If you are living in America, chances are you’re familiar with the little pink ribbons. They seem to be plastered on everything — from makeup and jewelry to gardening tools and even buckets of fried chicken. But at least they are for a good cause. If we see this symbol and purchase these products, that means we are supporting breast cancer research, right?
Well, surprise, surprise — that is exactly what you are meant to believe and an example of marketing at its finest. It is truly sad to realize how much power marketing and advertising campaigns have over us.
Considering that about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, the Breast Cancer Foundation represents a noble cause that certainly deserves money for research and treatment. Unfortunately, their efforts only appear honourable on the surface; in reality, the multi-million dollar company behind those pink ribbons — the Susan G. Komen Foundation — puts less than a dime of each dollar toward actually finding a cure for breast cancer. And that’s just the beginning of the problem.
The Komen Foundation’s assets total over a staggering $390 million. According to Charity Navigator, the foundation reported a total revenue of nearly $312 million in the fiscal year ending in March 2010. In an article published on AlterNet, however, Emily Michele breaks down how this money was actually spent, showing that only 20.9% of the funds are actually going to breast cancer research, despite the heavily marketed “search for the cure” being their most publicized mission. So where else does the money raised go?
On the surface, these percentages seem reasonable, but there is more to these statistics than meets the eye. Take public education, for example: while it seems like an important component of the prevention and early detection of breast cancer, that isn’t necessarily what’s being taught. Michele writes:
There are no mentions of eating healthy foods, getting proper levels of cancer-preventing Vitamin D, or cutting out sugar — the substance that feeds cancer cells — in any of its “public health education” efforts. Even though these are scientifically proven ways to prevent cancer. . .
One thing that doesn’t quite compute with me is how Komen’s mission of finding a “cure” — after all, that is its name — is congruent with putting over half its money toward promoting awareness and screening, for early detection of breast cancer. It’s not curing breast cancer to be aware that you could get it, nor is finding out that you have cancer and treating it in the early stages in hopes of entering into remission. That’s not a cure. Yet that is Komen’s largest promoted focus.
The first thing that you see while visiting the Pink Ribbons website is the statement:
“The best protection is early detection.”
This statement is simply not true; the best protection would be to avoid getting breast cancer in the first place and to make healthy lifestyle choices.
It is horrifying that this corporation is preying on the emotions of men and women whose lives have been affected, either directly or indirectly, by breast cancer. When you consider how much this charity has raised, through donations from people who believe they are helping to support a cause and directly assist in finding a cure, it becomes downright sickening.
If you think about it, plastering pink ribbons everywhere is a brilliant way for the Komen Foundation to advertise for itself. As Michele explains:
The pink-ribbon-plastered “awareness” and”education” campaigns are often little more than a highly effective form of advertising — which in turn, brings in Komen’s millions. In other words, a way to raise funds for itself, while getting a pat on the back for its efforts to “save lives.”
The term pinkwashing has been coined to describe the deceptive trend of companies joining the fight against breast cancer even when their own products, which proudly display the pink ribbon symbol, have been known to be carcinogenic. These products include cosmetics, fragrances, alcohol, yogurt, deodorant, and many other personal care products. Talk about backwards. Yet this is the essence of the problem: so little effort is put toward researching and educating people about preventative measures that many are simply unaware of what things are carcinogenic in the first place.
There is an excellent documentary on this topic called Pink Ribbons Inc. (available HERE) which is based on a 2007 book titled Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, written by Queen’s University professor Samantha King. The film explains the difference between the reality of the disease and the high-profile public perception of it, delivering eye opening interviews from the chairman of the Susan G.
Komen Foundation, Nancy Brinker, as well as women who have terminal breast cancer. It exposes the Run For The Cure fundraising event and brings up important points about the fear and suffering events such as these create. In an interview, one woman from a terminal cancer support group says, “The message is that if you just try really hard, you can beat it, while those who died, weren’t trying very hard.”
Another issue with pretty much all big name cancer charities is their dismissal of alternative cancer treatments. They put little-to-no money toward funding promising studies of this kind. There are so many potential cures available to us, but the researchers conducting these important studies find it nearly impossible to obtain the funding necessary to have them peer-reviewed.
If a fair percentage of the money donated to cancer charities worldwide was allotted to researching these lesser-known treatments and preventative measures, I think we would see a significant improvement in cancer statistics in the years that followed. As things stand right now, the motto is clearly “Profits before people.” After all, it is the cancer industry…
This work by The Last American Vagabond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, and may be reposted as is, with attribution to the author and TheLastAmericanVagabond.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Ryan@thelastamericanvagabond.com.