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Contrarian Coverage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Contrarian Coverage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

I'm not a fan of disease awareness weeks, days or months. Having been inundated with some particularly lame breast cancer awareness messages during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now seems like a good time to highlight some contrarian coverage amid all the pink ribbons and sometimes questionable product placement.

Here are three stories worth your time, and you should also check out Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview post on pinkwashing.

1. "Thinking Pink Hasn't Helped Find Causes of Breast Cancer" Deborah Hotz' article for U.S. News and World Report examines how, despite the billions of dollars poured into breast cancer research, answers about prevention, causes or a cure remain elusive.

2. "Alcohol companies' pink campaigns anger breast cancer survivors" Liz Szabo of USA Today highlights some truly embarrassing marketing campaigns by alcohol purveyors, including Chambord. Breast cancer survivors point out that even moderate drinking can raise your breast cancer risk.

3. "The smug morality of breast cancer month" Slate's Mary Elizabeth Williams pays tribute to the important strides that activists have made in drawing attention to a once unmentionable disease that has killed millions of women. But, she wonders:

As breast cancer awareness becomes an increasingly pervasive branding opportunity, perhaps it's time to consider what the glut of pink says about our attitudes about the meritocracy of disease, and the ways in which we dispense compassion.

Other reporting resources:

1. Breast Cancer Action's "Think Before You Pink"" guide offers tough questions consumers should ask before buying a breast cancer awareness-related item. Journalists should be asking them, too.

2. Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, a book by Samantha King, traces how breast cancer became such a powerful philanthropic cause célèbre compared to other diseases.


Picture of Carolyn Thomas

Hello Barbara - I'm glad to see Think Before You Pink on your must-read list - it's an excellent resource for those of us exhausted by All Things Pink out there this month, and includes important questions consumers must ask before purchasing something/anything pink.  Where does it end? Last year, we had pink tasers and Smith & Wesson guns with pink handles. Seriously.

While researching the issue, I became more and more alarmed about how out-of-control this "cause-related marketing" has become here. Even the key messages (awareness and early detection through mammograms) of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (a cause sponsored, by the way, by the drug giant AstraZeneca, maker of four breast cancer treatment drugs, a company which does NOT stand to win if we ever actually do find a cure) have not kept up with current research.  Current research tells us that not all cancers should be aggressively treated, and that prevention and guaranteed quality treatment for all patients should instead be the messaging. Dr. Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice cites a paper published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine that estimated for every life saved by a screening mammogram, five to 15 other women needlessly became diagnosed and treated.

More on this at "What Heart Patients Can Learn From 'Pinkwashing' This Month" on HEART SISTERS. 


Carolyn Thomas

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Thanks, Carolyn, for your thoughtful comments! - Barbara

Picture of

[...] if more and more people are starting to question the efficacy of these initiatives, it seems companies don’t want to [...]

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