Friday, June 8, 2012

Pink Overload: What’s Happened to the Breast-Cancer Awareness Movement?

Pink ribbons, pink cars, pink kitchen mixers, pink vacuum cleaners, pink knives and now, pink guns?

That’s right, breast-cancer awareness guns. Truly inasane.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no objection to breast cancer-awareness campaigns in and of themselves; it is a worthy cause that may help save some lives by spotlighting the importance of early screening and does bring emotional support and fellowship to many suffering from breast cancer.

What truly bothers me is that the movement has morphed into a commercial behemoth - a massive money-making, cash-raking frenzy that makes the month of October look like someone hosed it down with Pepto-Bismol. At nearly every fundraising event and in every related media campaign you see evidence of massive corporate sponsorship. There’s Ford Motor Company’s “Warriors in Pink” clothing line, entire Japanese trolleys wrapped in ads for Avon’s pink-beribboned product line and Yoplait’s “Put a Lid on It,” for example. Here’s a spot of bitter irony: when Yoplait first launched that campaign, they were making the yogurt with dairy from cows injected with a growth hormone that has been linked to breast cancer. At least General Mills pulled the hormone from Yoplait after activists started making noise about it.

With the seemingly endless millions flowing to this movement, it’s clear that some are profiting big. But are we really any closer to finding the elusive cure? I recently wrote about Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s disastrous attempt to pull Planned Parenthood’s funding – which the group uses to provide potentially life-saving breast-cancer screenings to low-income women. Wow. Just, wow.

Another gripe with the pink-ribbon overkill is that it overshadows so many other worthwhile causes and nonprofits – groups that do incredibly valuable and needed work in their communities – that are barely noticed and chronically underfunded. At the ThinkTank, the arm of ThinkInk that works with nonprofits. Unfortunately for many of them, their funding dried up as the recession struck and donations dwindled, forcing them to eliminate PR – which is what keeps them in the public eye – from their meager budgets.

It’s heartbreaking that so many great community programs delivering vital services such as medical care for the poor, food assistance and transitional housing, but lacking the visibility of the charity giants, languish in obscurity.

I absolutely support raising funds for breast cancer research as well as early-screening awareness, and I have nothing but good wishes for the many women who have survived, or are currently battling, breast cancer. But the actual impact of the movement as it stands today hardly seems commensurate with the eye-popping river of money it pulls in.

So let’s try and find other causes, other non-profits that desperately need our help in order to help others.
Because their missions matter too, you know?


  1. I too support research for breast cancer, and awareness for early screening.

    My son Mikey has intractable seizures (epilepsy) and we've almost lost him three times from complications from epilepsy; in other words being on life support in ICU at Miami Childrens with odds not in his favor.

    50,000 people in the US will die this year from epilepsy/SUDEP or related complications, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, versus about 40,000 from breast cancer. It's not a race or a contest; but there is a total lack of awareness about epilepsy. It also gets less than 10% of the funding for breast cancer research and affects many children.

    This is just one example of many good causes out there, besides breast cancer. The good news is, some of the research that HAS been done and some of the doctors at Miami Children's have my son's epilepsy under good control. But that's not true for many, many children that need help. Thanks again for pointing out the maybe politically incorrect truth.

  2. Thank you, Andrea, for your comment. Best wishes to you and Mikey. Hopefully enough people will open their eyes and realize that there are many other problems threatening the lives of countless good folks, like your son, who deserve our attention and help.