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Mother Daughter Walking on Beach

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 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

Geoff the Inkslinger and his Dog

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!