The month of October is awash in pink. Everyone from the NFL to Panera Bread is on the pink bandwagon in support of breast cancer “awareness” – is awareness an end in itself?

Gayle Sulik, who I’ve mentioned before here, does a masterful job of ripping the lid off the damage that pinkwashing has done. Her book, Pink Ribbon Blues, is linked in the image on the right.

I think awareness alone falls very short of the goal if ending the disease is the goal. Unfortunately, I think that Susan G. Komen – and I’m talking the Houston mothership here, not the local chapters – is now much more about the brand than it is about the cure.

When it comes to “pink”, I see red. And I’m not alone.

Some stats (from

  • In 2005, the estimated mortality rate for breast cancer was 15% of those diagnosed with the disease
  • In 2007 (the year I was diagnosed), the estimated mortality rate was 17%
  • In 2009, the estimated mortality rate was 16%

Where’s the win here? If mortality rates are essentially holding steady, where’s the progress on “the cure”?

In the pink avalanche that is now the month of October, where is the discussion of the fact that the very products being pink-washed carry toxic substances with a link to cancer?

That includes the Avon Army of Women campaign (most Avon cosmetics contain paraben preservatives, which are estrogen mimickers that have been linked to breast cancer).

It also includes the Promise Me fragrance – also an Avon product – that has toluene and galaxolide in it, both of which are toxins. Read about them here.

There are a host of other regrettable “pink” products flacked in October, including Kentucky Fried Chicken (really?) and dairy products with rBGH, the growth hormone pumped into dairy cows that has in turn driven the rise in breast cancer diagnoses. Which hormone is, BTW, made by Eli Lilly, who also produces a number of breast cancer drugs. Talk about milking cancer!

And don’t get me started on the pinkwashing of the NFL. The pink gloves/cleats/dancing-ribbons-at-halftime do NOT mean that the NFL is giving one thin dime to Komen. It’s “awareness” – where’s the ****ing money, dudes? Don’t tell me it’s coming from the pink products being flacked on NFL team sites. The league keeps the lion’s share of that money.

Komen is a brand, it’s no longer a cause. They’ve started “lawsuits for the cure” – you can read my buddy Alicia Staley’s take on that here.

If you want to support action to stop breast cancer – and other cancers – join the movement to cut down on environmental toxins, to end plastic food, to stop ingesting endless amounts of crap through our skin, our lungs, our mouths. It’s not just about cancer, it’s about the health of our entire community – the human community. On the whole dang planet.

I recommend Breast Cancer Action and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation if you’re passionate about ending breast cancer.

Stop buying makeup and skin care products with parabens and other toxins in them. You can get information on most products via SkinDeep, the Environmental Working Group‘s searchable cosmetics/skin care products database.

Stop eating food out of boxes, and introduce yourself to your stove. Cooking is easy, it’s fun, and it puts you more in touch with your family. Make time to cook together, you’ll be amazed at the conversations and communication that develop in the kitchen. Make trips to your local farmer’s markets a weekend excursion for the family.

And stop buying “pink”.


It’s the month of “pink” + I’m seeing red
Tagged on:                                                         

4 thoughts on “It’s the month of “pink” + I’m seeing red

  • October 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the mention, Mighty Casey! People are getting wise to the “800-pound gorilla of cause marketing” as David Hessekiel of the Cause Marketing Forum calls the breast cancer cause. High time to speak out, intervene, and “pink responsibly.” Wish I could take credit for that phrase, but I’ll thank Lori Marx-Rubiner of the Regrounding blog for that one. Onwards and upwards! — Gayle Sulik

  • October 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    You’re welcome, Gayle – breast cancer is too important, and dangerous, to be draped in a pink curtain. We need to start talking about all the crap that’s *causing* breast cancer that gets to drape itself in pink to hide that fact. Avon, Yoplait, and others are making money while people continue to die from the disease. It has to stop.

  • October 29, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Very well said, Casey!! And perhaps most importantly, when the pink fades into Thanksgiving over the next week, OUR voices will continue to ring out strong!

  • October 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks, Lori – that’s the thing that grates the most for me, that “awareness” is so focused on one month. What about the dx-es and mortality rates in the other 11 months of the year? Komen chapters do great work helping people navigate their cancer journeys, but why doesn’t the mothership start talking about lung cancer, which now kills more women than breast cancer does? Where’s the awareness for THAT??

Comments are closed.