Tribute to an American activist who spoke out on breast cancer

On Monday 31st October, we had a very special evening to mark the final day of Breast Cancer Prevention Month with From Pink to Prevention’s evening dedicated to the writing of Barbara Brenner, hosted by UNISON. Barbara was the American activist who first described the commercialisation of breast cancer as ‘pink-washing’ and who, in her many years of campaigning, also spoke loudly about breast cancer as a disease with environmental and occupational risk factors which needed addressing urgently.

Barbara’s partner of 38 years, Susie Lampert, shared some of Barbara’s writings by reading a selection of extracts.  This included an incredibly moving article about the nature of activism and the need for health activists to stay true to their cause and beliefs, no matter how tough or how long the struggle may be.


Tracey Ayton Harding, UNISON’s Health and Safety National officer, shared a brief introduction to role of the union on cancer in the workplace in general and,  in particular, called for risks for cancer, including breast cancer to be seen in the same way as other hazards at the workplace.


Helen Lynn, facilitator for Alliance for Cancer Prevention and campaigner with From Pink to Prevention  elaborated on the occupational risk factors for breast cancer coupled with the wider chemical environmental burden and expressed frustration at just how reluctant government, industry and the breast cancer charities have been to acknowledge and act upon the evidence linking environmental and occupational risk factors to the disease.

The evening was an opportunity for speakers and audience alike to learn and share more about many interconnected issues concerning breast cancer which  are all too seldom aired in the mainstream discourse around the disease.

And possibly most important of all, it also gave Susie an opportunity to see just how much this London appreciated this introduction to Barbara’s incredibly packed life through her activism and her writings. It was an evening during which we all came to realise the power of change-makers in our lives – and Barbara Brenner was one of the best. A big thank-you to our colleague Grazia de Michele for enabling us to be a part of this special series of book launch events across the UK.


You can find more about the book here – University of Minnesota Press.

Barbara set up San Francisco based Breast Cancer Action and was its first Executive Director.

Review of So Much to Be Done BY Grazia De Michele on Nursing Clio.

Find more and watch BCA’s short film.