Barriers to Prevention


For a disease that affects so many women, both directly and indirectly, it’s fair to say that the issue of how environmental and occupational exposures impact on the disease is shockingly absent. No surprise when you realise how many ‘barriers’ stand in the way of this vital part of the story getting out – barriers that impede primary prevention, in other words, stopping the disease before its start.

One of the biggest ‘barriers’ to try and clamber over is the ‘pink’ takeover of the disease – not least the way in which fundraising has become the predominant ‘pink-driven’ focus for the public. Fundraising is good – but not when it displaces other, equally vital elements of the debate.

One of the key areas of our campaign, is to promote the inclusion of ‘barriers to primary prevention’ in the breast cancer debate.

Once you start to get the ‘barriers’ picture, you are starting to join up the dots – and understand how the wider system effectively closes down the environmental and occupational story…There are a number of attitudes, mind-sets and misconceptions standing in the way of a primary prevention focus on breast cancer.

These include acceptance that breast cancer is inevitable; confusion that early detection is prevention, when it is not; a fixation on treatment and control; ignorance of the wider issue of primary prevention and the role of the media in perpetuating this, where a narrow focus on lifestyle – like a narrow focus on genetic mechanisms– obscures cancer’s environmental and occupational roots; procrastination where ‘more research’ is the standard response to calls for prevention policies; the invisibility factor, as, sadly, we cannot see many of the chemicals that are hazardous to our health; fear – fear of cancer feeds our resistance both to learning and even thinking about the disease. Finally, vested interests and the status quo – there is no profit in prevention. The disease of cancer has spawned a major world industry which, to, date has proven a major barrier to the debate about environmental and occupational links to breast cancer getting out.

Combined, these barriers prove to be a powerful means by which to marginalise those who have – over decades – argued for the inclusion of environmental and occupational links to breast cancer. This needs to stop.