What’s With All This Pink?

Pillows from Race  For the Cure T-shirts

Pillows from Race For the Cure T-shirts

It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everything everywhere has turned into a multibillion-dollar business with pink Kitchen Aid blenders, Scotch tape dispensers, pink-ribbon sporting goods, pink eyelash curlers, exclusive pink-ribbon collections and campaigns like New Balance’s “Lace Up for the Cure” and Yoplait’s “Save Lids to Save Lives.”

All of this pinking is the work of Nancy G. Brinker, the chief executive for The Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since 1982 with first The Race for the Cure and now with hundreds of for-profit brands, Brinker has been spreading the pink message that shapes our national conversation about breast cancer.

In 2010, Komen spent about $141 million on public health education, including awareness campaigns. It also spent about $75 million to finance medical research and about $67 million to pay for breast cancer screening and treatment all from the revenue of individual donors, corporate sponsors and lots and lots of merchandise.

I wonder how pink product sales translate into the cure for breast cancer that kills about 40,000 American women and 450 men annually? The San Francisco advocacy group, Breast Cancer Action, also questions the value of a pink October as it attempts to monitor the pink ribbon campaign with their Think Before You Pink project. With the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market, the campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies participating in breast cancer fundraising and also encourages consumers like us to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

Which brings me to other forms of gynecologic cancer that in no way benefit from pink ribbon sales such as the web based nonprofit Eyes On The Prize that provides information and emotional support from the survivors’ perspective to women with gynecologic cancers, their families and friends, and healthcare providers.

Pink or not, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer. Being one of the 2.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S., I support the power of society and science to use money and resources to save lives and not simply to consume pink.

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