You may have noticed something as summer faded and made way for fall. It’s something that’s almost as prevalent at the store as pumpkin flavored foods – the color pink. Yes, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it seems the only way to spread awareness is with pink everything. Sure, it may be a great way to get the word out about the disease, but is it really an effective way to reduce breast cancer rates or cure the disease? Not according to my findings.
This rosy phenomenon is known as pink-washing. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s the marketing of goods that have been branded with a breast cancer ribbon or the color pink with the idea of supporting breast cancer charities.
Why Pink-Washing is Isn’t the Answer
There are a number of reasons why peddling pink products is an ineffective way to cure cancer. The first being the products themselves. It’s hard to ignore the absurdity of pink-washing applied to fried foods, chemical filled cosmetics, and booze. These products and more have been turned pink in the name of breast cancer, and it’s completely hypocritical.
Chicken giant, KFC offered a pink bucket of chicken, cleverly marketed as “buckets for the cure” when they teamed up with Susan G. Komen. However, fried chicken is not known for it’s health benefits. Susan G Komen’s own website ironically points out that saturated fat can lead to cancer and that high fat consumption in teen girls increases the risk of breast cancer. Beyond that, meat and poultry cooked at high temperatures form Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are shown to increase cancer risk. It certainly doesn’t sound like a product that should be promoted by an organization trying to cure cancer.
Similar issue can be taken with pink ribbon adorned Campbell’s soup cans. These cans are lined with BPA, a chemical that research has shown to change the mammary tissue and structure, and well as disrupt the bodies hormones and act as estrogen, possibly triggering breast cancer to develop and grow.
Scattered throughout the pink washed products, you’ll find an abundance of cosmetics. Products like Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, Esteé Lauder’s Pink Ribbon Collection, or Philosophy’s hope in a jar are all loaded with cancer-causing chemicals. You’ll find parabens, toluene, petroleum products and more can me found in these cosmetics, which are all link to breast cancer.
With so many products carelessly doused in pink, I’m sure there are even more instances of hypocrisy. It’s simply irresponsible to use a cancer-causing product to promote a charity designed to fight cancer.
It’s Overshadowed the Issue
With seas of pink “cause marketing”, the message of Breast Cancer Awareness Month becomes about fundraising rather than finding a cure, or even encouraging prevention. It becomes more about showing support rather than actually being supportive. Someone buying a pink spatula, for instance, doesn’t have the same effect as donating time or money directly to the cause. In addition, brands jump on the pink bandwagon with no intent of supporting the cause. It has turned into a way for corporations to appeal to a female costumer and sell more products, all under the guise of supporting the fight against breast cancer. A study found 93% of moms would switch brands to one that supported a cause instead. Cause marketing is big business.
A monetary donation is greater than a minimal contribution from buying a pink-washed product, and it’s funding will go further. Many of those products where proceeds go to breast cancer charities have limitations. There may be a cap to the total contribution given or proceeds are only collected for a designated period of time. However, the products are still sold outside that window, and the companies then gain 100% of the profits.
Ultimately, the message should be about reducing the instances of breast cancer, through prevention and a cure. Breast cancer charities raise an estimated $6 billion each year. However, only about 16% of that is spent on research on the disease. That means the other $5 billion dollars is being funneled into other areas, including marketing of, you guessed it, more pink products.
Do We Really Need Breast Cancer Awareness?
Think about it. Is there anyone who isn’t aware of breast cancer? Currently, breast cancer is ranked as the second leading cause of death and the second most common cancer in women. Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. A friend, a family member, or maybe even themselves. Women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer, so the odds you know someone affected are high. Pink fracking drill bits aren’t encouraging someone to schedule a screening. Breast cancer isn’t being cured by an NFL team wearing pink gloves on the field, or any other kind of pink-washing.
So What Should We Be Doing?
First and foremost, we should support the fight against breast cancer. Speaking up about the commercialization of a disease doesn’t denote a lack of support for those affected by it. But, we should be fighting breast cancer in ways that make an impact and save lives, not that fatten corporate wallets. Finding a cure to breast cancer is certainly going to save lives, but so will preventing breast cancer from the start. Here are some ways to lower your exposure to environmental causes as well as fund the fight:
- Choose organic and Non-GMO foods where you can. Glyphosate, the herbicide used heavily on GMO crops is noted as a probable carcinogen.
- Limit sugar intake, as sugar feeds cancer cells.
- Choose safer personal care products by avoiding those with formaldehyde, parabens, and more. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database can help you determine the safest options.
- Detox your food containers by removing cans, plastic, Teflon and other cancer-causing chemicals and products.
- Stop buying products from companies that engage in pink-washing, especially those that are hazardous to your health.
- Research charities and how they spend their donations so you are truly funding research and prevention efforts.