Pink Ribbons or Prevention?


October 14, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller

 As we move through the month of October, I’m guessing that most of you have been seeing a lot more pink than usual…due to the massive pinkwashing efforts that can be found splashed on more and more food products (healthy or not), sports jerseys, jewelry, clothing, shoes, purses, keychains, bumper stickers, and yes, even night lights. pink nitelights

Although October/’Pinktober’ is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month(NBCAM), I’m guessing that the awareness of the founder of NCBAM (along with the American Cancer Society) is not quite as well known: It is the drug company AstraZeneca, the maker of cancer drugs like Arimidex, Faslodex, and Tamoxifen.

Have you considered how the vast majority of these pink ribbon messages promote early detection—which assumes that a person is going to develop cancer—which makes ‘catching it early’ the best option? Even the Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control for the North Dakota Department of Health, Susan Mormann, feeds into this programmed thinking with statements like the following, found in a recent newspaper article about NCBAM: “While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps needed to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.” What happened to the concept of PREVENTING cancer?? It appears that drug companies such as AstraZeneca may not have our best health interests at heart since they only gain monetarily when their drugs are purchased. Why would they want to promote cancer prevention? Pinkwashing (1)

Please don’t let that logic (that our only hope is to detect cancer early) sink into your way of thinking—and if it has, I encourage you to refocus your thinking—about the many ways we can lower our risk of developing cancer instead of just hoping it does not show up.

I am not saying that cancer screenings are not important. Screenings are one piece of the puzzle that comprises a multi-pronged approach to maintaining your highest level of health. Just because you have checked your yearly cancer screening tests off your ‘to do’ list does not mean that your positive health focus can be put on a shelf until next year. Prevention is a lifestyle…a lifestyle with attention paid to specific actions that keep our bodies as healthy as possible…maintaining a state of Positive Health. I would venture that most of us are quite aware that cancer is a potential health challenge in each of our lives, so let’s move beyond awareness and build cancer prevention measures into our daily lives.

First and foremost in our disease (including cancer) prevention arsenal is healthy eating on a routine basis. So what does ‘healthy eating’ for cancer (and other disease) prevention look like? Read on:

We all make choices about what we eat — it’s our individual responsibility to make wise choices on a routine basis. Choices like fresh foods instead of processed foods. Examples of commonly consumed processed foods to greatly minimize or avoid: FAST FOODS, canned soup, frozen meals, boxes of crackers, bags of chips, most breakfast cereal in boxes, puddings, flavored yogurts, processed cheeses (cheeses that don’t need refrigeration), packages/boxes of dried food added to meat (Hamburger/Tuna Helper), packaged desserts—you get the point. When checking ingredient labels, you should be seeing real food ingredients that you’ve heard of—and can easily pronounce—and that don’t sound like chemicals. So, in a nutshell, healthy eating looks like this:

  • Fresh vegetables–eaten raw, lightly steamed, roasted—NOT with thick sauces on them) preferably organic, fresh, or next best: frozen
  • Good quality meats (organic/grass-fed if possible) in moderate amounts–NOT heavily grilled or with heavy sauces
  • Wild-caught fish–wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sardines, herring
  • Brown rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, steel-cut oats, wild rice, buckwheat…
  • Some fruit (less fruit than veggies), preferably organic, fresh or next best: frozen
  • Healthy fats for cooking when needed: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil
  • High quality natural cheese (small amounts), range-fed eggs, high quality yogurt… (plain yogurt—mix fruit in)
  • Herbs for flavor…turmeric, curry powder, garlic, ginger, cilantro, chili peppers, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, basil… healthy eating 1

A thought-provoking excerpt from Sayer Ji, author, researcher, lecturer, advisory board member of the National Health Foundation, and founder of GreenMedInfo:

“Have we really come to the point where the commonsense consumption of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of disease can so matter-of-factly be called into question? Do we really need randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trials to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our bodies can benefit from the phytonutrients and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables in the prevention of cancer?    

Fortunately there are thousands of scientific studies extant today on the therapeutic value of foods, herbs and spices in breast health, many of which can be found on the government’s own biomedical database known as MEDLINE.  Decades of research have confirmed the veracity of the Hippocratic phrase: “Let food be thy medicine,” and until a prescription is required to obtain and consume organic food, we can still draw from a vast cornucopia of natural substances whose safety and efficacy put the conventional pharmacopeia to shame.”   

Healthy eating is a critical piece to this cancer prevention puzzle. Let’s keep it front and center where it should be. It’s going to take some specific intention on our part—to not be swayed into the pervasive pinkwashing promotions. Seriously…a pink ribbon on a KFC bucket of fried chicken or a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup?? kfc

Even more promising as we move beyond this Pinktober is the realization that in addition to the critical healthy eating piece of the cancer prevention puzzle, there is so much more that we can do to build cancer prevention into our daily routines—be watching for further details on this in future blogs!

I am happy to report that there are great cancer prevention websites that truly have their hearts (and consciences) in the right place, such as They have a specific focus on cancer prevention education. No pink ribbons for me…even though I realize that the vast majority of those buying and wearing pink ribbons are doing so for many good reasons. Pink ribbons DO NOT = Prevention, sadly.

That’s why I do what I do :

Photo credits:,,,

2 thoughts on “Pink Ribbons or Prevention?

  1. Val Stadick says:

    I just had to laugh out loud at the irony of the pink bucket of chicken . . . great article. I always love your points about the drug companies and the importance of looking between the lines and thinking critically about the messages that we are inundated with daily. They have done nothing to empower us against the disease. We are made to feel like victims (as you say) just waiting for the ball to drop. Thanks again for a great article!


  2. Thank you for this great post. I think that it is so sad that companies who clearly offer products that are unhealthy are using the pink campaign to try to show themselves as better than they are.The original ribbon campaign, which incidentally was peach, was started by Charlotte Haley in the 1990s after watching her mother, sister and daughter suffer through breast cancer. She wanted to raise awareness and even back then was annoyed at how little money goes to cancer PREVENTION. I absolutely believe that early detection is important but what is more important is doing everything within your power to prevent having anything to detect.


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