Think Before We Pink
October 5, 2017
It's that time of year again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where the breast cancer industry skyrockets and we wonder how many of the pink ribbon products and promotions we're seeing truly help women living with and at risk of breast cancer?
Since the 80s, one of the most common ways for Americans to try and do something about breast cancer has been by participating in walks and marathons. These events are typically hosted by the largest charities and sponsored by billion-dollar corporations, yet this year, over 250,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer and 40,000 of them will not survive the disease. With all that money being raised, why aren't we closer to a cure?1
Of course, we'd like to believe that every dollar earned through these corporations goes towards supporting breast cancer programs and research, but the harsh reality is that only a small fraction of that capital is being publicly accounted for. Many companies that print the pink ribbon on their packaging have “caps” on the amount of money they will donate to the cause – meaning once their goals are met, those funds will no longer serve the intended mission. Many other companies who advocate breast cancer awareness and action simultaneously produce products known to contribute to the disease, such as carcinogens and other known cancer-causing agents.
When it comes to pink ribbon fundraisers and products, there’s also a tendency to downplay the realities of the disease. Breast cancer isn't something to take lightly – it's not all about mammogram reminders and "fighting like a girl" – it's a complex, devastating illness. What about the women who don't survive or live with metastatic disease? What about the post-effects of cancer, including physical, mental, emotional and/or financial burdens? Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer – it's ranked as the second leading cause of death in the US and the second most common cancer found in women – but clearly, we’re not getting the full picture.2
Bottom line is that we need to fight breast cancer in ways that truly impact and save lives. Speaking out against the commercialization of the disease doesn't indicate a lack of support for those afflicted by it. And as research and technologies progress toward a cure, it’s imperative to simultaneously try and prevent breast cancer from the beginning. Over half of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. have no risk factors, and only 10 percent of diagnoses are due to genetic background.
So as we move into October, take a moment to think about what breast cancer means to you and take action where it feels right. It can be something as simple as eating more organic and non-GMO foods or finding a new beauty regimen. Or perhaps you have a friend in treatment you can spend more time with. If you do decide to participate in fundraisers (and many of them are amazingly worthy!), make sure you know where your money is going and avoid supporting businesses that participate in pinkwashing.
If you're looking to donate, here are a few of the most accountable and transparent charities – Breast Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Unite For Her.