All things pink are not always rosy

Staff writer Andrea Torres chronicles her breast cancer experiences in Tropical Life. Read past columns at MiamiHerald.com/health.

10/09/2012 12:00 AM

03/26/2013 5:50 PM

Rock that bubble gum pink, but don’t let it deceive you.

Last year while I was undergoing chemotherapy, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month made me feel like there were thousands rooting for me.

“October is a time to celebrate survivors,” said Emily Marquez, American Cancer Society director of the Florida chapter. She invited me to a couple of their events. “Our Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign has some of our survivors wearing these beautiful, ornate, pink bras over their white T-shirts. It’s fun.”

I find those demonstrations of solidarity inspiring.These women have gone through so much, and yet they find a way to celebrate and help others. It is the type of spirit that Livestrong’s bright canary yellow also captures.

I recently spoke to students at Miami-Dade College, and one asked me how I felt about the focus on breast cancer in October. I told her that sometimes the fiendish use of pink angered me. No one should risk their health to support breast cancer research.

Take, for example, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Buckets for the Cure in 2010. Or the movement by liquor companies to market their pink cocktails at restaurants and clubs in Miami Beach. Consuming alcohol and fried foods increases the risk of breast cancer.

Women shopping for cosmetics will see a lot of pink this month. This is curious because some cosmetic brands such as Avon, Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, and Revlon have been criticized for using hormone disruptor chemicals.

There is no way to shop wisely. Manufacturers are not required to label cosmetics and fragrances with ingredients since their formulas are legally considered trade secrets.

According to Breast Cancer Action, an organization that exposes unethical marketing through its Think Before You Pink campaign, some of the cosmetics with questionable ingredients have included Philosphy’s Hope In A Jar moisturizer and the 2011 Susan G. Komen For The Cure’s Promise Me perfume. Komen agreed to reformulate the perfume and discontinued the original.

Since the 1990s, some scientists have shown concern for parabens, chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen. They have found the chemical in breast cancer tumors, yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states there is no reason for consumer concern.

The Keep A Breast Foundation’s Non Toxic Revolution campaign asks consumers to be overly cautious. It focuses on educating young people on the dangers of chemicals that can disrupt the bodies’ hormonal balance. They are asking people to avoid items such as moisturizers, lip glosses, styling gels that contain chemicals that can cause cancer, organ toxicity and endocrine disruption.

Corporate irresponsibility may be to blame for some breast cancer patients’ suffering, but it is difficult to prove.

Consider this: A chemical found in plastic bottles named bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a synthetic estrogen. A recent New York University study revealed it may be contributing to children’s obesity. The FDA banned its use in baby bottles, but one can only wonder how long it will take for the FDA to ban it from the general population.

President Barack Obama’s Cancer Panel suggested in 2010 that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.”

So before splurging all on things pink, know that everything pink is not rosy.

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