October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And, as it has been an extremely busy month, we are just getting around to address this topic of interest to every woman. As the most common cancer faced by women, with about 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer at some point in their lifetime, breast cancer prevention is a feminist concern. Breast cancer prevention is a key issue when we discuss democratizing healthcare for low-income women, racial justice (considering that Black women are at the greatest risk of dying from breast cancer), and climate justice (which also especially impacts low-income individuals and communities of color). Therefore, it is essential that we as feminists observe Breast Cancer Awareness month – and all months, advocate for legislation that aims to prevent breast cancer, and uplift the voices of those living with breast cancer in our day to day activism.
NOW’s friends at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners are currently working to advocate for women living with breast cancer as well as engaging in key efforts to prevent women from contracting breast cancer in the future. While some may assume that breast cancer prevention falls on the individual, it is becoming increasingly clear that breast cancer prevention must also be community and societally based. In 2017, BCPP created a Breast Cancer Prevention Plan for the state of California aimed at reducing breast cancer risks at a statewide level. A policy that all states should aim to achieve, BCPP’s Breast Cancer Prevention Plan targets individual and environmental exposure to toxic chemicals, radiation and other physical factor, structural barriers to a healthy lifestyle such as food deserts and the built environment, workplace exposures and risk factors, the impacts of alcohol consumption and tobacco use and breast cancer’s ties to the impact of racism and poverty. Each of these factors result in a comprehensive, legislative approach to combating breast cancer and promoting the health of women across the country.
Along with their work on the California Breast Cancer Prevention Plan, BCPP is taking part in chemical policy reform at the federal level with a focus on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). Although some 85,000 different chemicals are currently registered with the EPA for use, only five have ever been regulated under the TSCA. Passed in 2016, a bill called The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) creates an opportunity for the EPA to amend their tactics for protecting public health. While the LCSA falls short of its’ promises, and BCPP originally opposed the bill for that very reason, the bill does provide the EPA with more authority, resources and responsibility in terms of protecting the public from toxins that lead to diseases like breast cancer. BCPP are ensuring that this crucial piece of legislation protects the most vulnerable populations from exposure to toxic chemicals from a precautionary approach and that the EPA uses the full scope of science and research available when making decisions about a chemical’s safety.
Our allies at BCPP are taking a social justice approach when it comes to prevention of a disease that impacts millions of women and families each and every year. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the intersectional feminist movement must consider the actions we are taking to do the same. But please carry this information forward throughout the year and spread the word about preventing breast cancer caused by environmental factors.
Blog by Aliza Pelto, NOW Communications Intern
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ Policy Projects: