Breast cancer remains the second-most common type of cancer diagnosed, after skin cancer, for U.S. women. Breast cancer is the second-most common cause of death, after lung cancer, for U.S. women. An estimated 40,920 women and 480 men will die in 2018 from breast cancer. A systematic change is needed to alter the legacy of breast cancer for our children and grandchildren.

Through my work at Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of many women, men and families who have been faced with the personal burden of this life-changing diagnosis. Each year, the coalition’s statewide Against the Tide event rekindles my desire to press on toward a world in which breast cancer no longer robs families of their loved ones.

Betty Anne Bevis of Marstons Mills, a longtime advocate for breast cancer prevention and Against the Tide chairwoman, was 46 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer - the same age her father was when he died of cancer. Following her diagnosis, Bevis underwent four surgeries while still managing to stay enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she had gone back to earn her degree. “I remember I had a final exam and then the very next day started chemo. It was a very emotional time,” said Bevis. “My family is what kept me from giving up; they were right there by my side as my chemotherapy treatments became progressively more difficult.”

While many argue that cancer is hereditary, published statistics point out that that is so for only 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers. “The reason I wanted to get involved with MBCC was that I always thought the environment had a lot to do with my breast cancer diagnosis,” states Bevis. “So much of MBCC’s work is about prevention and finding environmental causes; I think the cure is to look at our environment.”

Another Cape resident, Susan Demarest, a registered nurse from South Dennis, has participated as a runner at Against the Tide since 2015. “I feel strongly about this cause,” says Demarest, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive breast cancer in 2012. “Once you have breast cancer you are always looking over your shoulder. It would break my heart if it happened to my daughter. We need to do what we can to prevent it.”

We are so fortunate to have such tremendous support from inspirational women like Susan and Betty Ann, along with many other Massachusetts citizens demanding greater protection of their children’s health.

I urge readers to join us Aug. 18 for the 19th annual statewide Against the Tide event at Nickerson State Park in Brewster. Against the Tide is a unique paddle, swim, run, walk, kayak and/or aquathon event held each year to benefit the coalition’s work toward breast cancer prevention. With both competitive and recreational components, this event has something for everyone. It is an inspiration to see multiple generations, competitive athletes, weekend warriors and so many more come together to work toward a common goal: breast cancer prevention.

Against the Tide supports the coalition’s program work, including the award-winning Let’s Talk Prevention: Reducing Toxic Exposures community education tour and Let’s Talk Prevention: Actions You Can Take health education program for high school students. These unique free programs are designed to educate and to increase discussions about environmental exposures and their links to health.

Register to be part of our Mothers Team for Breast Cancer Prevention at www.firstgiving.com/team/376538, start a new team or sign up as an individual at www.mbcc.org/swim.

Cheryl Osimo is executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and co-founder of Silent Spring Institute.