By Tibby Reas Hinderlie, Communications Associate

This year’s Think Before You Pink® campaign “We Can’t Be Pink’d: Say NO to Pink Policies” calls out the lack of leadership from the Trump Administration in truly addressing the breast cancer crisis. We’re demanding action from four federal agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
This week, we’re focusing on the NCI and the agency’s lack of important information about environmental risk factors. Take action: Tell the NCI to give us full information about breast cancer risks, including environmental exposures!
As a leading agency for cancer research, training, and information the NCI is a go-to source for both clinicians and the general public. However, the agency leaves out critical information on environmental links to breast cancer and instead focuses on uncontrollable risk factors such as aging and family history of the disease. The NCI is not telling women the whole story about risks to their health and we see this as a failure to address the breast cancer crisis.

A political cartoon of the NCI not telling a woman with breast cancer about environmental exposures

Tell the NCI we deserve clear information on ways to protect our health!
The NCI patient information page gives a convoluted and incomplete account of breast cancer risk factors. On one line it states, “Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.” Immediately after, it lists immutable breast cancer risk factors including “aging” and “an inherited risk of breast cancer.” Aging is simply unavoidable and family history only accounts for about 10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses. Prioritizing these unchangeable risk factors while downplaying environmental exposures does not do justice for the estimated 300,000 women who will develop breast cancer in 2020.

Even more problematic, the NCI leaves out current information on environmental exposures. The website currently claims that “it is not clear” whether the environment affects breast cancer risk, failing to tell women about the growing body of evidence related to potential links between chemical exposure and breast cancer. However, a 2007 review of the science found:

“…216 chemicals were identified that have been associated with increases in mammary gland tumors…These include industrial chemicals, chlorinated solvents, products of combustion, pesticides, dyes, radiation, drinking water disinfection byproducts, pharmaceuticals and hormones, natural products, and research chemicals.”

This withholding of information not only affects the ability for individuals and healthcare providers to identify health protective measures, it also hamstrings important national efforts to create systemic changes that can support breast cancer prevention.
Take action to demand the NCI provide information on environmental links to breast cancer! It’s time for the NCI to tell women the full story about the environmental links to breast cancer. Otherwise, the NCI will continue to set false national standards that deny the importance of environmental risk factors.
Join us in saying no to pink policies. Tell the NCI to give us information on all modifiable risk factors, including environmental exposures!