Ending the Breast Cancer Epidemic

More and more companies are linking themselves with breast cancer each October. From pink-lidded Yoplait yogurt to Avon's "kiss goodbye to breast cancer" lipsticks, companies are raising vast amounts of money in these cause-related marketing campaigns.

If you desire to help further the work being done to end the breast cancer epidemic, we'd like to make you aware of an organization called Breast Cancer Action (BCA). Breast Cancer Action carries the voices of people affected by breast cancer to inspire and compel the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic. One of BCA's campaigns is called "Think Before You Pink" (TB4UP), which focuses on issues surrounding pink ribbon marketing. Below is an overview of BCA's position, with some web links for further information.

Pink Ribbon Marketing:

A major point of the TB4UP campaign is to encourage consumers to think critically before buying products marketed as breast cancer fundraisers. If shoppers know and feel good about how much of the purchase price goes to the cause and what kind of programs their purchase will fund, we wholeheartedly support their decision to purchase the item. But too often, consumers assume that they are doing something worthwhile about breast cancer by purchasing pink-ribbon products, when the reality can be otherwise.

We urge you to read about this campaign, if you haven't already, at We also encourage you to read more about the history of the pink ribbon. There was an article by Sandy M. Fernandez on this topic in the June/July 1998 issue of MAMM Magazine. Click here for the text.

For more information, check out these web links also:

The Marketing of Breast Cancer

Public Relations and Breast Cancer

More on Cause Marketing

As part of the Think Before You Pink Campaign, Breast Cancer Action urges consumers to ask themselves a few critical questions:

  • How much money actually goes to the cause? For instance, Yoplait donates ten cents for every pink yogurt lid mailed back to the company and American Express has given one cent per purchase (of any amount). In other words, in some cases it seems to make more sense to write a check directly to a breast cancer organization instead.

  • How are the funds being raised? Is it through products that contain chemicals associated with the disease? Is it a tournament on a golf course sprayed with pesticides?

  • Who gets the money? Many campaigns make a vague promise that the proceeds will go toward "the fight against breast cancer." If you can't tell who benefits -- or if you can but don't think the organization does important work -- reconsider the purchase.

  • What types of programs are being supported? Programs supporting "breast cancer awareness" aren't likely to bring us any closer to stemming the rising rates of the disease. It's time to move past awareness, toward true prevention.

In light of these questions, we suggest you ask where the proceeds of your purchase will be going. If the company has not decided yet, urge them to think about channeling their funding to programs assisting women with limited access to breast cancer treatment, or to research being done to find the environmental causes of cancer. This avenue of research is grossly under-funded.

Breast cancer rates climb year after year despite all this research and billions of dollars poured into the "Fight Against Breast Cancer." In the 1940's, 1 out of 22 people would develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Today the number is 1 in 7. With all this money spent on research, we must ask ourselves why the rates continue to skyrocket. In part, it is due to the fact that most of our funding goes toward research focused on the molecular biology and genetics of cancer, or on drugs for the treatment of people who have cancer. By comparison, very little is spent on research on how to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place.

In the big picture, we need more effective treatments for breast cancer, and we need to guarantee access to quality care for all women with the disease. We also need to fund research into the causes — especially environmental causes — of breast cancer, so that we can truly prevent it from developing in the first place. If we want to make real progress against this disease, we need to take a hard look at how all of the money poured into the "fight against breast cancer" is being spent.

We thank you for your interest in ending the breast cancer epidemic, and for making a personal choice to further this cause. We hope that this information is useful to you in deciding how your contribution can make the biggest and most meaningful impact to that end.


Isabella Staff

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