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The ‘pinking’ of America. That’s what we do in the month of October. We turn everything pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone is in on the act, including the NFL. Turn on your TV any Sunday in October and you’ll see pink socks, pink shoes, pink armbands, pink on their helmets…anything they can put it on.

Now, before you get offended by my apparent disdain for Pinktober, let me assure you that no one is more aware of breast cancer than I am. I am an almost 10 year survivor of a very aggressive form of it and a reformed pink ribbon wearer. Why reformed, you ask? This is a speech I gave a few years ago explaining my concern about the Great American Pink Out.

Does anyone know what month this is? This is Pinktober, the month we turn all things pink for breast cancer awareness. It’s also the month that some companies engage in the practice of pink washing. Do you know what pink washing is? Pink washing is a term coined by the watchdog organization called Breast Cancer Action and is meant to describe the practice of a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting the pink ribbon on their products but at the same time they produce, manufacture or sell products that are linked to breast cancer…think fried chicken, energy drinks, processed or packaged junk foods, soda, personal care products containing carcinogenic ingredients among so many others too numerous to name.

Breast cancer has become an industry in its own right. Companies use the pink ribbon to sell their products and enhance their image with consumers as they increase their profits.  Because there is no one regulating the use of the pink ribbon labeling on a product, anyone can paint a pink ribbon on their label whether or not any of the profit funds breast cancer charities. Even if there is a donation from that company, it may have no correlation to the sale of the labeled product and the money donated may not be going where you might expect.

In an effort to reach beyond ourselves, we are more likely to purchase a product versus a competitor if we think our choice will do some good or provide an additional benefit. So if you have two options for something, all else being equal, you are more likely to purchase a product you associate with that support.

I am a breast cancer survivor and about 7 years ago, I participated in one of the big walks. I raised more than $10,000 for the organization and I believed in the hype and publicity that the money would be put to good use. Some of the funds are used to educate and provide screening for underserved populations, some is for research, much is used to defend their ownership of their trademarked terminology and much is used for executive salaries. Sadly, I didn’t do my homework before participating in their fundraising efforts. 

What I now know is that no funds are allocated to education about prevention, or nutrition, stress reduction or about lifestyle choices. It’s all about awareness and screening for early detection. And really, is there anyone who isn’t aware of breast cancer? Awareness that is not part of a larger effort for systemic change is not useful, and in fact can be an impediment. The time, resources and money could be better spent on meaningful change.

The pink ribbon campaign puts a dainty and feminine flair on a disease that is neither. First of all, breast cancer is not limited to women. While it is rare, about 1% of all breast cancer cases are found in men. With all the awareness and pink ribbons and pink garbage cans and all the cutesy campaigns, the number of deaths per year from breast cancer have not diminished. About 40,000 women and about 400 men per year will die of breast cancer. 

Very few of the research dollars from these organizations are allocated to dealing with metastatic breast cancer, even though it’s the only one that kills. Breast cancer that is contained in the breast tissue is not what kills the person. It is breast cancer that finds its way to the brain, the lungs, bones, liver or any other organ that kills its host. 

I hesitate to use the word victim because the people I have known who have taken on this disease were not victims. They were warriors and they were fierce and they fought to their last breath and if they were here today, they would tell you that the pink ribbon did nothing to change their circumstances.  So during this month of Pinktober, I would like to ask you to think before you pink. Thank you.  

Before you purchase anything with a pink ribbon, please know who is getting the money and how much of the profit is actually being used to fund what you hope is being funded. Otherwise, you may just be lining the pockets of an opportunistic vendor.

As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.

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  1. Alana on October 1, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    You've expressed so much of what I've felt, especially with a husband who has a family with extensive experience with breast cancer. Thank you especially for writing about breast cancer in men.

  2. Unknown on October 1, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Yup! Thanks for being brave in so many ways.

  3. Lily Leung on October 1, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Our mindset is focus on finding a cure so we don't see the simple and obvious. It's much better preventing a disease. Thank you for your post.


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