Every year, October rolls around, and the pinkwashing begins. All the companies cover their labels in pink, claim to support the cause, and citizens eat it up, failing to realize these same products are what's causing breast cancer to begin with.
Each year in the United States, about 264,000 breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women. Contrary to popular belief, men can also get breast cancer; although less common, men account for about 2,400 breast cancer cases annually (1). Breast cancer is an illness in which cells in the breast grow uncontrollably. Different types of breast cancer can form in different parts of the breast and spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other body parts, it is said to have metastasized.
The two most common types of breast cancer include (2):
Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
Invasive lobular carcinoma. Cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also apply to other parts of the body.
Symptoms and warning signs of breast cancer include:
New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
Pain in any area of the breast (3)
Mammography Vs. Thermography
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast used for diagnostic purposes. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Per the CDC, regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt (4)–but is it?
Let's state the facts: mammograms are unnecessary radiation exposure that can cause cancer in frequently tested people (5). Additionally, there is the risk of false negatives and false positives. Normal breast tissue can hide breast cancer and not appear on a mammogram. Contrarily, mammograms can falsely identify an abnormality that looks like cancer but is actually normal (6).
According to one study:
“Mammography screening has been promoted to the public with three simple promises that all appear to be wrong: It saves lives and breasts by catching the cancers early. Screening does not seem to make the women live longer; it increases mastectomies; and cancers are not caught early, they are caught very late. They are also caught in too great numbers. There is so much overdiagnosis that the best thing a women can do to lower her risk of becoming a breast cancer patient is to avoid going to screening, which will lower her risk by one-third (7).”
Fun fact: The European Breast Guidelines recommend against annual mammography screenings (8).
MedicalNewsToday will tell you the potential benefits of early detection outweigh the concerns of exposure and false positives (9). Still, they fail to mention there is another option that doesn't expose you to unnecessary radiation–thermography.
Thermography is an excellent alternative to mammography screenings. Thermography is a test that uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues. It can be used to detect breast cancer, and it can do so without causing discomfort or pain to the recipient.
Thermography benefits women who may be concerned about developing breast cancer as it doesn't require a physical tumor to be present to detect minute changes in the breast, which mammograms and physical exams do.
Thermography will actually detect the heat produced by increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes associated with a tumor's genesis and growth. That's right; it detects the changes in your breast before the tumor has time to grow (10)!
What is Pinkwashing?
Pinkwashing is the deceitful vision of supporting "awareness" of carcinogenic, cancer-causing products like processed foods, fragrances, and endocrine disruptors. At the same time, these companies claim to support breast cancer awareness, despite being the cause of it and profiting from it further. These companies sell breast cancer awareness products via "cause marketing" despite the common knowledge that their products cause the illness they're spreading awareness of.
"A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products containing chemicals that are linked to the disease (11)."
The following industries have been called out for pinkwashing:
Susan G. Komen
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
The Department of Justice (DOJ)
Ford Motor Company
Bee Sweet Citrus
Personal Care Products Council
The American Cancer Society
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
So what can we do instead of supporting these companies? We can spread the word and adopt lifestyle changes from the 30 tips to prevent breast cancer list that I composed below.
30 Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer
In my humble opinion, the most crucial aspect of breast cancer awareness is understanding how to prevent it. Many will think you can't prevent it, but I have composed a list with dozens of studies to prove otherwise. These are my tips for preventing breast cancer:
1. Know Your Body
Regularly examining your breasts on your own can be an important way to find breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. While no single test can detect all breast cancers early, it’s believed that performing breast self-exam in combination with other screening methods can increase the odds of early detection.
How to examine your breasts (13):
Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Here's what you should look for:
Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color.
Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling.
If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor's attention:
Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin.
A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out).
Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.
Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step 3: While you're in the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion about the size of a quarter.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you've reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast using the same hand movements described in step 4.
2. Get Adequate Sleep
Studies have found indications that aspects of sleep (sleep duration and quality), partially modifiable health behaviors, may be associated with developing aggressive tumor characteristics in postmenopausal women. Sleep behavior is also associated with developing aggressive tumor features, and these associations differ by race (14).
Other benefits of sleep include:
Sleep boosts your immune system
Sleep improves your memory
Sleep restores and energizes
Sleep stimulates creativity
Sleep helps with weight management
Sleep helps you stay mentally and emotionally fit
Sleep improves concentration and productivity
Sleep improves your health
Sleep beautifies - it slows down the aging process
Sleep makes you happier
Sleep can make you eat fewer calories
Sleep can help you experience less pain (15)
If sleep is something you struggle with, I’d recommend Earthley’s educational guide, The Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep, which I helped write. This guide uncovers the link between key nutrients and sleep and is packed with facts on balancing these nutrients to improve sleep quality without supplements such as melatonin. To learn more regarding melatonin, check out my blog, The Truth About Melatonin.
