Pink October: Who Profits the Most?

I suspect that there are very few people today who are not aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It’s hard to escape the pink “stuff” being advertised to support breast cancer awareness and research.  I always wonder, though, why people don’t just donate money for research.

I guess if you really need a blender and pink is the perfect color for your kitchen, then it makes sense to buy a pink blender because it has that added value of contributing to cancer research.  If you love pink clothes and sneakers and shoe laces, you can buy them in October and support research.  If you are a candy addict, you can purchase bags of pink M&Ms and kill two birds with one stone (although I probably should find a better way to say that).  You can even buy Yoplait yogurt and send in the pink lid so 10 cents will go toward research.

It’s ironic that many companies (Avon, Revlon, Estee Lauder, for example) that use parabens in their products support breast cancer research.  The FDA is aware that parabens are a known carcinogen because of their estrogenic effect.  Cosmetics companies are reluctant to remove them because it might cut into their profit margin, so October will continue to be the month the cosmetic industry runs ads in support of breast cancer research while continuing to manufacture products with parabens.  Other companies, such as pharmaceutical firms, also seem to profit from breast cancer.  At times it makes me wonder if profit is coming before cure or prevention. If you read any of the October magazines, look for articles that claim we are making progress in the treatment of breast cancer, articles that are then followed by advertisements by companies that profit from their “pink” sales during this month.

Really, I don’t get it.  As a survivor, I certainly have purchased my share of pink products, mainly jewelry and pink ribbon pins, along with all the freebies I always get at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure races.  I have drawers full of pink survivor shirts and hats and a jewelry box full of pins earned for completing the walks.  But still there is no cure.  Every 69 seconds someone in the world dies from breast cancer.  Every hour, while women and men and children are walking in support of breast cancer research during the October walks, 20 women in the U.S. are dying of breast cancer.  What are we doing?

This all makes me wonder in those dark hours in the middle of the night why my sister died when she had such hope and such courage and such a strong desire to live.  Why did treatment fail her?  In 2005, the year she died, companies were vowing their support to eradicate breast cancer.  People were buying pink kitchen tools and blenders.  Women were buying pink clothing and wearing pink ribbons and walking in walks and racing in races and showing support.  And still my sister died.

I won’t be buying many pink products any more. I certainly will not buy products that contain parabens.  I will continue to be a member of organizations like CRAAB (Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer), a local advocacy group working with the government to reach a cure or work on prevention.  I still have hope that a cure will come, or that we will eliminate the environmental toxins that are promoting cancer growth.  Every company that continues to put chemicals in their products needs to find a way to take them out and still have a great product.

October is a hard month for me.  It’s the month of my sister’s original diagnosis, and in 2003 it was the month of her recurrence and the month of my own diagnosis.  I continue to be angry that such little progress has been made in preventing breast cancer, although I know advances have been made in diagnosis and treatment.  It’s just not enough.  I hope there will continue to be ways to show support for breast cancer research, but more than anything, I wish everyone would work to boycott companies that use parabens.  Check out The Paraben Free Princess web site.  It’s very informative.  Read about the Safe Cosmetics Act.  Become informed.  Become an advocate for a clean environment because cleaning up our environment may be the only way we will ever prevent breast cancer.

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