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The Corporatization of Breast Cancer

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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The Think Before You Pink Campaign (

In case people didn't notice, October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We were all expected to wear pink ribbons all month to help find a cure for breast cancer, an often fatal illness affecting one out of eight women. Besides posing the obvious question -- how wearing a pink ribbon stops cancer -- the Think Before You Pink Campaign also challenges whether the true purpose of Breast Awareness Month Campaign is to help women or the dozens of corporations who have jumped on the pink ribbon bandwagon. Like many activists in the toxics movement, they argue that ending breast cancer depends on understanding and eliminating its causes, including the hundreds of endocrine disrupters and other cancer-causing chemicals we are all exposed to on a daily basis.

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Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, was launched in 2002 and calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising. It has coined the term "pinkwashing" and encourages consumers to ask critical questions before purchasing so-called "pink ribbon" products.

Cause-Related Marketing

In the early 1990s, when the pink ribbon was first becoming the national symbol for breast cancer prevention, the corporate world was just discovering cause-related marketing. In 1999 PR expert Carol Cone, founder of Cone Communications, set out to help Avon Cosmetics stake a claim on breast cancer with low cost pink ribbon jewelery. A few months later Estee Lauder introduced a heart-shaped compact with an enameled pink ribbon design. It wasn't long before we had pink ribbon nightshirts, angel statuettes, teddy bears, sports clothes, credit cards and Daytimers. In many cases, the companies that make this stuff only donate a tiny portion of the sales price to breast cancer research.

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Breast Cancer Action is even more concerned about "pinkwashers," which they define as companies claim to care about breast cancer, while profiting from making or selling products linked to breast cancer. Examples include Avon, Estee Lauder and other cosmetics companies; the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly; and KFC. Breast Cancer Action is especially concerned about cancer-causing chemicals in a new perfume, Promise Me, that Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned for 2011 Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Komen is the non-profit sponsor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

While Avon, Estee Lauder and other cosmetics companies have responded to public pressure by removing some of the most dangerous chemicals from their products, many still contain endocrine disrupters (estrogen-like compounds that promote the development of breast cancer) and other chemicals linked to cancer.  Moreover, despite their well-publicized exploitation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote their products, they still refuse to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

Eli Lilly: Champion Pinkwasher

Eli Lilly is responsible for the illegal marketing of the osteoporosis drug Evista as a breast cancer "preventive." It's also the primary producer and distributor of rBGH, a type of Growth Hormone fed to American herds to promote milk production. Lilly acquired rBGH, which it markets as Posilac, from Monsanto in 2008. Interesting they bought the patent knowing that Monsanto's own studies show that milk from rBGH-treated cows has increased levels of IGF-1, a hormone linked to cancer.

This may be no accident, as breast cancer is an enormously profitable illness for Lilly. Evista, and Genzer, a cancer drug, earned the company more than $2 billion in 2008.

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KFC's "Buckets for the Cure"

Komen's partnership with KFC with KFC in the "Buckets for the Cure" campaign is also highly questionable, given the link between diets high in saturated fat and transfats and breast cancer. To top it off, KFC is currently being sued because their chicken contains high levels of PhIP. PhIP, a byproduct of the grilling process, is on California's list of carcinogens.

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I am a 63 year old American child and adolescent psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. I have just published a young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW (which won a NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award) about a 16 year old girl who (more...)

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