Climbing Peaks for Breast Cancer Prevention

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Here at Ibex, we realize the importance of supporting organizations dedicated to investigating the cause and cures for the disease. Ibex has a partnership of over 10 years with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP), so this month we sat down with Sheila Brown, BCPP’s Director of Development and Special Projects to learn more about BCPP’s mission, values, and strong connection to the outdoors.

2017 BCPP Mt. Shasta climb, California

Ibex: Tell us about BCPP’s relationship with Ibex. How and when did it commence? What does it entail?

Sheila Brown: Ibex has supported our climbers and trekkers by providing baselayers and hats since 2004. Ibex has also provided gear as fundraising incentives for many of our other events. In 2006, Ibex strengthened our partnership with a cause marketing campaign benefiting BCPP.

Ibex: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How does BCPP stand out among other breast cancer organizations? How does it collaborate with them?

SB: At BCPP, we like to refer to October as Breast Cancer PREVENTION Month and that is the key difference between ourselves and other breast cancer organizations. Since 2001, our mission has been to eliminate our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. We are the only national breast cancer organization focused solely on the prevention of the disease.  

While breast cancer is understood to be a complex disease, in fact, only 10 percent of breast cancers can be attributed to the traditional risk factor, family genetics. There is a definitive body of scientific evidence linking breast cancer to chemicals in our everyday environment—chemicals in our food, our products, our air and our water. More than 85,000 industrial chemicals are registered for use in the United States, but less than 10 percent have been fully tested for their health effects.

We collaborate with other breast cancer organizations in a variety of ways, including participation on scientific panels, fundraising events, and other projects. We currently have two projects involving such collaboration: a study group on the environmental risk factors for women living with a breast cancer diagnosis and our multi-year project to develop a primary breast cancer prevention plan for the state of California.

Sheila Brown, Director of Development and Special Projects, finds comfort in her Woolies at base camp

Ibex: According to your website, “since 1995 our climbs have brought over 500 women and men together to climb the highest peaks in support of our organization and our mission.” Can you tell us about BCPP’s connection to the mountains?

SB: Over 500 climbers have participated in our climb events, with the first climb on Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua in 1995. BCPP founder, Andrea Martin, felt that climbing a mountain was a perfect metaphor for the challenges facing those with a breast cancer diagnosis…taking on the mountain or cancer…“one step at a time”. Subsequent climbs took place on Mt. McKinley (1998), Mt. Fuji (2000), Mt. Rainier (2005) and 14 climbs on Mt. Shasta, where we found the perfect mountain and community for Climb Against the Odds. Our climbers have raised over $4.5 million to support our work on breast cancer prevention.

Our affinity for outdoor challenges has continued to expand to other events, including 22 years of Peak Hike for Prevention (a day hike in Marin County, CA), Sacred Treks (international trekking), New England Peaks for Prevention (multi-day hike on Mt. Washington, NH) and Beyond the Pink (day hike on Sugarloaf Mountain, MD).

Ibex: Environmental health is important to Ibex readers. Can you explain why it is important to BCPP?

SB: Since 2001, when we re-focused our mission on the environmental links to breast cancer, we have worked at the nexus of breast cancer and environmental health. The connection to increased breast cancer rates has been clearly made. That’s why, working with our partners and supporters, we shift the public conversation around breast cancer from awareness to prevention, and in the process, we will transform how our nation thinks about and uses toxic chemicals. We will find solutions to ensure that ourselves, future generations and the environment can thrive.

Our new name highlights our long-time prevention mission and our partnerships, which are a strategic part of our work. Together we are part of a broad environmental, public health and justice movement. Collaboration among organizations is an important part of this movement and a significant factor in the success of BCPP in our efforts to reduce environmental exposures linked to breast cancer and other diseases. With our partners, we work towards systemic change by holding business and government leaders accountable to produce safe products and implement truly health-protective policies.

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Ibex: How does Ibex’s partnership with BCPP contribute to its mission and vision?

SB: BCPP partners with businesses that share our values, including living an active, healthy life and caring for our planet. We partner with businesses that produce safe, non-toxic products and promote sustainable business practices. Working together, we prove that businesses can adhere to these values while building profitable, healthy companies. Ibex’s commitment to uncompromising craftsmanship, including leaving the planet and communities better off than they were found, is a powerful message, and what we believe moves business and government leaders to change towards a world where toxic exposures are eliminated and breast cancer rates reduced.

Ibex: How can Ibex readers get involved with BCPP?

SB: Readers can start by visiting our website and learning about the challenges we face, opportunities to reduce their personal risk and actions they can take to influence change. Mobilizing the public to raise their voices in support of safer products and policies is a key part of our work. We also offer many opportunities to support our work by joining one of our outdoor fundraising challenges, hosting an event, donating to BCPP and spreading the word about the importance of breast cancer prevention.

Mt. Shasta climb, California