October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, as espoused from every company wanting to make a buck. It seems everywhere you turn in October, someone has a pink ribbon slapped on a pink product, as though buying such a product does anything to help prevent breast cancer. The truth is that very little of the money spent on pink products actually goes toward breast cancer research.
Rather than sporting little pink ribbons on everything from Campbell’s soup cans to NFL uniforms, garnering too few funds which won’t even impact research for today’s women, we could be running an educational campaign about lifestyle practices that could actually impact the women of today and the women of tomorrow.
The greatest thing that women can do to significantly reduce their risk of breast cancer is to breastfeed. While the numbers cited vary, most studies show a 10% decrease for each year of breastfeeding. If the average woman has two children and breastfeeds for the bare recommended amount of time (2 years each), then according to most of these studies, she would have decreased her chances of breastfeeding by 40%! That is a significant decrease, especially when added to the 7% decrease for each pregnancy. Not only does breastfeeding decrease mothers’ chances of having breast cancer, but studies also show that daughters who are breastfed will have a lower chance of having breast cancer as adults.
It seems odd to me that we can use breasts to sell items. We can use breast cancer awareness to sell items. Yet, there is a fundamental lack of support for the basic function of breasts and actually lowering rates of breast cancer. I’ll gladly wear a stereotypically pink ribbon as soon as our society can support women of all ages to breastfeed their children whenever and wherever they need to, to know the benefits to both mother, child, and society of biologically appropriate breastfeeding, and to help families with their breastfeeding journeys.
Photo Credit: Hamish Darby