Pink to Green: A Growing Disenchantment with ‘Pinkification’

| November 1, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece entitled “Pink to Black for Metastatic Breast Cancer

In summary, I went back 5 years to a previous post about my feelings about having dedicated breast cancer centers and how my views on the matter changed. In short, the breast cancer community seemed to galvanize around screening and early detection and raised billions of dollars for awareness and research. As the post goes on to describe, there are other groups who seem disenfranchised thinking “pink is a cure” and all the pink ribbons, pink airplanes, pink ties, pink football players, pink fountain water and a pink White House has not contributed significantly dent in preventing and curing metastatic breast cancer for the past 2 decades.

October as we all now is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and the Fall colors and orange and black of the Halloween holiday have turned October into “Pinktober” as one blogger states: “What is awareness? Yeah, me neither” in this “Not So Nice Letter (explicit).

BEARS_CHIEFS_FOOTBALL_56769975Another short article I came across towards the end of this last Pinktober reads: “By now, everyone is aware of breast cancer. That almost-blanket understanding is the reason some people are questioning why we haven’t progressed from Breast Cancer Awareness Month toward the general direction of a cure.

Critics say that the millions upon millions of dollars poured into the campaign every October haven’t produced results. And they cast a cynical, knowing eye on massive corporations that might be using the awareness effort (and its ubiquitous pink ribbons) to show they have a heart.

Hello, NFL.”

Privately, I received a number of e-mails, Facebook messages and phone calls from folks who have had breast cancer, know someone who does or folks who themselves work in marketing for laboratories or other industries and a number of people apparently felt as many appear to be that awareness does not seem to translate to action.

Last week the New York Times published a story, A Growing Disenchantment With October ‘Pinkification’ about this issue.

The story starts out with:

pinkhandcuffsThe White House went pink this month, awash for a night in rose-colored light. Delta Air Lines painted a huge pink ribbon on one of its planes, dressed flight attendants in pink and has been selling pink lemonade to passengers. Police departments started using pink handcuffs. Ford is selling “pink warrior” car decals. Dick’s Sporting Goods is offering free shipping on pink products including football cleats and batting gloves. Its slogan: “Sport your support. Together we’ll turn the sports world pink.

Pinkwashing, as some breast cancer activists call it, has become an October rite, intended to “raise awareness” of breast cancer during what has for years been called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those who promote the pink campaigns say they raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.

The story goes on with:

What do we have to show for the billions spent on pink ribbon products?” asked Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an activist group whose slogan is “Think before you pink.

Some broader women’s health groups agree. “The pinkification of the month of October, from football cleats to coffee cups, isn’t helping women,” said Cindy Pearson, the executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, an advocacy organization.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods website notes, in fine print, that some of the companies selling the pink products it offers do not donate any money to breast cancer charities. (Dick’s did not respond to a request to comment.)

Most of the over 400 comments I perused seem to side on the points made by The New York Times. Including this comment that I found particularly interesting:

As a retired pathologist, I have diagnosed many cases of cancer from all different sites. Fortunately, in the US most cases of breast cancer are low stage and treatable.

Also in the US breast cancer is the number 2 cause of death in women: the number 1 cause is lung cancer, which has little support either by the public or by Federal funding agencies.

There are many other cancers such as pancreas, esophagus, renal, soft tissue, etc. which can be aggressive and lethal. Few if any screening tests are available for these cancers, as many cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

But where are the ribbons for these? the balloons? the walkathons?

It’s time to get rid of the pink ribbon or wear a rainbow ribbon for all cancers.

We all have 11 months until next October to turn pink into many colors and perhaps re-think pink. I mean really, pink handcuffs? Pink cleats?

Public and industry support is critical for science and research for many diseases, including cancer but many are growing wary of the corporatization and exploitation of what started out as a movement probably without the intent of becoming what it has, particularly, if it turns out the pink products we buy don’t even lead to donations as we have thought they would.

Pink has become green but not for those who need it most.

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Category: Advocacy, Current Affairs, Digital Pathology News, General Healthcare News, Patient Advocacy, Personal, Science

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  1. Christina says:

    I agree with this article in principle but the author is victim of his own criticism. The #1 cause of death in women is heart disease, NOT lung cancer. Heart disease is responsible for more deaths in women than all cancers combined. Yet not a single mention of heart disease, or the lack of investment or interest in raising funds to cure or prevent female heart disease.