Raising Daughters, Razing Cancer | Seventh Generation
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Raising Daughters, Razing Cancer

Author: the Inkslinger

I've always taken issue with those who've labeled cancer largely a lifestyle disease borne of poor choices, like a diet full of fatty foods. My reading of the evidence strongly suggests that the majority of cancer cases in the western world are caused by environmental factors largely beyond anyone's control. In fact, if you strip out declines in the most common cancers (lung, prostate, breast, and colorectal), which are mostly attributable to better screening and less smoking, you're actually left with rising cancer rates for much of what remains.

So while I think that I'm right, I've come to think that I'm also wrong. Because a fair amount of the environmental causes that I believe are to blame for all this rampant disease are connected to "lifestyle" factors that we actually can do something about. They're just not the factors we thought they were. A recent NorthJersey.com article about breast cancer and early puberty provides a case in point. It's required reading for everyone with a young girl in their lives.

The story reports that the sooner in life a girl begins menstruating, the greater her chance of getting breast cancer. And girls in general are getting their periods earlier and earlier these days. Why? No one knows for sure, but there are likely suspects.

Puberty is a hormonal thing. And we've been reporting for years that chemicals like phthalates and BPA mimic hormones in the body, specifically estrogen, which plays a key role sexual development. Early puberty is also related to obesity, which, in turn, is increasing linked to the same chemical toxins. So we've got a bunch of relatively new chemicals suddenly floating around in the environment and in our bodies at the same time that we're experiencing weird early puberty trends, rising cases of some cancers, growing obesity, and a diabetes epidemic, conditions which are all linked to each other in a great web of disharmony.

I don't think it's much of a leap to finish connecting the dots. What will we see if we do? My guess is we'll find that chemical pollution is the cause of most of the trouble, creating the early puberty that's triggering breast cancer. And on and on we go in other circles of chemical cause and effect.

Which brings us back to lifestyle. Choose the one with the least amount of chemical exposures and do whatever you can to keep toxins out of your body and the bodies of your children. We can go a long way toward minimizing what gets inside of us by eating unprocessed whole foods, keeping unsafe plastics out of the kitchen, shutting chemicals out of our homes and taking other steps to reduce our contact with them.

Because our daughters don't have to get breast cancer. But we have to help them evade the trap that's been laid. And that starts with knowing how.

