Breast Cancer Awareness: Think before you pink

Alyssa Thornton

Pink is a fabulous color. But sometimes in October, there is no color I would like to see less. While October is filled with the leaves changing color and Halloween festivities, it is also recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Businesses decorate their windows with pink ribbons and pink balloons.  Sports teams sport pink jerseys. Grocery store shelves are covered in pink food items available for a limited time only. The color is vibrant and in your face – but what purpose does it really serve?

Most people will argue that they wear pink because they want to support breast cancer awareness. A fine sentiment, but please find me a person who isn’t aware that breast cancer exists in 2012. What good is raising more “awareness” for something that we know already?

Some people will argue that they wear pink to support breast cancer research. But let’s be realistic, that 10 percent of your purchase that goes to a mysterious research fund isn’t doing science any favors. Still more people will argue that they wear pink in support of a lady in their life who has battled breast cancer. Great, but why pink? Does that color have a special significance to that special lady, or are you just wearing it because it is the color forever linked to the disease?

Perhaps you think you have a more noble reason for wearing pink and you don’t deserve my criticism. But have you thought about the origins of pink, the pink ribbon and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? In 1992, Charlotte Haley was 68 years old and had a daughter, sister and grandmother who all had breast cancer. She began creating a peach ribbon pin, attaching it to postcards and sending it to as many people as she could possibly afford. Her message was this: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only five percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Editors at Self magazine and Estée Lauder Cosmetics heard of her ribbon campaign and asked for permission to adopt it. She denied permission because she disagreed with the corporatization of her message. Estée Lauder and Self contacted lawyers who told them they could use a ribbon as long as they changed the color. After focus groups and other marketing research, they settled on pink. AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures several of the most popular breast cancer medicines owns the patent for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It started as a way for more women to discover their cancer and in turn, buy AstraZeneca’s medicines.

Pink is the color that was developed in a marketing plan by a cosmetic company that has been a known user of carcinogens in cosmetic development. The ribbon symbol is stolen from a mother who wanted to open the eyes of our country to the benefits of cancer prevention, rather than cure cancer. The whole month of October is just a patented marketing plan to get affected women to buy specific medicines.

If you want to help the women who fight breast cancer, then give them emotional comfort that they need during their treatment and make their family meals to alleviate daily stress. If you want to support breast cancer research efforts, find independent grant organizations and donate directly to the people who are researching without the assistance of a corporation and stop buying pink purses that donate little to nothing to the cause. Next time you want to support the wonderful women who fight breast cancer, think before you pink.

*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.

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