October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the town is painted pink.
During my last trip to the grocery store, I was surrounded by products claiming their commitment and support to the cause of breast cancer awareness. As someone passionate about women’s heath and a firm believer in education as a tool for disease prevention, I am glad that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is cause that everyone wants to participate in. However, I wonder if some companies are taking advantage of the power of the pink ribbon and “pinkwashing” their products.
For example, while at the grocery store I came across a package of chicken sausage that was pink for for the special occassion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and displayed a pink ribbon claiming “Proud Supporter [of] Breast Cancer Awareness.”
Other than the pink packaging and the claim that the company was a supporter of breast cancer awareness, there was no other information about what this meant. It was unclear whether the company actually financially supported any breast cancer organizations or initiatives and if so, what these were. When I got home I looked up the company’s website to find out more. I found that the company donated $25,000 to theAmerican Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Boston. Though it is debatable whether this amount was significant to the company (my guess is not), I must give them credit for providing a list of tips on awareness and prevention. However, the packaging did not guide consumers to visit their website to view these tips, learn more about their pink initiative, or even encourage participation in events like the breast cancer walk. The biggest issue I have with the pinkwashing is that companies are using the pink ribbon for marketing purposes and missing the significance behind the pink ribbon — saving women’s lives from breast cancer.
Which leads me to my next point… Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With the pink ribbons everywhere, haven’t we achieved the goal of making people aware? What about making next October Breast Cancer Prevention Month? Instead of focusing on the pink ribbon as a tool to make people think about breast cancer, let’s use it as a tool for action. Besides my self-directed visit to the sausage company’s website, I have not seen any products with the pink ribbon provide information or education about breast cancer and how to prevent it. Products that display the pink ribbon should provide information about taking action to fight breast cancer, even if it’s just a website referral. I’ve heard so much about awareness but have yet to see a company promote an action to fight breast cancer beyond purchasing their product. (As a consumer concerned about the practice of pinkwashing, you may want to consider these questions published by thinkbeforeyoupink.org. Also, are some of the products that display the pink ribbon to fight cancer hypocritical?)
Because it’s incredibly important, I want to suggest some resources for you to visit now. The American Cancer Society provides information on their website about screening recommendations and if a mammogram is recommended for you, there is mammogram reminder service that will send you an email once a year during the month of your choosing. For more detailed information, the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Guide is a great resource. And as always, ask your doctor about any specific questions or concerns about your health.
So please be sure to take care of yourself and to make sure your loved ones are doing the same. Wear your pink ribbon proudly, knowing that you have the facts you need and are taking action to advocate for your health.