Pink ribbons are a ubiquitous symbol for breast cancer awareness and can be seen pasted on consumer goods of all types—clothing, jewelry, makeup, even body lotion and food like pizza. This pinkwashing seems like overkill for awareness but it’s for a very important cause, right? Buying these products means that we are supporting the hard work that goes into researching and finding a cure for breast cancer. Except this is not actually true—this is what consumers are led to believe and it is in fact just an example of the power that advertising and marketing have over society.
About 1 in 8 women will have developed breast cancer during their life and the Breast Cancer Foundation does represent a noble cause that deserves funding for research and treatments. Unfortunately, while their efforts look good on the surface, the Susan G. Komen Foundation who is behind the pink ribbons, is a multi-million dollar company that puts less than 10 cents on the dollar from their pink ribbon product sales toward breast cancer research. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This term has been coined to describe the misleading trend of companies that have joined the “fight against breast cancer” even as their own products proudly display the pink ribbon, yet are the very thing that is a known carcinogenic. What types of products does this include? Many personal care products like fragrances, deodorant, and cosmetics, as well as yogurt and alcohol. This whole scenario is a bit backwards, and it is the perfect example of the problem. There is little effort put into research and education regarding preventative measures, leading to consumers being oblivious to what is causing the cancer in the first place.
So Where Does the Money Go?
The Susan G. Komen foundation has assets over an amazing $390 million and have previously reported a total revenue of about $312 million. One article looked at the numbers and broke down where the money is really spent. A shocking 20% of funds will actually be spent on breast cancer research, despite the Foundation stressing their dedication to “search for the cure”. So where does the rest of the money go? The rough figures stand as such: 39.1% for educating the public, 13% for health screenings, 11.3% for administrative costs, 10% for fundraising, and 5.6% for treatments.
While these numbers seem fairly reasonable, digging deeper will reveal a shocking truth. For example, let’s look at educating the public—yes this is a vital part of early detection and prevention of breast cancer, there is some fog over what is being taught. The education program does not mention having a healthy diet and consuming proper levels of vitamins that prevent cancer or even cutting out the element that feeds cancer—sugar. The foundation’s slogan “the best protection is early detection” is quite problematic. In fact, wouldn’t the best protection be prevention? This can be done by making healthy lifestyle choices.
The Ribbons Bring Money, Not Cures
Essentially, it can be said that this foundation and other companies that it partners with are preying on the emotions of individuals whose lives have been changed by breast cancer. Looking at how much money the foundation has raised through donations and product purchases, it becomes disheartening. These pink ribbons have essentially become a way for the foundation to advertise itself, raising funds that have a majority funneled back into its own pockets.
There is a documentary titled Pink Ribbons, Inc. that works to explain the difference between the perception of breast cancer, and the reality of it. Viewers will be able to watch interviews with the chairman of the foundation as well as those who have been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The sentiment regarding events like Race for the Cure is that if you fight hard enough, you can beat it, and those who lost the battle weren’t fighting hard enough. The documentary is based on the book titled Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy.
The big name charities put very little money in funding studies for alternative treatments, even as there are many promising studies possible. If these charities would put funds toward alternative treatment testing and prevention, it may be highly likely that cancer statistics could see a significant improvement over time.