3. Minimize Life Stressors
Stress is an imminent risk factor with a documented negative impact on the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Chronic exposure to stress has been linked to negative changes in body homeostasis. The role of stress in cancer has been extensively studied (16).
A great way to minimize stress is meditation. Meditation is a set of techniques designed to encourage your ability to train the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. When mindful meditation is done correctly, it leads to a heightened state of awareness and consciousness with many positive impacts on your health and overall well-being.
Other benefits of meditation include:
Promotes emotional health
Lengthens attention span
May reduce age-related memory loss
It may help fight addictions
Helps control pain
Can decrease blood pressure
To learn more about meditation and how to do it, check out my blog, 10 Reasons to Meditate for Self-Care.
Another great way to minimize stress is yoga. Yoga is a form of Ancient Indian philosophy that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation to aid in spirituality as your body and mind become one.
Some great yoga poses to assist your mental health are:
Head to Knee Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend Pose
Cat Cow Pose
Puppy Dog Pose
To learn how to do each of these poses and what they’re good for, check out my blog 10 Yoga Poses For Your Mental Health.
4. Make Sure You're Getting Vitamin D
According to a 2019 review, the benefits of vitamin D are thought to include support for bone health and immunity, as well as resistance against chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression–along with infections and viruses (17).
Other benefits of vitamin D include:
Supports heart health
Helps muscles and bones (18)
5. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Managing weight is a challenge for most people in the US. In fact, more than 70% of American adults are overweight. This puts them at higher risk for serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. For women, being overweight or obese after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer.
But why is this?
Well, having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Also, overweight women tend to have higher insulin levels, another hormone. Higher insulin levels are also linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.
But the connection between weight and breast cancer risk is complicated.
Studies suggest the risk appears to be increased for women who gained weight as an adult but may not be increased among those who have been overweight since childhood. Also, having extra fat in the waist area may raise the risk more than having extra fat in the hips and thighs (19).
6. Be Physically Active
Evidence linking higher physical activity to lower cancer risk comes mainly from observational studies, in which individuals report their physical activity and are followed for years for cancer diagnoses. Although observational studies cannot prove a causal relationship, when studies in different populations have similar results and when a possible mechanism for a causal relationship exists, this provides evidence of a causal connection.
Some other types of cancer, physical activity may lower the risk of include:
Kidney (renal cell) cancer
Stomach (gastric) cancer
You may wonder, how can a measly thing like physical exercise prevent such a deadly disorder? Well, exercising helps with the following:
Lowers the levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen, and growth factors that have been associated with cancer development and progression.
Prevents high blood levels of insulin, which has been linked to cancer development and progression.
Improves immune system function.
Alters the metabolism of bile acids, decreasing the exposure of the gastrointestinal tract to these suspected carcinogens.
Reduces the time it takes for food to travel through the digestive system, which decreases gastrointestinal tract exposure to possible carcinogens.
Helps to prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for many cancers.
So how much exercise do we need?
Well, according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, released in 2018, they recommend that for substantial health benefits and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, adults engage in:
150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 to 100 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of each intensity each week. This physical activity can be done in episodes of any length.
Muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week
Balance training, in addition to aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity (20)
7. Start Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a ritual focused on detoxifying the lymphatic system. This is particularly interesting to us as we know that most of the glands in the breast tissue and surrounding underarm and chest area are lymph glands. Dry Brushing is popular in many cancer treatment centers today (21).
Other benefits of dry brushing are;
Exfoliates the skin
Improves skin’s appearance
Encourages lymphatic drainage
Stimulates the lymphatic system
Detoxes the body
Increases blood circulation and energy
It may help break down cellulite
To learn more about the importance of dry brushing, be sure to check out my blog, The Importance Of Dry Brushing, where you will also find a list of dry brushes and aftercare products I recommend and how to properly dry brush.
8. Breastfeed Your Children (if applicable)
Breastfeeding is so important for both mom and baby. Breastfeeding protects babies from allergies, sickness, and obesity, as well as diseases like diabetes and cancer. Breastfeeding also protects against infections, like ear infections (22). As for the benefits for mom, a 2018 study said the:
“Maternal benefits of breastfeeding include decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.”
As the study continues it also says that:
“Infants who are breastfed have a decreased risk of atopic dermatitis and gastroenteritis, and have a higher IQ later in life. Additional benefits in infants have been noted in observational studies (23).”
So it's a win-win for both mom and baby!
9. Use High-Quality CBD Oil
Although the use of Cannabis is not legal worldwide or even nationwide, in some states where it is legal, it is prescribed and recommended by doctors for a range of medical conditions–including breast cancer. Studies have found that CBD can inhibit the spread of aggressive breast cancer, and other studies have shown that CBD may, in fact, have anticancer properties (24,25).
