It’s October and the pink frenzy for Breast Cancer Awareness has officially begun. But do you really need any more awareness? What have all the pink campaigns accomplished? Have lives really been saved? Have scientists or anyone else in the mainstream for that matter, gotten any closer to finding a “cure” for breast cancer? Or could it be that it’s just a big scam to frighten more women into getting more diagnostic tests and surgical procedures?
This article aims to help you clearly see through the pretty pink façade. You will discover why even long-time supporters of the largest breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen (also known as Komen), have recently done a 180 degree turn. From misleading marketing claims, to repulsive corporate partnerships, to blatant conflicts of interest, the truth about Komen is being exposed.
Educated people who have learned the truth have stopped blindly supporting Komen as it has become crystal clear about their deceptive marketing tactics and questionable use of funds. In just the last few years, revenues for Komen have sharply dropped. Many intelligent women (and men) who once proudly raised money to “race for a cure” have begun to recognize “pinkwashing” for what it is.
What is “Pinkwashing?”
Breast Cancer Action, a nonprofit organization known as “the watchdog of the breast cancer industry” coined the term “pinkwashing.” It happens when a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting pink ribbon products, while at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease. Pinkwashing is when “cause marketing” loses sight of “the cause” and is more about the bottom line – profits.
One of the best examples of pinkwashing was Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Buckets for the Cure” campaign. For every pink bucket of fried chicken sold, KFC donated 50 cents to Komen. Fast food and especially fried food are a well-known cause of many diseases, including cancer. You gotta wonder…who at Komen approved this joint venture and whose interest do they really have in mind?
More Red Flags, Conflicts of Interest, and Fundraising Fraud
In 2011, Komen created a perfume called “Promise Me.” It contained unsafe chemicals that were deemed toxic and hazardous with negative health effects. The ingredients included galaxolide, an endocrine disruptor, touluene, a possible carcinogen and toxic to the liver, and coumarin, which is toxic to the liver and kidneys and used to kill rodents.
In 2012, Komen partnered with the Coca Cola Company promoting FUZE tea. With 31 grams of sugar, high fructose corn syrup (likely genetically modified), sucralose, and preservatives. Is this a beverage that should be promoted alongside claims to be researching for “the cure” for breast cancer?
In 2013, Yoplait (the yogurt company) held a campaign called “Save Lids to Save Lives.” They donated 10 cents per lid with a special code which consumers could redeem. Yet hormone-laden dairy, sugar, and artificial chemicals have all been linked to cancer.
How can an organization that claims to be focused on preventing and curing breast cancer partner with companies that sell highly processed fast food, junk food, artificial food, hormone-filled dairy products, and sugar/chemical-laden food and beverages that have had a strong correlation with contributing to cancer? Many of these “pseudo foods” and products are known contributors to cancer causation or progression. Do you think these partnerships are actually contributing to a cure or are they really creating more customers for the cancer industry?
Komen Downplays Well Known Hazards of Environmental Toxins and Chemicals
Komen’s website seems to also have the gall to downplay or even deny any possible breast cancer link between well-known and obvious environmental toxins. This includes BPA – an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, found in products such as plastics, liners of canned food and even toilet paper; phthalates – another hormone disruptor found in personal care and cleaning products; and parabens – a preservative found in cosmetics that acts like a weak estrogen. All of these chemicals increase the risk for hormone-driven cancers. Watchdogs have pointed out that Komen receives generous donations from companies who use BPA in their products (Coca-Cola, General Mills, 3M, to name a few).
Komen also supports fracking for gas and oil. Fracking is a process which entails mixing water with chemicals, such as the carcinogens formaldehyde and benzene, and pumping the mixture underground to breakup rock formations, thus polluting groundwater. Komen even went so far as to promote pink drill bits to be used for fracking.
Are Komen’s Messages about Mammograms Misleading?
