December 8, 2009
Well, my stint as a professional blogger for Time Magazine is ancient history. Ironically, instead of giving me a burning desire to blog, it turned me off of blogging for awhile. Not in any theoretical sense, I was just bone tired of cranking out words. Even last month’s mammogram mayhem wasn’t enough to draw me out of my anti-blogging funk. (Maybe because I had so much to say…I just couldn’t begin to distill it down.)
But today is different. Today I want to shout from the rooftops about a recently published article in the New York Times. An article that made me want to jump up and say “Hallelujah!” The op-ed, titled “Cancer from the Kitchen” and written by Nicholas Kristof, is about the connection between chemicals in the environment and breast cancer. Long before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was frustrated by the lack of attention given to environmental toxins and their role in cancer. Since my diagnosis, my low-grade irritation transformed into a red-hot annoyance. So I was thrilled to see someone at the NYT discussing the subject.
In a nutshell: it’s the estrogen stupid. Scientists have long known that a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen is directly linked to her risk of breast cancer. The more estrogen percolating through her bloodstream, the higher her risk of breast cancer creeps. That’s because estrogen fuels rapid cell division in breast tissue and cancer is a disease of rapid cell production.
But what scientists are only now beginning to understand (insert sound of forehead smacking here) is just how much environmental estrogen is contributing to breast cancer rates. More than 80,000 new chemicals have been developed since World War II, states Kristof, but “even of the major chemicals, fewer than 20 percent have been tested for toxicity.” And, since 1975, a woman’s risk of breast cancer has gone from 1 in 100 to 12 in 100.
Many of these chemicals act like estrogen in the human body, meaning they are estrogenic. These substances aren’t esoteric agents handled by people in biohazard gear, these chemicals are in our homes, more specifically they are in our pantries and in our medicine cabinets. They hide in plain sight in our detergents, our perfumes, our make-up, and our plastics. Estrogen swims in the food we eat and the lotion we slather onto our skin. Over the years I’ve written about this topic at length for Health Magazine, Yoga Journal, and others. In doing so, I’ve interviewed some of the top endocrinologists in the country. They’ve been sounding the alarm bells but no one seems to be listening.
Earlier this year a 10-year-old girl in California was diagnosed with breast cancer. (Here’s a link to her blog.) Makes you wonder how bad things will need to get before more people get red hot and insist on a change.