Stop Pinkwashing and Start Encouraging Breast Health

Three Things You Can Do

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Breast Health

Enhance the health of your breasts by creating a healthy balance between nurturing yourself and others. — C.N. Tweet this!

Our culture is obsessed with breasts. Let’s face it—breasts are pretty wonderful. Yes, I said wonderful! They nurture you when you are a child and provide you (and your partner) with sensual pleasure when you are older. Your breasts are a vital part of your woman’s wisdom, letting you know when you’ve created a healthy balance between nurturing yourself and others.

But this important message is lost amid the pinkwashing hoopla that is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

What is pinkwashing? It’s the now ubiquitous marketing of Breast Cancer Awareness Month that incorporates the pink ribbon and the color pink in products and promotions in October.

While I certainly hope we find a cure for breast cancer—and every other kind of cancer—I don’t think that buying pink candy, using makeup that includes a pink ribbon in its packaging, or watching an NFL game with players wearing pink gloves, wrist bands, or socks is the way to promote breast health.

Think about it: The candy still contains sugar, an ingredient known to feed cancer cells, and the makeup may contain parabens, a preservative and known estrogen disruptor. And while a man playing in pink or sporting an outrageous pink hairstyle may help raise money for the American Cancer Society, it also promotes corporate profits and the company image of the NFL or its players.

I know women agree because their thoughts and feelings were heard in the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., which explains how “Supporting the Cure” has become more about boosting corporate sales and company identity, and less about the real women who are tackling the very unglamorous and treacherous slope of breast cancer recovery. I’ve long advised that instead of fighting or having wars on something, it is much better to lovingly encourage our desired outcome. So this month, I want to encourage breast health—and make you AWARE of what you can do to protect your precious breasts. This shifts the focus from curing to preventing.

  1. Choose thermography not mammography. Thermography is a technology that picks up thermal changes in breast tissue. These thermal changes are the precursors for breast tissue anomalies that can become cancerous. Unlike a mammogram, a thermogram—a breast exam using thermography—isn’t invasive. No one touches or flattens your breasts, and there is absolutely no radiation exposure. One of the reasons I like thermography is it often gives you time to change your habits and improve the health of your breast tissue. That’s because thermography can find potential problems years before a mammogram can detect cancerous cells.
  2. Iodine is a powerful antioxidant, and studies show it plays a role in preventing and treating breast cancer.1 It does this by decreasing the ability of estrogen to adhere to estrogen receptors in the breast.2 This ties into the compelling evidence that iodine deficiency is a cause of breast cancer. Iodine taken in doses of 100–150 mcg per day is considered a therapeutic dose. As I wrote in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, and in the article “Relief for Common Breast Symptoms,” sore, tender, or lumpy breasts are very common and fibrocystic changes are often benign. About 45 percent of women who visit breast care clinics have breast pain, and could benefit from 6 mg to 90 mg of iodine daily. 3 Taking iodine at these levels eliminates breast pain from fibrocystic changes about 70 percent of the time.4
  3. Take a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement that is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, B-complex, D, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants help the cells in your breasts fight cellular inflammation, which can be a precursor to breast cancer. Get plenty of vitamin D, too. Studies show that women with optimal levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of breast cancer. Your vitamin D level should be at least 40 ng/ml; 60-80 ng/ml is optimal. Ask for your actual vitamin D level. Don’t settle for “It’s normal” as an answer. If it’s in the suboptimal range, talk with your doctor and come up with the best strategy for raising your levels of this important nutrient. Be prepared to take up to 50,000 IUs per week until your levels are high enough and then 1,000–5,000 IUs per day after that.

If you like pink wear it! But know that breast health begins with this: enjoying your life and welcoming pleasurable experiences into it on a daily basis. You have the ability to create and enjoy vibrant health every day and until you take your last breath, regardless of your genetic makeup or family history.

Please leave me a message and let me know your thoughts on this important topic.


  1. B. A. Eskin et al., “Mammary Gland Dysplasia in Iodine Deficiency,” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 200 (1967), pp. 115–19.
  2. IBID.
  3. Kessler, “The Effect of Supraphysiologic Levels of Iodine on Patients with Cyclic Mastalgia.”
  4. 2. J. H. Kessler, “The Effect of Supraphysiologic Levels of Iodine on Patients with Cyclic Mastalgia,” The Breast Journal, vol. 10, no. 4 (2004), pp. 328–36; W. R. Ghent et al., “Iodine Replacement in Fibrocystic Disease of the Breast,” Canadian Journal of Surgery, vol. 35, no. 5 (Oct. 1993), pp. 453–60.
Last Updated: October 21, 2014

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


Add comment
  1. shari
    4 years ago

    I have just been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, it is on one side and about 4.1, it changed very quickly, I am scheduled for a mastectomy and am pretty depressed about it. I know that you have a different opinion from many but I can’t locate my book or find the article online. Could someone direct me? They believe it is not invasive but are unsure at this time.