Although I do not suggest rolling up a blunt and smoking to potentially fight or prevent cancer, I definitely do recommend using a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil like Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (formula P), which is formulated with 600 mg of pure-spectrum CBD. This is not a guarantee to work, but studies have had success.
10. Drink Green Tea
Green tea and its components, such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have been studied for their many medicinal properties (26). A comprehensive review of observational studies found that women who drank the greenest tea had an approximately 20–30% lower risk of developing breast cancer (27). In another study, they discussed green tea’s compounds in breast cancer prevention and treatment while also discussing other multiple mechanisms presented in colon, lung, prostate, ovarian, and other cancers (28).
11. Cook With Turmeric
Turmeric, a relative of ginger, has compounds called curcuminoids (curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric) and is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment. There is some evidence that curcumin, a substance in turmeric, can lower rates of certain cancers and even kill cancer cells in certain cancers (29).
Other benefits of turmeric include:
It has natural anti-inflammatory compounds
It may help with arthritis
Increases antioxidant capacity of the body
It may improve brain function and lower the risk of brain diseases
It may lower your risk of heart disease
For a more detailed post about turmeric, as well as product recommendations, be sure to check out my Benefits Of Turmeric blog.
12. Consume Bakuchi Seed
Bakuchi is an important herb that is used for its medicinal properties–including breast cancer. In one study, bakuchi seed was used to treat leprosy, jaundice, infections, and tumors with little to no reported side effects (30).
Other benefits of bakuchi seed include (31):
Helping shrink and cover vitiligo patches.
Helping treat skin diseases like ringworm, eczema, dermatosis, itching of eruptions, and itching of red papules.
Helping improve digestion and prevent indigestion.
Helping wounds heal quicker.
Helping remove dandruff and enhance hair growth.
Helping fight free radicals, which helps manage liver injury by preventing hepatic cell damage.
Having chemoprotective, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
When I mention this, the most common question I get is where they can be purchased, so I included a shopping link here.
13. Avoid Mainstream Deodorant
In 2012 a study showed that 99% of breast cancer samples contained parabens, a common carcinogenic ingredient in most deodorants and antiperspirants, as well as toxins such as aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium, tetrachlorohydrex GLY, talc, petroleum, caprylyl glycol, stearic acid, and fragrance (32).
In 2020, when I first dug into the research behind preventing breast cancer, I stumbled across a website with some false information regarding the link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. This led to hours of web surfing to see how many other cancer websites were blatantly lying to their readers. So I searched several sites and found multiple websites dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. Yet, they won’t tell their readers about the dangers of antiperspirants, which I found pretty odd and worthy of sharing, so I wrote my blog, The Truth About Mainstream Deodorant.
14. Detox Your Underarms Regularly
A study was published in 2007 by the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, where researchers tested samples from 17 breast cancer patients who underwent mastectomies. This study found that the women who used antiperspirants had aluminum deposits in their outer breast tissue (33).
A DIY underarm detox may reduce the amount of aluminum that reaches the outer breast tissue.
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
3 drops of rosemary essential oil
5 drops of cilantro essential oil
1 tablespoon bentonite clay
Step 1: Mix ACV and the clay in a glass bowl. Add the essential oils. It should look smooth, like sour cream.
Step 2: Spread a thin layer of this mixture on your armpit and leave it for a few minutes.
Step 3: Rinse well and repeat daily until the odor subsides and your natural deodorant is no longer irritating.
Step 4: Repeat daily as needed.
If DIYs aren’t quite your thing, you can try Earthley’s Detoxifying Pit Mask, which is just the thing for helping you transition from chemical antiperspirant to natural deodorant. It can also help those random times you feel a bit more odorous than usual, like during the postpartum stages. Odor is a part of your body detoxing and getting rid of the toxic build-up that chemical antiperspirants cause.
15. Avoid Razors With Moisturizing Strips
Some research suggests that deodorants containing aluminum, which is frequently applied and remains on the skin close to the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and affect the hormone estrogen (34). Estrogen can encourage the growth of breast cancer cells, and some scientists have said that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants could contribute to the development of breast cancer. In addition, it has been implied that aluminum may have direct activity in breast tissue (35). I think it's safe to assume that would be the same for shaving the underarm area. Check out my razor recommendations here.
16. Avoid GMOs
Along with its approval of genetically engineered foods, the FDA in 1993 also approved the use of genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), used to induce dairy cows to produce more milk. studies demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
Other health risks of consuming GMOs include:
Loss of nutrition (35)
17. Choose Organic Whenever You Can
Organic farming practices are prohibited from using synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil, sewa