Guest Blogger Tom shares about his dry cleaned shirts reminding us Breast Cancer prevention is for everyone!

Hi everyone! I’m Tom, a junior at the Isenberg School at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I have been a fan of the Protect Our Breasts organization for a while now, and I wanted to share some insight into the world of male breast cancer.  This past summer, like many students before their senior year, I entered corporate America as an intern. Everyone advised me that it was necessary to both “look the part” and “act the part” while in the office.

After spending the weeks leading up to my internship on a shopping spree for adult clothing, I was still searching for ways to become as professional as possible. After a suggestion from my older brother, I found refuge in the world of dry cleaning. Once I received my first batch of shirts back from the cleaners looking crisper, cleaner, and neater than ever before, I was hooked.

I was so concerned with looking successful and classy that it never occurred to me that there might be dangers associated with dry cleaning. What I have found out is that 85 percent of US dry cleaners use a chemical known as perchloroethylene (PERC) in the washing process. Unfortunately, the EPA and National Academy of Sciences have deemed PERC a “likely human carcinogen.” PERC can be found in the soil, air, and drinking water.

At Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base camp in North Carolina, soldiers and their families were exposed to PERC contaminated drinking water from 1957 to 1987. Twenty-two men who lived on the base developed male breast cancer. Male breast cancer is much rarer than female breast cancer because we only possess a small amount of non-functioning breast tissue. A male’s chance of developing breast cancer is about one percent. However, 1,970 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2010.  For twenty percent of all cases, approximately 390 men, the cancer proved fatal. It is vitally important that men as well as women take necessary precautions to protect themselves.

Wearing freshly dry cleaned clothes makes me wonder about an increased risk of cancer. I will personally be wearing dry cleaned shirts five days a week, and possibly on weekends. What other options do we businessmen have? A man could invest in wrinkle free shirts, but the shirts are never truly wrinkle free or look as nice as a dry cleaned shirt. Other solutions? Try to find an organic cleaner and ask about the chemicals used in the washing process. Make sure to stay away from cleaners that use PERC. If an alternative cleaner does not exist, one option to reduce risk is to air out dry cleaned clothing rather than leaving the clothes hanging in the bag until use.

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