  2. Allison
    6 years ago

    I read your research about iodine after finding out I was extremely deficient and after I found a huge cyst in my breast. I ordered iodoral and vegan taking 25mg each day and immediately the cyst shrunk. Within 2 weeks it’s almost gone and it appears , too, my breasts appear more full. I’m 53 and haven’t had a period in about 6 mos. How can that be?

  3. Emily Alexander
    7 years ago

    You changed my life.
    I wasn’t aware of the baseline fear that I was living with for years until I realized I didn’t have to ‘expect’ breast cancer. Your courage to speak the unpopular truth has made me courageous, too, on a myriad of women’s health issues.

  4. Patricia
    7 years ago

    Please help. I had a lumpectomy in Feb. of 2017. In late March I developed pain and less mobility in my left shoulder. During my lumpectomy or maybe before, they put titanium metal markers (in the shape of pink ribbons!) in my breast without my consent. They told me that they are to mark potential problems in the future! I have been to orthopedic doctors, physical therapy, and back to my breast surgeon with no help. In fact, the pain has spread to my breast. My surgeon said that the surgery has “absolutely nothing to do with my current problems”! He also said that it is not a breast problem! I have heard that some people have reactions to these markers. I would love to know what you think about this Dr. Northrup. My physical therapist said that two patients of hers had to have the markers removed because of similar problems to mine. I cannot seem to find help. Next I will be going for an MRI of my shoulder. I am becoming depressed over this issue.
    Patricia Tomlinson

  5. Patricia
    7 years ago

    I had a lumpectomy in February 2017. It was a radial scar that they removed. I know that the doctor left titanium markers (in the shape of pink ribbons!!) in my breast so they could, “mark potential spots”. They did this without my consent! In late March I started having pain in my left shoulder. X-rays show that I have a lot of inflammation between the ball and socket of my shouIder. I have also lost some movement. I have gone to orthopedic specialists, physical therapy, and back to my breast surgeon. No one has been able to help me. And now the pain has spread down my arm and across my left breast. When I asked the breast surgeon if I might be having a reaction to the titanium they put in my breast he said he was “100 percent sure” that was not the case. In fact, he said that my problems have absolutely nothing to do with the breast surgery. But he was sure to give me my order for my next mammogram! Ugh. My physical therapist said she knew of two women who had the markers removed because of bad reactions. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have become quite depressed about the whole thing and I don’t know where to turn for help. I’m scheduled to get an MRI on my shoulder. Should I have the markers removed?

  6. Susan E LeBoutillier
    7 years ago

    I am 57 years old and have recently had two mammograms and an ultrasound that show enlarged lymph node and a spot but have been inconclusive. They directed me to a breast surgeon and my appointment is Monday, with a biopsy scheduled for Wednesday. My dad had breast cancer and both mammograms were removed, he later got prostate cancer. His sister had breast cancer at 62 and had one breast removed. And his grandmother died before the age of 50 from breast cancer. My question is would a thermogram do anything now for me? I’m allergic to shellfish what do I do about the iodine situation? And I have been on natural armothyroid medicine since 1999, do you have any suggestions? should I get more testing before cutting? Help, please

  7. Vicki Palmer
    7 years ago

    I have a small DCIS spot which will be removed later this month, followed by a five-day targeted radiation treatment two weeks later. I’m trying to control all my anger at the way patients are processed, even though I’m with the fairly highly respected Morton Plant Hospital’s breast center in Clearwater, Fla. I’m being forced off my estrogen/progesterone (natural) supplements because of the receptors. My Vitamin D levels were low within the last year and I wish my endocrinologist had pointed out the risk factors there. I’m also 69 and have been on estrogen/progesterone on and off since an emergency hysterectomy and ovary removal at age 34. My chiropractor and the German-trained nutritionist who owns the health food store I go to are both aware of the possible iodine connection to my condition. Again, hindsight is great. Just great. I do plan to use iodine but will have to be careful because I take compounded thyroid medication, having only half a thyroid. I will have to bully my endocrinologist into watching my thyroid more carefully. She is a holistic physician and should have known about the iodine. I am going to refuse the hormone blocking meds because of the possible side effects. I’m also at very high risk for those side effects because of the hysterectomy and other conditions. In other words, I will be juggling even more balls than when I was a working mom with three kids. Integrative physicians are rare in Florida and Medicare doesn’t cover alternative treatments. Sometimes, this is all just a crap shoot. You do what you can reasonably do for yourself and hope for the best. I’ll be looking for more information as I heal. The windchimes on my lovely back patio are providing me with a serene and lovely meditative atmosphere, so I’m stopping the medication exercise class I didn’t want to go to anyway. Sometimes, you need quality time alone rather than time with others who are in the same boat.

