The Monetization of Breast Cancer Awareness


I have so many people in my life who are breast cancer survivors that I almost take survival for granted.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t but a generation ago that having a mammogram was a foreign concept to most women. If you can believe it, breast cancer was embarrassing and wasn’t discussed in polite company. Then Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974. She had a mastectomy and talked about it, god forbid.

The entire landscape changed.

Now you can’t turn your head without seeing pink ribbons and pink paraphernalia to remind us that it’s breast cancer awareness month.

I support the efforts to raise money for cancer research and encourage more women to have mammograms. I like that we can talk about breast cancer at work — and with our colleagues, peers, and supervisors. I am wholly offended by the monetization and commoditization of a serious disease that still kills men and women.

And it kills disproportionately, by the way.

The five-year survival rates for:  White women is 90 percent • African American women is 78 percent, lower than that of any other ethnic and racial group in the U.S. • Hispanic/Latina women is 86 percent • Asian women is 91 percent • Pacific Islander women is 86 percent • American Indian/Alaska Native women is 84 percent

I want to get serious about breast cancer. I want to raise awareness and find a cure. How will pink kleenex on my desk and pink toilet paper in my office cure breast cancer? How does wearing pink lipstick to work and adorning our suits with pink scarves and pink ribbons change the survival rates for women in our country?

If we really believed in eliminating breast cancer — and all cancers — we would have radically overhauled our health care system in America. We would rethink the relationship between consumers/patients, hospitals, research centers, and pharmaceutical companies. And we wouldn’t try to sell pink clogs and pink candy to raise breast cancer awareness in our country.

Be smart. Don’t sign up for a breast cancer awareness credit card, and don’t buy anything that takes your money in the name of charity in exchange for tacky consumer goods manufactured in sweatshops in China.

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