Breast cancer awareness is not enough: Public health strategies need to be based on prevention

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I’m tired of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Forgive me, but as a researcher studying how we understand information on links between environmental and occupational exposures and breast cancer, I’ve grown weary of yet another October decorated in pink, promoting the same message of awareness. The message itself has become tired, and awareness-raising alone is an ineffective solution to the breast cancer epidemic.

Year after year, we miss opportunities for critical interventions into the primary prevention of breast cancer. For my dissertation research on awareness of environmental breast cancer risks, I interviewed women workers at the Ambassador Bridge, where there are high rates of breast cancer. Larissa* pointed out:

“I know it is out there. I know it happens. You see breast cancer awareness everywhere, but it’s pink. That’s what you see. You don’t see information on what we can do to prevent.”

Screening and early detection programmes are widely promotedadvocacy for treatments continues and survival with breast cancer for some groups of women has improved. These are crucial pieces for tackling breast cancers that develop. But comparatively little effort seems to go into primary prevention, which means stopping cancer before it starts.

READ MORE: FEEL GOOD | Meet the Cape Town doctor who gives women free breast cancer surgery, she believes 'you have the right to be looked after' 

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