photo: Mike Baird


M J picture
Thank you for this article. Forwarding it to my MD daughter and her 13year old daughter.
ACarol picture
Breast tissue holds iodine gained from eating foods rich in iodine ( such as seafood ). Iodine is used to purify water and destroy germs. It also helps the thyroid gland to function. Depletion of necessary iodine in the diet leads to multiple ailments. If you drink certain sodas that contain bromine your iodine gets depleted. If you ingest chlorine and fluoride in your water, iodine gets depleted because those chemicals mimic iodine and actually replace it in the body, which exposes the body to pathogens and cancers that iodine would normally protect against.
Carolyn Riddle picture
Carolyn Riddle
Another factor is consumption of dairy products, including yogurt. Although there is no actual proof, what medical researchers call "significant data" points to dairy products as a possible cause of breast cancer. Compare a world map showing places with a high incidence of breast cancer to a map of areas that statistically have a high incidence of breast cancer. For more info, watch the movie "Forks over Knives." It's available on Youtube. Or go to perm.org. There is also a study done by Kaiser Permanente; results her:http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/257782.php.
Laura Grayce picture
Laura Grayce
While I certainly don't disagree with your logic, I also would like to add that it is VERY important that we watch what we are putting ON our bodies. With our skin being our largest organ, we must be wise to not use products that are full of petro-chemicals, parabens and other highly toxic ingredients. It is certainly a tri-fold issue. However, women put, on a daily basis, an average of 515 TOXIC chemicals a day on their faces alone! That is 515 too many in my opinion! That alone, has contributed the the higher rate of cancer in women, not to mention that girls are beginning to cycle at a much younger age.
picsblue4 picture
THANK YOU!!!!!! As you mentioned, why whine about the hormones that are in our food, and turn around and ingest artificial cancer causing hormones just to avoid pregnancy. NFP is a natural, 99.9% success rate of avoiding pregnancy *when needed* and we're not putting all that hormone-;aced waste into our water and soil. Think about it. :(
vegangirl picture
Shannonkb: You bring up a good point about women putting hormones into their bodies daily with birth control, but I would like to point out that some women, including myself, take the pill for other reasons than just birth control. I have Endometriosis and the pill greatly reduces the pain and other symptoms associated with this condition. I would rather put this one thing into my body than the crap that is linked with causing cancer. For more information, check out the book, The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.
yulia77 picture
I don't have daughters, but I do have two 11-month old sons. Like many other parents, we become a lot more acute to the affects of anything on our babies and us, adults. Having babies made my husband and I make healther choices for ouselves too - taking vitamins, buying organic meat and veggies, using less plastic, avoiding using plastic in the microwave etc etc. So along with that, I've been reading a lot on the hormonal affects of BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals on children including boys. I've been finding that there maybe a connection to the rising homosexulaity in boys and use of plastics with those chemicals. Not that I have anything against people with homosexual orientation - not at all. But this info is food for thought on this subject.
abalosa picture
I used to think that organic foods were too expensive, but at some point I realized that what I really can't afford are the health problems than can arise from eating chemical- and hormone-laden foods. Is paying a few dollars less for something worth the risk for developing cancer?? Ohhh no. Organic meat IS expensive, which helps my family reduce our consumption (whether we like it or not). If you can't cut out meat for one reason or another, try incorporating "meaty" veggies like eggplant and beans. There are so many great recipes worth trying.
lilipad picture
I too agree about the hormones in todays foods being the cause for early puberty in children. If only we could get back to the days when ALL food was safe and we didnt have to worry about hormones, pesticides, fungicides {(did you know some "organic" growers do use CLOROX to protect root crops from fungus)Now how safe is that?}, herbicides, chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients..... the list goes on and on.
Zorra31P picture
Yes, organic meat and milk costs twice as much. Here is the solution: just consume half as much of it! You will be spending the same amount of money as you would have on the "cheap" milk & meat (but how cheap is it to have heart disease, breast cancer, etc?? we have to stop thinking so short-term!) and eating healthier. Fill up on your dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens and all those are still only 99 cents a bunch at our local grocery store and have been for years!) and brown rice (which is also cheap!) Yes, organic can be expensive. But if you're smart/creative about it, you can eat better for the same amount you're spending on groceries now. Last time I checked, apples were cheaper than Doritos, pound for pound! ;)
lesliemorrow picture
Weetziebat, they do not have to be seven consecutive years. And actually, ANY amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for women's breast health.
lesliemorrow picture