  8. Patricia
    8 years ago

    Years After treatment for breast cancer I was still having trouble with a hardened breast and tenderness. My naturopath had me use the castor oil treatments. I was very sceptical but was faithful with them and surprise ( though not surprising to my naturopath) the breast softened to normal and the tenderness was greatly lessened. Give it a try.

  9. Ariana Timmerman
    9 years ago

    WHAT ABOUT BREASTFEEDING!!! Shouldn’t breastfeed your babies for as long as possible be #1?!?

    1. Jennifer Balcome
      4 years ago

      That’s what I thought! I loved nurturing my baby. But after 3.5 years of breastfeeding, I have stage 3c breast cancer. But mine is not hormone feed.

  10. Petra Wink
    9 years ago

    Awesome article!!!
    Awareness and prevention is so overdue!
    Thanks for speaking out ☺

  11. liz
    9 years ago

    Thank you! I was relieved to read your article. Like Monika, I, too, have felt frustrated about Pinkwashing!

  12. Dear Dr. Northrup, I recently had biopsy on my breast due to leakage. It was benign but my natural Mother died of breast cancer and ovarian cancer so I was fearful of outcome. Have family history on both sides but at 73 I hope I can beat the odds. Thank you for caring about women’s health!

  13. Wendy
    9 years ago

    Thank You ever so much for this article. And everything else you offer. Very empowering. I am finding some relief. I have really been struggling the last few days with a new doctor and him wanting me to get a mammogram and pap. I read articles years ago, that talked about new technology being developed and hoped it would be in time for when I needed to get this done. I am in search of a women’s clinic to get this service. I would love to go to women to women. I may contact them. I will need to find out if they do sliding fee. Again Thank You.

  14. Sue
    9 years ago

    I had a lumpectoy because a mass was found during a routine mammogram. I have 31 out the 33 radiation treatments prescribed to prevent recourance. The medical Oncologist would like me to take a pill to kill all my hormones that might cause recurrance and I don’t want to do that. I have changed my eating habits and been trying to drink more water (which is filtered). Would I benefit fromt he iodine pills? Are there any negative effects?

  15. Jill M. Mieras
    9 years ago

    I am retired (62) and have BCBS. Do most insurances cover thermography as well as mammography?

  16. Monika
    9 years ago

    So happy you feel the same way about Pink Washing. I get so frustrated when I see it all around me and feel as if I’m the Grinch when I won’t participate in the fund raisers or wear a pink wristband!! I tell people why but they still look at me as if I’m insensitive to those that are affected. I own a Makeup Studio and only sell SAFE products and try to educate as much as I can.
    I will help spread the word!!!

  17. Myers Sheri
    9 years ago

    I have an appointment with my breast doctor tomorrow, as well as. A mamogr scheduled. I am 59. My mother died of breast cancer at 48. My BRCA testing was normal. My breasts were very dense until about four years ago, however I still some issues with fibrocistic tissue according to sonograms which cause tenderness.
    Now that my breasts are not as dense, do you think thermography is the best choice for detecting and preventative breast health? Thank you in advance.
    Sheri Myers

  18. Karen
    9 years ago

    Thank you so much Dr. Northrup! I do follow your advice and it makes all the difference. I had not suffered with breast discomfort until after my youngest son passed away this summer at the age of 28. Makes so much sense that the grief would be felt physically in the body in many ways, including breasts. I use iodine on your advice but occasionally get off track, but have stayed on it over the last few months, and along with some sound healing and a little dandelion, and following your advice above the discomfort is gone.
    I have bought your books and other info for many years both for myself and my friends and family – you are a blessing! Thank you so much!! I could take your advice to my Dr, and use it for guiding many life and health choices, and to not have to repeat family history! Blessings to you – I am grateful for you and that you let your magnificence shine through for the good of many.

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