Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pink Bats and 5138008

This is a couple of days late, but I was unable to write about it on Sunday for various reasons. It's about MLB's annual breast cancer awareness day and cancer awareness in general. MLB, like in so many other social causes, was the first to make breast cancer awareness an annual cause. (I love you baseball with a great big pink heart!) It's fun to watch the players wearing their pink shoes and pink gloves and pink whatever those weird arm things were this year while wielding their pink bats. Kudos to MLB and the Susan Komen foundation for your efforts.

We all know about Susan Komen breast cancer walks, and we all know about SU2C and Livestrong. We all know cancer exists, and awareness efforts have cut deaths from cancer significantly over the past several years.

But the focus is always on people who HAVE cancer. Very worthwhile efforts to convince people to be screened for breast and prostate cancer have saved countless lives, but the fact is, the lives already saved were those of people who already had the cancer. Where are more cancer PREVENTION efforts? Why don't we talk more about prevention? Answer: POLITICS.

Cancer diagnosis has declined in recent years (although by less than 1%), thanks in part to many people choosing to live healthier lifestyles. This includes a significant drop in lung cancer rates due to the decline in smoking (with a lot of help from the smoking bans across the country, no doubt.) But somehow, healthy living has become a political issue exploited by conservatives, who stand to lose the most by changes to American consumption patterns since their campaigns are funded by big business like tobacco, corporate farms, and processed food companies. People who choose organic foods and are part of local food movements are demonized as "hippies" or "liberal elites," and suddenly people who eat fruits and vegetables are "communists" who want to "destroy America."

In the meantime, Americans are suffering and dying from cancer at the highest rate in the world. Cancer ranks just below heart disease in the causes of death in America, but in developing countries, it doesn't even make the top ten. Of course, that's changing. As more and more of the global population adopts an American lifestyle (fast food, pre-packaged convenience food products, pesticides, corporate farms, GM meat, low physical activity, etc.), world cancer rates are increasing at an alarming rate. Indeed, cancer used to be known as a "Western disease," but now it is affecting everyone, everywhere.

Here's some basic common sense that anyone who stops to think about it for a moment should be able to understand: the human body is made up of chemicals. We are carbon-based life forms filled three-fourths full by dihydrogen monoxide with all sorts of other chemical elements keeping us running. Didn't anyone take high school chemistry? Adding various chemicals to other chemicals causes chemical reactions. If you're chomping down some monosodium glutanate in quantities that your body isn't made to process, your gonna get a chemical reaction. We're talking DNA mutations.

Anyway, back to the pink bats and breast cancer awareness. The drop in breast cancer rates that occurred over the last decade is related to a decrease in the use of hormone replacement therapy, and that drop is starting to level out. (Here you have another example of us messing with body chemistry and getting cancer as a result.) Thanks to the hard work of breast cancer awareness organizations and volunteers, we may have hit the peak regarding the number of women who need to be made aware that they should be screened, and indeed, some studies are starting to show that we are too aware at too young an age and too many mammograms are being performed. (Of course, this too, was made into a political issue, because reducing the number of mammograms performed threatens the multibillion dollar mammogram industry.) Breast cancer awareness has become something of a socializing activity for middle-aged women, and pink ribbon merchandise raises a ton of cash for awareness campaigns every year and has become trendy.

This is great, of course, please don't think I'm against pink ribbons. (Those I love boobies bracelets are another story.) It's just that I want to see more prevention awareness involved. I want to hear someone in the announcer's booth at the Reds game talk about not just screening, but living healthy lifestyles. I want to see those socializing middle-aged women pushing healthy lifestyles at their booths at the craft show or the community festival. A ribbon isn't going to protect me from getting breast cancer. Fresh fruits and vegetables will. Exercise will. Taking minimal medications will. I want healthy living to be cool and trendy like pink ribbons, not demonized by politicians and their zombie minions.

Of course, some people will suffer cancer regardless of their lifestyles for various reasons, including genetics. Siddhartha Mukherjee's excellent and highly praised book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer shows that cancer is as old as the homosapiens species itself. We're not going to cure cancer. Ever. Hopefully someday soon we'll discover a better method of treating it and stop poisoning cancer-riddled bodies with radiation to get rid of it. But we can certainly and drastically cut the number of people who have to suffer from this horrible disease. Please, eating healthy and getting exercise are not some plot by evil libruls to make America communist. It's how we survived as a species for all these years. Let's get back to what is natural and quit making food and cancer political issues.

A few recommended links to get you on the path to a healthier lifestyle (and support local businesses and farmers!):


Findlay Market
Hyde Park Farmers Market
Green B.E.A.N. Delivery
Wyoming Avenue Farmers Market
Dehli Farmers Market
Lettuce Eat Well Farmers Market


Dayton Daily News Farmers Market Guide


Columbus Foodie


Indiana Local Food Guide


Kentucky Farmers Markets

Feel free to add more links in the comments.

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