Disclaimer: (since there seems to be some confusion here) In no way am I trying to diminish the mental, physical, and emotional pain associated with breast cancer. I am trying to respect it and argue that because it is such a serious disease, we should give money to research wisely and take prevention seriously, and also not forget about the many other serious forms of cancer that do not get as much attention. Like many of you I have lost people I have loved to cancer and agree we should fight against it.
Happy November. One of the reasons to be happy it’s November?
October, sorry excuse me, “Pinktober” is over.
Perhaps you have noticed the insane amount of pink products at every NFL game, a few college ones. Maybe your latte was died pink or your yogurt cups had pink lids. I’m guessing half the products I walked passed in the store this past month had a little pink ribbon in the corner. Onesies proclaiming “I love boobs” and adult sized shirts shouting “Save the Ta Tas!” have no doubt crossed your path at some point in the last few weeks.” It’s unavoidable.
It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And while I can’t imagine the pain people go through who are diagnosed with or watch a loved one be diagnosed with breast cancer, I am not particularly a fan of the fund-raising campaign.
But wait, you ask. How can anyone be against boobies? Everyone loves boobs! Save the boobs! Save the women!
I’m not. I love breasts as much as the next person (unless the person I am standing beside is a straight man. In that case he probably likes them a little more. But you get what I am saying). But I have some issues with the whole breast cancer awareness, buy everything pink campaign.
Who here has heard the statistic “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer?” Did you find yourself thinking “I know at least eight women but I don’t think any of them have breast cancer?” That’s because statistics are not always what they appear. The key words that are often missing is “in their lifetime.” One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” Which means that by the time you reach 80 something, you will have had a one in eight chance. But for younger women, it looks like this (from cancer.gov)
- from age 30 through age 39 . . . . . . 0.43 percent (often expressed as “1 in 233”)
- from age 40 through age 49 . . . . . . 1.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 69”)
- from age 50 through age 59 . . . . . . 2.38 percent (often expressed as “1 in 42”)
- from age 60 through age 69 . . . . . . 3.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 29”)
It’s a little different than one in eight. But we usually don’t get the whole story. It’s not as dramatic, not as interesting, not as money generating.
I’ll admit. I have a pink coffee mug. I bought it a long time ago thinking I would do something nice to save the world. But back then the whole pink phenomenon was still pretty new, it had yet to reach the massive proportions that there are today. Now I question it a bit more.
Take the whole Yoplait “Save Lids Save Lives.” For every lid you mail in (or redeem online), Yoplait will donate ten cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (footnote: up to 2 million dollars.) If Yoplait just wants to make a two million dollar donation, why wouldn’t they? Are they hoping that they won’t make it to the two million dollar mark? Or are they hoping you will buy more of their yogurt because it makes you feel good about the world?”
Buying a bunch of stuff we don’t need (like a pink plastic water bottle that increases your chance of breast cancer), shouldn’t drink (like pink alcohol, which could also increase your chances) probably isn’t helping anyone except corporate pocketbooks.
If you want to donate money to breast cancer research, donate money. If a corporation wants to donate money, let them donate money. There’s no need to buy a whole bunch of stuff for that to happen.
Do you know that the lifetime incidence of prostate cancer for men is one in six (source)? Or that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America (source)? Cancer is number two, and so while that shouldn’t be ignored, I think it is fair to wonder why we give so much attention to breast cancer.
Could it be….
I mean I hate to suggest it…
… because our society likes the boobs?
Seriously, when was the last time you saw a “Save the Prostates!” t-shirt? Breast cancer isn’t a bad cause to get behind, and there’s no rule saying you can only support the most dire causes. But it’s important to stop and ask why breast cancer funding is getting so much research, to look and see where that money is going, to see if there are other causes in need of attention that don’t have the well-oiled publicity machine that Susan G. Komen for the Cure runs.
Sexualization isn’t the only reason we pay a lot of attention to breast cancer, though I do believe it’s part of it. There’s a lot of diseases out there that need more research and awareness. Our medical system is a capitalist, for-profit system, which means it largely behaves like any other industry – it goes where the money is. There’s not a lot of incentive to research rare or unprofitable diseases. (Which is all fine and good until you come down with one of those rare diseases that no one has bothered to research a cause, treatment, or cure for yet. Then it gets on your nerves.)
How much actual awareness did all the pink merchandise raise? Sure NFL players had flashy pink shoes, but did the game announcers remind people to give themselves breast self-examinations every month? Was the football link designed to raise awareness among men who can also get breast cancer? Where was the information about healthy eating or reducing alcohol intake? How much of the money is going to research the environmental causes of breast cancer? What can we do to actually prevent breast cancer, besides just buying a pink-labeled candy bar?
It’s not a bad cause, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who feels compelled to give to it. But I would urge anyone to (before supporting any cause) ask where the money is going, how much of the money is going there, double check if we are doing it because it is popular or because it is right. And after you have decided that, by all means give, promote, raise awareness, save the world.