It's October and that means breast cancer awareness month. It also means pink. Lots of pink. Consumers are inundated with companies and nonprofits selling pink products in the name of breast cancer. Often, just a small percentage of the sale of these products goes to a breast cancer nonprofit. All too frequently, the very products sold with a pink ribbon contain chemicals that are linked to causing breast cancer. I wrote about that issue in this post and you can also learn more about those products here. Pink is big business; this means that as consumers we have to educate ourselves about all that pink.
My friend, Hannah Klein, whose unique work relating to breast cancer was featured in this past post, recently posted on Facebook, "Oh no, it's pink time again." I know how she feels. As someone who watched one of the people I love most (my brother's wife, Laura, and mom of the two nieces I adore) battle breast cancer twice, I can tell you, breast cancer really isn't all that pink. Actually, if I had to choose a color for it, I'd say think of the ugliest, scariest color you can and then make it even darker. Pink it ain't.
So, what am I griping about? If putting pink on something raises funds and awareness, where is the harm? The harm is in allowing companies to profit--in an enormous way--by mass marketing an illness, without adequate oversight into the money being raised in the name of breast cancer.
Profiting from Pink
As the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, Michelle Corey said last year, "Simply because a company puts a pink ribbon on its package doesn't always mean a good breast cancer charity is benefiting from your purchase."
The good news: $6 billion is raised each year in the name of breast cancer. The bad news: such an enormous sum makes it a cause and industry ripe for disreputable individuals, nonprofits and companies to fleece consumers out of money in the name of breast cancer. Check out this article to read more on the downside of pink ribbons.
It is crucial, as donors and consumers, that we research where the money is going from a pink ribbon product and how much of the purchase price is going toward breast cancer. Further, it's important to not simply recognize the name of a benefiting nonprofit but to know how that money will be spent.
For example, many organizations largely focus their resources on breast cancer awareness. At this point, is that the best use of your money? Critics argue that valuable resources are being diverted from medical research and continually toward awareness, to our detriment. I believe there is validity to this argument. Awareness no longer seems to be the crucial issue here. Developing drugs to stop cancer and prolong life, providing medical treatment to those in need and medical research for a cure is what is needed.
And, do we really need all of these products with a pink ribbon? Why do we buy them? Wouldn't it be better to simply donate the amount of the purchase price directly to a reputable nonprofit? Absolutely.
"Okay, but," you say, "What if the item is really cute and I want it and I was going to buy it anyway?" (And trust me, I've certainly been known to buy my fair share of pink products--my husband still shakes his head at a pink vacuum I bought one October). Well, then I say, determine who is going to get your money and how much is going to a reputable nonprofit. If a significantly large percentage (100% is ideal and some companies do just that) of the profits are going to a reputable, well rated nonprofit whose work you believe in, then I say go ahead and buy.
I also like to see products that have some meaningful relationship to breast cancer or to those fighting breast cancer, and certainly not products which potentially cause harm and/or are linked to breast cancer. It is just about making educated decisions--having all the information and determining what is important to you.
If you do choose to donate directly to a breast cancer nonprofit that focuses on medical research and treatment check out: Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center.
The Stats and What You Can Do For Yourself
240,000 women and 1,000 men in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Staggering numbers. Often the key is early detection. Click here for information on early detection and screening. Do self breast exams--I know, we all get busy and forget--but we've got to do it--simply mark it in your calendar like any other monthly appointment. And, while self exams are not considered a screening tool for breast cancer, such exams will allow you to hopefully notice any changes, etc., that you can discuss with your doctor.
My two cents is always the same: gather facts to become informed before you spend your hard earned money, determine your priorities on a certain issue--for me it may be medical research and for you it may be education about breast cancer--and act from there.
Thank you for reading! Be well--and do those breast exams!