Shannon, Thank you for your post about NFP. It is a method of planning a family that doesn't put hormones into our bodies or the water supply. It is amazing to me that many women pay a pretty penny to get hormone free meat, but put a huge daily dose of hormones into their body to stop themselves from ovulating. I've been using NFP for years and love it! Glad to hear someone else sees this as a green issue, not merely a religious one.
shannonkb picture
Most people are terrified of hormones in their food, but stop and think of how many women are using hormonal birth control. These chemical hormones are excreted in the urine and they are not effectively removed by water treatment methods. We need to stop pushing hormonal birth control on our nation's women. It is not healthy or safe and it has effects far beyond the woman that takes it! People should switch to natural family planning. NFP is just as effective as the pill and it is NOT the rhythm method that everyone thinks of. It is a method that can be used by all women regardless of the regularity of their cycle, breastfeeding, perimenopause, etc. Check out ccli.org and fertilitycare.org/ . NFP allows couples to both avoid pregnancy or plan pregnancy. It is also a great way to monitor health in women and girls that are not concerned about planning or preventing pregnancies. Many doctors do not promote this, Why? It's because medical schools do not teach it. Too many people think this is the outdated rhythm method. Chances are your doctor will tell you it is completely ineffective. However, there are medical textbooks now available about it! I think the biggest reason this is not promoted is that there is no money in it. NFP is very inexpensive because it just takes knowing more about the biological processes in your body. Pharmaceutical companies cannot make money off of this! Doctors cannot make money off of repeated office visits for refills or to change medications. NFP is GREAT and very green as well.
weetziebat531 picture
Who is breastfeeding a 7 year old nowadays?
blumoon32955 picture
In addition to all the added hormones in our meat, chicken, water supply, unnecessary food colorings and flavorings, and hormone disruptors in containers and soy products, NOT BREASTFEEDING is a huge contributor in breast cancer. Use 'em or loose 'em! A study shows that breastfeeding your child(ren) for 7 years or more greatly reduces a woman's risk of getting cancer.
Practical Shopper picture
Practical Shopper
I do believe the role of birth control pills is worth mentioning in this discussion. It's not something many in the "green" world like to address, but there are so many extra hormones being added to our tap water supply by the millions of women taking the pill that it bears examination. Water treatment facilities do not remove the hormones. Male fish in many rivers (ex. near Boulder, CO) are actually developing female sex organs because of the high rates of hormones in the water. I do believe that meat, dairy, plastics, etc; all play a role, but we also have to take an honest look at the long-term environmental effects of the mass use of the pill and the resulting increased presence of hormones in our drinking water.
jmsoltyk picture
This is soooo frustrating they are trying to pass healthcare reform why don't they pass a reform on all the cosmetics cleaners and food we eat and make it illegal for any company to use any toxic chemicals and that all food should be required by law to be organic and all cleaners and cosmetics to be all natural and safe. Our healthcare costs would drop so much we would not need a reform!!!! I do not get this we should all be able to go to stores and buy anything without spending hours and hours researching what is safe EVERYTHING SHOULD BE SAFE!!!! FASTFOOD should be illegal, processed food should be illegal none of that toxic crap should even exist why is this so difficult? We would not be having these problems and we would not be reading this article if the idiots in our government did something about this insanity!!!!! We are killing ourselves WHY?????
ninamar319 picture
Although hormones in commercially grown meat and dairy products probably have a part in premature development of young women, another alarming trend in todays diet is the ever increasing amount of soy in the modern diet! According to the Weston Price Foundation "Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women." Soy produces phytoestrogen that have also been shown to cause premature development in young girls.If it is prevalent in a young girls diet. Soy is in almost everything we eat! whether it is partially hydrogentated soybean oil or in the form of the "so-called-healthy" tofu. Ironically soybeans are one of the biggest cash crop in the United States. Everyone should visit www.westonaprice.org to inquire about the dangers of soy!
ka8uet picture
My mother, age 90, was diagnosed just before Thanksgiving with breast cancer. Within a week she had a mastectomy and was home with home health care. She has had a wonderful, uneventful recovery, and is an amazing woman. We have always eaten what we grow, including beef and chicken. We didn't add anything to the feed, for one thing it wasn't available at the time, I don't think, and besides, our cattle and chickens were outside eating the stuff they evolved to eat, like grass andd bugs. We grew our own hay, corn, etc. and used crop rotation instead of fertilizer. We have been a very healthy, long-lived family, and no one who meets my mother thinks she's ninety! I suspect from this anecdotal evidence that there is something to be said for eating food which hasn't been messed with. Evolution has worked for millions of years, and seems to have proven some truths.
mandyblankenship picture
