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Beyond the Pink Ribbon

By UD Women's Center

October is  Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or as our friends at Breast Cancer Action like to call it, Pinktober. Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings with it a slew of pink ribbons and pink products, such as pink NFL helmets, pink food and pink packaged cosmetic items.

Although there is nothing wrong with raising awareness for breast cancer, with breast cancer being the second leading cause of cancer death among all women (African American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer), most of us in 2017 are already aware.

Each year, companies and NGOs make tons of money in October off of their pink-themed campaigns. But where is this money going? Some of the money may be going to reputable organizations, but even more likely, the money isn’t funding research initiatives to find the root causes of the disease.

Companies like the National Football League turn over a share of their donation profits to the American Cancer Society, which in turn uses that money to increase awareness, education, and screenings for women over 40. Although this isn’t bad, this has nothing to do with any breast cancer research programs, which would help find an actual cure for the disease.

In the 2016 fiscal year, Susan G. Komen spent just 18% of their revenue on research initiatives. The other 82% went to education (37%), screenings (15%), fundraising (12%), administration (11%) and treatment (7%).

What is even worse is that some  companies highlight Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, yet year-round they manufacture and/or produce products that studies have shown increase your risk of developing breast cancer. They are commodifying breast cancer awareness into a feel-good catchall aimed at making money. Frequent alcohol consumption, eating processed meats and unhealthy fatty foods are likely to increase your risk. Furthermore, don’t let a pink version of your favorite brands fool you, like this picture here. Companies use pink campaigns to earn profits even if it means increasing your risk of developing cancer.

So, this October, how can you be sure you are donating to places that make breast cancer research a priority?

  • Look into non-profits that explain that they “refuse corporate funding from any company that profits from or contributes to breast cancer” like BCAction.
  • If you think you’ve found a organization that seems good to donate to, open their latest annual reports and see for yourself where their money is going. Is there a “cap” on how much money they will donate? Use this as a checklist of critical questions to ask before you open your wallet.
  • Donate to research-based organizations, like the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.

Aside from donating money, there are plenty of other things you can do for those already battling breast cancer, like:

  • Make a meal for a family where someone is undergoing treatment.
  • Write supportive cards and leave them at chemotherapy centers or hospital wards for cancer patients.
  • Join the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Army of Women to participate in breast cancer research studies!
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