pink breast cancer awareness ribbon
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Upcoming events highlight breast cancer awareness

Cancer is scary, but knowledge helps make it a little less so. That’s why two organizations are stepping up to make sure people in the Jewish community understand the risks — both genetic and environmental — and what they can do with about them.

“This year we are focusing on the environmental impact,” said the Peninsula JCC’s Vicki McGrath, who specializes in exercise and rehabilitation for cancer sufferers and survivors.

Pink Ribbon Day at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City is an annual event that highlights breast cancer, but this year it’s a little different.

On Oct. 28, microbiologist Sharima Rasanayagam, director of science at S.F.-based Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, will be on hand to talk about environmental dangers and cancer-causing agents found in common items such as canned foods, anti-aging creams and computer monitors. Her organization advocates for legislation to educate the public about these chemicals.

Her talk, called “The Toxins Around Us,” will cover how even minute exposure to some chemicals can cause harm.

“I think it tends not to be the focus,” McGrath said. “[With] all the hype around breast cancer prevention, we don’t necessarily speak [about] the environment.”

Pink Ribbon Day also will include exercises classes and a morning “market” of vendors with information about breast cancer, as well as a “house” that people can walk into and see potential cancer agents (from cookware to shower curtains).

The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., with Rasanayagam’s talk during the final hour, at the the Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City. Admission is free, although donations are being sought from those who sign up for exercise classes. Details and signup information can be found at, or call (650) 378-2727.

One week earlier, on Sunday, Oct. 21 at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, a panel titled “Genetics, Jews and Cancer: How science could change (or save!) your life” will tackle how new genetic research is changing what is known about the disease.

The panel includes Dr. Charles Elboim, a surgeon specializing in breast cancer, and genetics nurse Kathleen Mott, who works in cancer risk assessment. Also slated to speak is Ann DuBay, a cancer survivor who carries the BRCA gene mutation that is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by 60-80 percent and ovarian cancer by 20-40 percent. The BRCA mutation is found in more than 2 percent of Ashkenazi Jews in the United States.

Co-sponsored by the JCC of Sonoma County, the 3-5 p.m. event is free but an RSVP is requested. Congregation Shomrei Torah is at 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. For more information, visit or send an RSVP to [email protected].