Not only does Komen partner with products and companies that contribute to cancer, they have exaggerated the benefits of mammograms with catchy slogans such as “early detection saves lives.” Women have been bombarded with this message for far too many years. Few people questioned the almighty annual mammogram. It was always heavily promoted as the “gold standard” for early detection and women who did not get a mammogram were equated with being irresponsible.
Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown that mammography has not lived up to its hope and promise. The reality is that mammograms only save one life in 2,000 while they harm 8-10 women through false alarms, missed cancers, and unnecessary surgery, radiation, drugs, stress, and anxiety!
“Over-diagnosis” (red flagging cancers that would have been eliminated by the body through natural processes, never to become problematic) has become rampant since the widespread use of mammography. Millions of women have now been found to have had needless “cancer” treatments and many have died because of these. Further, while more “cancers” are being found at an early stage, studies have shown no reduction in the number of women dying of breast cancer in the last 30 years.
Breast cancer experts, major newspapers, and long-time proponents of mammography are now either questioning it or speaking out against annual screening programs stating they are doing more harm than good. Yet, despite all the studies and expert warnings, Komen continues on with the same message proclaiming “early detection saves lives”, urging women to get mammograms. The Komen website states, “Despite some ongoing debate, mammography is still the most effective screening tool used today for the early detection of breast cancer.”
Suspicious Ties to Drug Companies and Mammography Machine Makers
The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is the maker of the drug tamoxifen. According to “Pink Ribbon Culture,” AstraZeneca gave $97,000 to Komen affiliates in 2008. They have been known to have a very large presence at Komen “race for the cure” events and they have been a major force in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Incidentally, tamoxifen is listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization as it increases the risk of uterine and other cancers. Komen promotes the use of tamoxifen.
General Electric (GE), one of the largest makers of mammogram machines, is listed on Komen’s website as a “Promise Circle” Partner – donating the highest amount – $1 million plus annually. In 2012, Komen and GE partnered to bring free mammograms to women in rural areas as well as uninsured women through a mobile mammography van called a “Mammovan.”
Pink-Infused Profits – Where Does All the Money Go?
A quick check of Komen’s tax returns posted on Charity Navigator (a service that evaluates and rates public charities for accountability and transparency) may come as a shock. Founder and CEO Nancy Brinker’s salary was $560,896 in 2013. And in 2012, Komen’s President was paid $606,461.
With a multi-million dollar budget and high profile PR campaigns, Komen has been immensely successful at engaging millions of women to sign up for their annual “races for the cure.” In order to participate in Komen’s popular “three day walk” events, each participant must personally raise over $2,000 for Komen.
Charity Navigator reports that Komen’s annual revenue is well over $200 million. Besides enormous executive salaries, a large percent of this money goes to “education” and “awareness” campaigns. This awareness then leads to fueling the push for more mammograms.
The Missing Truth About Breast Cancer Prevention
In all of Komen’s campaigns, where is the information about the root causes of cancer (such as environmental toxins) and risk reduction or prevention through nutrition and lifestyle? Instead of promoting and offering free mammograms to underserved and low-income women, maybe Komen could give a sliver of attention and funding directly to women for free naturopathic health-care, organic food, stress reduction, nutritional counselling, immune system building, and healthy cooking classes. The problem is these known breast cancer risk-reducers are missing one key element – profitability for Komen! And so the status quo continues and pinkwashing will prevail, unless you help us spread the word far and wide.
What You Can Do About Pinkwashing
Breast Cancer Action created a campaign called “Think Before You Pink.” They have a link on their website with “Critical Questions to Ask Before You Buy Pink.” They also created an excellent brochure entitled “Should I Get a Mammogram?”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a far better charitable organization to support if you are interested in the important cause of reducing and eliminating breast cancer. EWG researches products for toxins and pesticides so that consumers can be empowered to make healthy and safe choices with food, cosmetics, cleaning products, and more. Women can also join the “Proactive Breast Health Club” and stay informed with periodic articles on safe screening, anti-cancer nutrition, and other lifestyle strategies specifically to reduce the risk of breast cancer. (See links below for resources mentioned.)