Breast cancer will affect one out of eight women and one of every 1000 men in their lifetime. In 2011, nearly 290,000 people will be diagnosed in the US with the disease, and nearly 40,000 of these will die from it. Numerous predisposing conditions have been identified which greatly increase the risk of getting breast cancer. Awareness of these factors and appropriate actions can magnify the odds of avoiding the illness or surviving it.
However, there is a large population of females with an unusually high aggregation of risk conditions who are at zero liberty to improve their lifestyles. These are the women and girls who are sexually abused, sexually exploited and sex trafficked. As if the aftermath of the horrors of sexual violence didn’t leave enough debilitation, the specter of future breast cancer looms unusually large for these survivors.
Breast cancer risk factors present in typical sex trafficking survivors
(Statistics about sex trafficking are found in Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd, and information on cancers risks is taken from Breastcancer.org unless noted)
- Being female: 90% of sex slavery victims are female
- Aging: While most actively trafficked women are under 25, their risk of cancer increases every year that they live, just as for other women.
- Race/ethnicity: African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age. Black girls are disproportionately represented among the victims of sex slavery.
- Early onset of menses (younger than 12): African-American girls as well as those who have been sexually abused tend to have earlier puberty than others. Early development of breasts increases the risk of sexual abuse.
- Drinking alchohol consistently: Alchohol and drugs are often used by those who have been sexually violated to numb their pain, either while being trafficked or afterwards. Alcohol consumption under age 22 increases the risk even more.
- Lack of exercise: Often, commercially sexually exploited children are severely restricted in their activities. They may be physically locked up or restricted from going outside when they are not “working”.
- Inadequate nutrition: Many girls who are being prostituted are denied food or given insufficient meals which are nutritionally inferior, such as fast food.
- Exposure to chemicals in foods: Poor quality and unhealthy foods are most likely to be higher in chemicals and preservatives.
- Low levels of Vitamin D: Most Americans suffer Vitamin D deficiency, which will be exacerbated by an enslaved person’s lack of exposure to sunlight and poor food quality.
- Light exposure at night and disturbance of circadian rhythm: Although not restricted to night activities, sexual predators typcially make the girls work all night, every night.
- Exposure to chemicals in cosmetics: Make up is an important tool for causing the girls to look sexy and older.
- Abortions or pregnancy not carried to birth: Pregnancy will cut into a pimp’s profits, so he may force his victims to have abortions.
- Birth control pills: Risk is highest for use before age 20 and use before first pregnancy.
- Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke: Lactation cells are not fully developed before the first pregnancy and are more susceptible to smoke induced cancers.
- Never having children and/or never breastfeeding increases the risk of breast cancer.
Taken all together, this collection of risk factors presents a higher than normal probability that women who have been sex trafficked will be significantly more likely to develop breast cancer than women who have not been sexually violated. The Breast Cancer Risk Predictor looks at some of these factors to give an individual assessment of the magnitude of factors a woman may be carrying.
A way to take action to help fund breast cancer research
Stonyfield Yogurt has commited to donate up to $100,000 to support Breastcancer.org. When one million clicks and likes are collected on the Stonyfield action page, each click will be worth $0.10. Currently, each action generates at least three cents for the cause.
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(c) 2011 Holly Craw. All rights reserved. You may link to this article or take an excerpt with due attribution to the author and a link back to this original article. Mention your link below to get a shoutout.