October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You can support and donate to a variety of options to fight against breast cancer. There are pink ribbons, lip gloss, blankets, shoes, stickers, t-shirts and more.
The most well known good that you can purchase to fight against breast cancer is alcohol.
Many well meaning organizations are fighting breast cancer with alcohol. There are “drink for pink” and “clink for pink” campaigns. There specific wines labeled to support breast cancer research.
A famous Chicagoland steakhouse has offered clever taglines for their breast cancer awareness campaign. Fighting breast cancer, “One cosmo at a time.” , offering “Highballs for hope”, or “Brews for Breast Cancer” and “Spritz for Sage. Cocktails offered for a cure. They are generously donating proceeds of the profit of alcohol sales towards research for breast cancer.
Why is this problematic?
Healthline informs that for decades, researchers have been studying the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer, and a strong body of evidence shows drinking ups the risk. Despite this research only 1 in 4 women are aware that alcohol can contribute to breast cancer.
“Many people, including women, are not aware that breast cancer is the most common cancer caused by alcohol among women globally. People need to know that by reducing alcohol consumption they can reduce their risk of getting cancer. It doesn’t matter what type, quality or price alcohol is,” says Dr Marilys Corbex, Senior Technical Officer for Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO/Europe.
Alcohol is classified as a Class 1 carcinogen by IARC.
Using alcohol in campaigns against breast cancer is misleading. Women who have three drinks per week have a 15% higher chance of developing breast cancer. Risk goes up for each additional drink.
Research by Susan G. Komen reports. That estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers. Higher estrogen levels are in turn, linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Many women in treatment for breast cancer, can not or choose not to imbibe in alcohol consumption.
As a drinker, I thought signing off from my domestic duties and declaring “me time” while sipping my vino was the ultimate in self care. I thought dumbing myself down, tuning out, and taking the edge off my anxiety was the release I needed at the end of the day. I believed that getting together with my girlfriends and an bottomless bottle of wine was the best way to screw the patriarchy, “bad moms” style. Wine equalled bold, powerful, feminist, to me.
All the while my own dependence on alcohol was growing. Gradually, I went from enjoying my wine to needing my wine. Like a frog in boiling water. I did not perceive danger and was slowly cooking to death. My mental, physical, emotional, financial, relational, professional, and spiritual health plummeted rapidly in decline. This is not the case for everyone that drinks alcohol, but it is a possibility for anyone. The facts for everyone are that alcohol has no health benefits.
There are many variables for breast cancer and alcohol use is just one of them. However, it still seems contradictory to offer a carcinogen to fight cancer. A more sensible awareness campaign is the #DrinkLessForYourBreast funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program of the University of California.
There are healthier ways to fight against breast cancer and save the lives of people we love.
One option is a breast cancer walk. I participated in my third walk for breast cancer earlier this month with my survivor cousin and thirty of her closest family and friends, including her breast surgeon. We collectively raised $3.7 million dollars.
This year for October Breast Cancer Awareness Month I invite you to raise awareness and drink less for your breast. Sober October is a great way to practice an alcohol free experiment. I’d love to help.
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