Does the nation seem to have a pink tint to it these days? It's not your vision--it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and companies are bombarding the market with pink products. Everything from scouring pads and pepper spray to handbags and handguns are being sold in pink, ostensibly to benefit breast cancer charities. (I'm guessing the sales pitch for the pink rifle is "guns don't kill people, breast cancer kills people.")
Some companies might have good intentions, but many are just "pinkwashing"--passing themselves off as crusaders in the fight against breast cancer while still peddling dangerous or unhealthy products that can actually contribute to the disease. Earlier this year, KFC even sold its Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which is known to contain carcinogens, in pretty pink buckets.
It's important to raise awareness of breast cancer, but it's time to tone down the pink. When it comes to winning the war on breast cancer, eating "green"--and encouraging others to do the same--is more effective than buying pink.
Numerous studies have shown that women who eat mostly fruits, vegetables and soy foods are much less likely to develop breast cancer than women who eat meat, eggs and dairy products. National Cancer Institute researchers have found that women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don't.
Other leading researchers in both America and Asia concur that women who eat a typical Western diet--high in meat, fat and sugar--have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Asian diet, which is high in soy and vegetables. Renowned nutrition expert Dr. Dean Ornish reports, "In Japan and other countries where the consumption of animal fat is much lower, breast cancer is rare."
Eating fatty foods, animal protein and heavily processed foods can boost one's risk of breast cancer (and other diseases), while eating plant-based foods can lower it. Vegan foods are typically low in saturated fat and high in fiber and phytochemicals, which knock out carcinogens and fight inflammation. Going vegan can even help women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer beat the disease: One of my best friends went vegan after having a mastectomy 17 years ago, and she has been cancer-free ever since.
Studies also show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters are, and maintaining a healthy weight is key to preventing breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a devastating disease, no matter how you color it. One in eight women in the U.S. will develop it, and each year, more than 40,000 women will die from it. But pinkwashing and meat-eating only hamper women's chances of recovering from the disease--or preventing it in the first place. If you must buy a "pink product" this month, The Pink Ribbon Diet: A Revolutionary New Weight Loss Plan to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk, a cookbook that emphasizes plant-based, Mediterranean-style meals, is a good pick.
We won't win the war on breast cancer just by looking at it through rose-colored glasses. We have to take responsibility for our own health by adopting healthy habits such as exercising regularly, getting regular mammograms and making smarter choices about what we eat. So whenever you see pink this month, consider it a reminder to eat green.
Heather Moore is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.