My husband had never had a salad or any vegetable besides French fries when we started dating. My method for slowly transitioning him into the world of healthy eaters was to introduce one new veggie at each meal. The rule: he has to TRY it. It's ok if it's not his favorite, but he has to try it. A person's palate changes over time and exposure to healthy foods. Now, two and a half years later, he LOVES Caesar salads (even without chicken!), thinks cabbage is awesome, puts squash on hamburgers, and we usually have a vegetarian night once a week. He's even more experimental than I am at times, putting things together in new/different ways. And in terms of limiting junk food: he can only drink Coca-Cola on the weekends, will occasionally have some Chick Fil A, and the very occasional dessert. Over time, these have become HIS choices, not something I have to enforce. It's important to enable and encourage loved ones to make good/healthy choices, not beat them over the head with what they SHOULD be doing. Make it a game, something fun, even if at first it's a bit foreign or even gross to them. And doing research about health hazards/benefits has also been an enlightening & productive exercise together. He now encourages friends how to live/eat healthier.
Kaytee picture
Posted by dreamer218 | Wed, Dec. 17, 2008 "I just want to say that you can sign up at different organic retailers (horizon organic is one but there are many more) and they usually give you a few coupons to print off. .... I always buy organic dairy products." I suggest you do a bit of reading about Horizon. They are NOT truely "organic". Their cows are fed on feed lots, and only see pasturage during their break before breeding (which gives them "letter of the law" rights to claim "organic"). Also, they get many of their cows from non-organic farms, which may have used antibiotics and/or hormones. Same types of violations for their egg production.... Horizon and Dean Foods have been sued for their claims/violations of standards, and their response has been to lobby to change the standards.
sunflowereyesmom picture
Thanks so much everyone for your comments. I have found this site helpful and reassuring that I can make the changes, although slowly, for my family and myself. My hardest challenge is my husband, he is not a veggie lover at all and to eat a salad is way out of his league....any tips for this man. Our budget is tight too, as most everyone these days, so buying organic is a challenge and finding free range meats for him is also a chore, even though I live near Chicago. I prefer to stay local when I can, help our own before we need to buy from overseas and all that! Happy Holidays, and again thanks for all the comments and making my choices to be more vegan an easier transition! :)
sarasoko picture
I agree with many that eating organic, hormone free meats and dairy is a budget breaker. Many years ago I decided to only provide my family with organic, hormone free products. However, when ample income disappeared, I was thankful just to put food on the table. I searched out a local store with a great bulk food section where I could find various dried beans and whole grains like quinoa and millet. Adding in seasonal (some home grown) produce and home grown herbs, I was able to create some interesting meals. I also tried my hand at pickling and canning and had great results at astronomical savings. We still eat meats and fish, but I only buy it when the 'natural' selections are on sale, we eat it less often, and I freeze a lot of it. So, we may not eat as 'gourmet' as we used to, but I still feel good that I am providing my family with very healthy meal options while keeping our per-meal price tag at a minimum.
dorothyp picture
A girl who had started to go into puberty at age nine became a vegetarian. She stopped going into puberty until the more appropriate age of 13. We KNOW the hormones in non-organic red meat are having negative effects on our young people. The research has been done. As for breast cancer, the endocrine disrupters are rampant. Even the mainstream nurse practitioner at the cancer clinic commented without hesitation- the rise in breast cancer is clearly environmental, as are most other health problems. It has now been found that a chemical may be causing the increase in diabetes2 and may also be linked to obesity. Corporations spewing chemicals into our environment need to be made responsible for the health costs of those chemicals. dorothy
seanski0 picture
The previous posts are accurate - healthy lifestyle is the way to go. What I see that is missing is regarding our skin. It is just not what we put into our bodies - good nutrition is great. But our skin is the largest organ of our body. Try reading the ingredients on a tube of sun tan lotion or moisturizing cream. Those chemicals are being absorbed into the skin, taken up by the lymphatic and circulatory systems and carried throughout the body. What about deodorants? Shaving and hair removal creams not to mention cosmetics. All of that goes on the skin and is absorbed into the body. Yes, we live in chemical pollution. The earlier changes to young women could also be an hereditary change of human evolution - adapting to the chemical pollution. We sometimes forget that we are evolving creatures. We see bacteria and insects evolve quicker mainly because they have shorter life cycles.
Seventh Generation VT picture
Seventh Generation VT
My wife & I made the decision when bovine growth hormone was introduced in the 1990s that we would no longer eat or drink dairy products (we were already vegetarian). Going vegan will also save you money.
dreamer218 picture
