Posted on August 17, 2021

By Jayla Burton, Program Manager

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” – Shirley Chisholm

One year ago, Breast Cancer Action was in the thick of planning our renowned Think Before You Pink® campaign at the height of a public health crisis and a highly charged presidential election. It was only fitting that we took on the lack of federal leadership in addressing the breast cancer crisis. We called the campaign We Can’t Be Pink’d: Say No to Pink Policies and it remains lively nearly a year later.

As part of this campaign, we called out the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for its lack of information on the environmental risk factors related to breast cancer. We kicked it off with a letter to the agency signed by over 100 environmental, health, and cancer prevention leaders, urging the agency to update its publicly available information about breast cancer risk and prevention to include the current scientific understanding of environmental exposures.

In the letter, we generously outlined five necessary steps the agency could take to move this work forward: diversify their editorial board to include toxicologists and environmental epidemiologists; update the agency’s approach to analyzing environmental risks for breast cancer; make clear delineations in the Public Data Query (PDQ) about which factors are modifiable and which are not; broaden the sources of information used to determine risk factors and meet with us and stakeholders to develop an action plan for implementing these requests.

In an attempt to address our concern about the public Breast Cancer Prevention PDQ, the agency made revisions; however, they ignored the multiple evidence streams that link harmful chemicals in the environment to increased breast cancer risk. In response, Breast Cancer Action delivered a second letter signed by partners expressing our disappointment in the revisions which emphasized the agency’s reliance on only human studies, ultimately limiting the agency’s ability to make a strong case for environmental exposures and their impacts.

In response to that second letter, the agency’s Office of Advocacy Relations reached out to us to better understand our call to action and our priorities. We met with the NCI on August 3, 2021. Thanks to your commitment and continued action, we have a seat at the table and will be a thought partner in how the agency addresses environmental risk factors and breast cancer.

In the last year, our work has come a long way, however, it is far from done. We will continue to be a watchdog. We will continue to remain critical. And we will continue to engage in these conversations with the nation’s leading cancer agency to revise and update their thinking and understanding of breast cancer prevention.

To see the developments of this campaign from the beginning to now please visit our NCI webpage.