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Racing for the Cause


By Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.

It must be October, because it's raining pink ribbons.

Communities nationwide are bringing women together from all walks of life to "race for the cure" for breast cancer.

Racing for the cure is a worthy cause. I know. I've endured that fearful diagnosis myself. I watched my mother die from the disease, plus her two sisters and too many friends and acquaintances to count. If only we had run faster for that elusive cure.

Or maybe we should rethink the direction we're running and take Warren Porter's advice to "race for the cause." Porter's a professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he studies the cancer risks associated with endocrine-disrupting pesticides.

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., ecologist, cancer survivor, mother, and author of Living Downstream, advises us to look upstream so that we can prevent the dreaded disease at its source and protect our children's future.

Race for the CauseDespite advances of modern medicine and better diagnostic and survival rates, breast cancer incidence worldwide increased at an annual rate of 3.1% between 1980 and 20101. Could we be overlooking environmental causes lurking in polluted air, contaminated drinking water, or toxins in our food?

Researchers warn us about the increased cancer risks from pesticides, and the compound BPA (bis-phenol) that leaches from linings of canned foods and plastic food and beverage containers.

As cancer survivors celebrate each new season with boundless enthusiasm and gratitude, let's all join together and make a mad dash in the direction of prevention. Here are some tips to keep your family safe:

  • Choose food that has not been grown or produced with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. In other words, look for the protective organic label.
  • Avoid canned food, unless you can be sure the can is BPA-free. Purchase fresh or frozen foods instead.
  • Store leftovers in ceramic or glass containers, and never microwave in plastic.
  • Filter your tap and well water.
  • Plant a garden where you can grow cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables for minimal cost.
  • Stay informed with trusted sources:

1. "Breast and cervical cancer in 187 countries between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis," The Lancet, Sept. 15, 2011.


Melinda HemmelgarnMelinda Hemmelgarn is a registered dietitian, investigative nutritionist, and award-winning writer and radio host, better known as the Food Sleuth. A former Food and Society Policy Fellow, Melinda uniquely connects the dots between food, health and agriculture, and helps her audiences "think beyond their plates." With 30 years' experience in clinical, academic, and public health nutrition, she is a trusted consumer advocate dedicated to finding "food truth." Listen to Food Sleuth Radio at www.KOPN.org.

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