. There may be some migration of toxins from breast tissue to breast milk. But the benefits to your child, and you, outweigh the risks.

Avoid animal fat

DDT and other carcinogens do not break down easily, becoming more concentrated as they move up the food chain. They accumulate in fat tissue. Advocate alternatives to pesticide use and avoid animal fat, including meat and non-skim dairy products.

ORGANIZATIONS TO CONTACT

National Breast Cancer Coalition
(202) 296-7477: An umbrella for activist and women’s health organizations. NBCC lobbying efforts helped raise the government’s 1994 breast cancer research budget 44 percent from last year’s budget. Call for the number of an affiliated group, such as:
Breast Cancer Action
(415) 922-8279: A grassroots organization of cancer survivors and supporters working to focus national attention on breast cancer education and research.
National Women’s Health Network
(202) 347-1140: A Washington-based advocacy group organized around women’s health issues.
Women’s Environment and Development Organization
(212) 759-7982: An advocacy group (not affiliated with NBCC) that recently colaunched a nationwide campaign with Greenpeace to alert people to the health dangers of environmental toxins and to encourage them to join the push for a safer environment.