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Marie is a health justice communicator, performance artist, and Communication Studies PhD candidate at UNC Chapel Hill, working with people facing life-threatening cancer. Globally + in NC, she learns alongside persons reorienting the status quo of breast cancer, HIV, and patient advocacy.

Environmental and cancer advocacy: Partners in health?

Can advocates “fighting for the environment” and advocates “fighting for health” team up together, productively?

Possibilities for this important partnership are illuminated in a recent Los Angeles Times article on environmental carcinogens and cancer, where breast cancer risk is linked to cadmium, a heavy metal found in processed whole grains, potatoes, vegetables and shellfish unprotected from cropland-leaching through fertilizers, sewage sludge and rainfall. Cadmium is also inhaled and ingested when fossil fuels are burned.

This reminds me of a recent initiative by multiple agencies to get Congress to pass legislation limiting exposure to BPA, bisphenol-A. BPA is a synthetic estrogen used in food packaging, most usually in can-liners and receipts. It is tied to hormonal cancers, inulin resistance and reproductive dangers. Here is the Environmental Working Group‘s plea for citizen action, which gives a quick and detailed introduction to the issue and its public health impacts. Similarly, Breast Cancer Action’s Safe Chemicals Act support represents a large coalition who want to “stop cancer before it starts.” On a continuum of prevention and treatment, this is useful at a population level, where reduced exposures to carcinogens help those who do not have cancer reduce its likelihood of occurrence, as well as those who do to reduce its level of aggression and proliferation.

Nearby to several authors of the blog, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Comprehensive Cancer Center have teamed up for a multi-year initiative, that many welcome as a sensical partnership, both innovative and long overdue at many institutions.

Have you seen any other such innovative, welcome partnerships in health communication coalition-building? Often, these coalitions are the key to translating health communication into action for health justice, that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

Photo: Breast Cancer Action

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