I just want to say that you can sign up at different organic retailers (horizon organic is one but there are many more) and they usually give you a few coupons to print off. If you check back now and again they put out new coupons. I always buy organic dairy products. If you can not switch to all organic b/c of money you should look for the "list" of what is most important to switch to. I have seen a couple of lists and the number one on them is milk. Hope this helps someone! Thanks for the article.
wackiness picture
I also agree that hormones in foods are at least partly to blame for this trend. Recently, in my hunt for affordable ways to keep these foods off my table, I've come across a new movement...urban gardening. In fact, there's a related movement called the New Victory Garden. Remember Victory Gardens from World War II? Americans produced almost half of the produce we consumed at that time. This trend is re-emerging as people seek to find ways to deal with our terrible food system. Another aspect of these new gardeners is that they believe that they are fighting global warming. Well, it seems like fewer trips to the store, less processing and manufacturing of foods and packaging, carbon sequestration, and cooling urban heat islands through urban gardening might help our bodies and our planet be healthier. It's probably a little cold at the moment to consider gardening, but if you plan now, you can start a garden in the spring and reap the benefits the rest of the year. And, perhaps gardening tools would make a nice holiday gift.
gypsyrose picture
This article and great and all. I love the suggestions as well. But there is a small hang up here ... You need to spend a far greater amount of money to keep what most would consider a "healthy" lifestyle. all dairy and meats that are not shot up with hormones can be up to twice as much money. Free range chicken ... times that by 3 if not more. How about organic? have you seen the cost of that? Holy cow, Batman! Show me where the Trees are that grow money on them .. I want one in my back yard. Silliness aside, the cost to live this "healthy" lifestyle that so many people keep telling us that will reduce all these diseases and epidemics is outrageous. Especially in this day and age with our "non"recession economy. It is sad because I remember just a couple decades ago there was no such thing as buying meats and dairy that were full of hormones -- it was all hormone free. I guess people didn't realize it would be their "bright" ideas to speed up production and get more product on the shelves that would be the cause of so much ... unhealthiness. I recycle what my city allows -- which is oddly not as much as it should be. What they do not allow I find ways to reuse -- I've come up with some great bird & squirrel feeders and creative things to help organize my "home" and work spaces. I reuse all my papers for packing -- Awesome filler! just shred and fill. I've gone to recycled paper for my printer -- which again gets shredded for packing materials. I try to buy bulk when I can. We are setting up a small compost in our little back yard, and next year we are "building" a garden! the list can go on forever .. but buying organic or hormone free? until the cost goes down .. only those who are beyond wealthy can actually afford it. this is my two cents!
TJB picture
I've also read a lot on this subject and the concerns have some merit I'm sure. And more research needs to be done. I have a 10 year old girl who is heading into puberty. I also see a lot of her friends going down that way too; (early periods, little boobies coming early). I'm going as green as possible within my budget unfortunately a lot of foods that are hormone free, organic, etc. are incredibly expensive and in these rough economic times, it's hard to purchase these items. I think about where I grew up in the inner city and I'm sure those parents can't afford to feed their families organic foods. I know I can't and I live in the "burbs". I hope that more major food companies look to remove hormones and such from their foods so that all families can take advantage of eating healthier and drop some dreaded weight in the process. A great resource is the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
LR picture
I completely agree with Traceyleigh, there are so many risks with eating hormone treated beef. I don't think there's been any thorogh studies on how that affects the human body (and mind) long term. I also avoid any milk from hormone treated cows and all foods with artificial coloring. These hormones and colorings are actually forbidden in parts of the world that actually value health over financial profit.
sunflowereyesmom picture
I have recently been reading a book called "Skinny Bitch". I hope the name of the book does not offend anyone. This book is great. There is chock full of information about what we eat, what it has in it, good and bad, mainly bad. How so much of what we eat has the hormones and endless chemicals in them,and how the chemicals and hormones get into the food itself.It's no wonder that children are reaching puberty early, boys and girls although more seems to focus on the girls reaching puberty sooner. I have two daughters and a history of breast cancer in my family so I am reading as much as I can on this subject. If your interested get this book, use the library, buy it or borrow it from a friend it helps us to learn what to eat and why, how to stay healthy and in this case to help slim ourselves. As it says in the book, in some words, you must be healthy to get skinny. I want healthy for the most part for my family, friends and myself. We must read all the labels to see what is in the food we eat and drink, only then can we see how we can change what we eat and become healthier.
Traceyleigh picture
What about the added hormones in meats, especially beef? And the hormones in milk? Don't they play a part in why today's teens are developing much earlier than those in the past?