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The Breast Cancer Controversy

Posted by Lonni Lattie

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the world appears to have a bright pink hue. If I had to guess, the astronauts at the International Space Station even appreciate the variation on their view of Earth this time of the year.

It’s likely we are all familiar with the Susan G. Komen For the Cure® efforts in research, outreach, advocacy and support programs. Their web site claims over $2 billion invested since 1982, in an effort to find a cure for breast cancer. Annually that averages out to over $64 million per year.  Compared to what the American Diabetes Association received in 2012 ($177, 639), it’s a staggering amount of money for the Ta-Tas…

…and pure marketing genius. For the Cure

The bandwagon of sponsors over the course of the last 31 years has exploded. There are pink ribbons on everything from makeup to cleaning products to race cars,  NFL players and countless food and drink options.

Manufacturers know that representing an initiative that portrays a good moral compass and give-back approach means big business. And while they all could say they truly want to support The Cause (and likely fund many other well deserving programs), the truth is that guilt sells and they want a piece of it.

We all want to demonstrate our willingness and ability to help others. And if our contribution to finding a cure is as easy as purchasing one product over another, it’s truly a no-brainer. We can contribute all day long.

We are all connected to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, so it speaks to our soul, pulls our heart-strings and gives us a sense of pride to know we are doing our part.

However, as always is the case, there are enough businesses out there capitalizing on The Cause without really explaining what their contribution will be, if any. The use of the pink ribbons is not regulated and some are taking advantage of a good thing to pad their own wallets.

There are web sites like www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org  which focus on educating the general public on questions to ask, how to uncover where proceeds from purchases will be donated and how they will be used.

But on another side of the spectrum of pink products, lies a long list of questionable ingredients you can’ t help but recognize as a troubling level of hypocrisy.

Take the 2010 “Buckets For a Cure” campaign sponsored by KFC. Yes, you read that right. A meal of  fried chicken in support of cancer.

susan g komen chicken

This bucket does indeed make a difference. To my waistline. Which actually is shown to increase my risk for breast cancer. In fact, there is a short paragraph on the Susan G Komen For the Cure® web site which states as such:

reduce risks of breast cancer

But in an effort to avoid singling out KFC, it should be mentioned that there are countless other products bearing pink ribbons that contain processed ingredients, trans fats and unhealthy amounts of sugar. And these ingredients have been linked to an increased risk of obesity, disease and yes, breast cancer.

products to support the cure

fazoli's pink ice for the cure

This means women (the primary purchasers for the household) are purchasing these pink products. And if they consume them (or a female member of their household does), they are inherently increasing their risk of the same disease they are supposedly fighting against.

While the information is extremely limited with regard to proper nutrition on the Susan G Komen For The Cure® web site, there is also mention of alcohol.

healthy livingWhich is interesting, because of well, this: hard pink lemonade

 Sure you could argue, guys aren’t at risk, (although it is estimated that over 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year) so why not purchase products that support their mothers, sisters, wives and friends? But let’s be honest, this food isn’t healthy. For anyone. And the connection to fighting cancer is done in bad taste.

Honestly, if it were up to me, I’d do away with all the pink. We have reached overkill status.  After all of this research, pink ribbons now speak to me on a level that leaves me feeling disheartened and sad.

I want to help but not by feeding myself and my family unhealthy food. Or wondering how much of the proceeds from pink products actually support the cause.

I would save pink ribbons for healthy initiatives that promote the right kind of effort and lifestyle – like The Race For the Cure and other local opportunities to donate money and time in supporting those diagnosed and affected by breast cancer and educating the rest of us on what we can do nutrition-wise to decrease our risk (hint: stop eating so much crap and sugar).

Because at the end of the day, this is a purpose that has true significance. But it now seems to live only through our pink-colored glasses.

pink colored broken glasses