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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Breast cancer knows no season or month for that matter, but it’s that time of year when breast cancer awareness programs get full attention. The color pink is everywhere you turn. From pink yogurt lids to pink soup cans to pink potato chip bags on store shelves to professional athletes decked out in pink uniforms from head to toe, there’s no escaping it. As a brand new breast cancer survivor, I appreciate these efforts although they used to annoy me. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, so these programs, or cause marketing as it’s called, which is a partnership between a for-profit company and a non-profit company are important. It could save your life by making you aware of risk factors for breast cancer that you may not have known about, or simply remind you to get a mammogram or give you a push to see a doctor about a lump you have.

Wondering about the origins of how October turned pink? A little history: Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), or National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), as it’s also called, was started in 1985 by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which manufactures breast cancer drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen and the American Cancer Society. The pink ribbon, which we all know is the international symbol for breast cancer awareness, got it’s origin in approximately 1992 by the then editor of Self Magazine and the then senior corporate vice president at cosmetics company Estée Lauder, and a breast cancer survivor. It has been noted that in 1991 Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, handed out pink ribbons to breast cancer survivors at the New York City Race for the Cure.

The sense of community that BCAM creates is second to none and no doubt beneficial to an extent, but is it truly helping the cause against breast cancer? Although some may disagree, I think that it is helping. I will admit that having a landmark lit up in pink lighting probably doesn’t make someone think “I need to schedule a mammogram!”, but it’s encouraging to see what some organizations are doing to help in the fight against breast cancer.  Here’s a list of what some big and not so big companies are doing (aside from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk):

  • Yoplait’s Save Lids, to Save Lives® 2010 marks the 12th annual drive and according to the Save Lids, to Save Lives® website, for every pink lid that is sent in by December 31, 2010 Yoplait®, will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, up to $1.6 million.  There is guaranteed donation of at least $500,000.  Fantastic, but where is all that money going? It goes towards research and community outreach. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® states that the funds they receive really do go towards research and that all of their administrative costs are paid for by other corporate sponsors.
  • The National Football League (NFL), has partnered with the American Cancer Society since 2009 for “A Crucial Catch”, a program focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are over the age of 40. Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel to raise awareness, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencils and special K-balls and pink coins. All apparel worn at games by players and coaches and special K-balls and pink coins will be auctioned off at NFL Auction www.NFLAuction.NFL.com, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society and team charities. Last year, the NFL Auction raised more than $300,000 through the sale of pink items and also offers a tool kit for high school football teams to get involved as well. Many teams will extend the reach of the NFL’s national platform through local grassroots efforts focused on promoting breast cancer screenings, supporting breast cancer survivors, and planning special in-stadium or pregame events with local organizations.
  • Sun Chips and the Kroger family of stores have partnered to have specially marked bags of Sun Chips for sale in their of stores that will benefit Giving Hope a Hand® by investing $3 million for breast cancer awareness, treatment and research. Funds raised will assist dozens of local organizations fighting breast cancer in communities across the country, supporting research projects, funding mammograms, educational outreach, and assisting local support groups for women and families. All of the funds are allocated in the communities where Kroger customers and associates live and work. More information can be found at www.sharingcourage.com.
  • MultiGrain Cheerios announced on facebook that the brand is participating in General Mills’ Pink Together initiative in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink Together is an online network that has connected almost 700,000 breast cancer survivors and supporters.
  • Bright Pink is an organization that exclusively provides information to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.  Under the about us section on www.bebrightpink.org, Bright pinks states that they “arm young women with knowledge, options and a great attitude, and offer companionship and empathy during their journey. We empower them to take control of their breast and ovarian health and in turn, grant them the freedom and peace of mind to live a beautiful and fulfilling life.”  Bright Pink offers a publication called The Little Bright Book that is an educational resource created to provide medical professionals with a tool to engage young women in the conversation of breast and ovarian cancer risk and how to be proactive with their health.  The Little Bright Book is supported and lifted up by Orbit White chewing gum. Bright Pink also partnered with Running Press to create a book called The Little Pink Ribbon Book which contains inspirational stories and quotes from breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these books will go towards breast cancer education and support groups. You can find the book on www.amazon.com or other book retailers.
  • Lee National Denim Day is an annual event typically held on the first Friday of October. Over the past 14 years, Lee Jeans has invited companies to go casual for a cause, in which employees would be able wear their jeans to work on Denim Day in exchange for a minimum of a $5.00 contribution. Almost $80 million for the fight against breast cancer has been raised since the inception of this invent. If you are interested in hosting a Denim Day at your company, you can check the details out at www.denimday.com. Be sure to check with your human resources department or supervisor before you agree to host a Denim Day!
  • Many cosmetic and skincare companies have products that help fund breast cancer research, education or programs as part of BCAM. Brands such as Bobbi Brown, Origins (which are Estée Lauder Companies’), La Mer, Clarisonic, Sephora and Avon donate a portion of the proceeds from certain skin care and cosmetic products not just during the month October, all year long.

Of course there are countless other companies and sites that are offering proceeds from the sales of their products or free things just by “clicking” on their websites. There are some organizations out there that don’t believe the hype of BCAM and want the buyer to beware. According to Wikipedia, San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action has renamed their annual awareness campaign “Breast Cancer Industry Month” to emphasize the costs of treatment. Their “Think Before You Pink” campaign urges people to “do something besides shop.” After explaining that some “pink” sponsors are polluting industrial giants or spend more money on breast cancer-themed advertisements than they actually donate towards research or treatment, BCA asks consumers to reflect thoughtfully on questions like, “How much money was spent marketing the product?” or “What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?” This group has particularly excoriated major cosmetic companies such as Avon, Revlon, and Estee Lauder, which have claimed to promote women’s health while simultaneously using known and/or suspected cancer-causing chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates in their products.

Have any of you had a mammogram or learned something new about breast health or breast cancer risk factors from a program that was offered during BCAM?  What are you going to do/or have done to commemorate the month? Do you feel that it’s important to have a month dedicated specifically to breast cancer awareness? Do you purchase products because they are specifically labeled for proceeds to go to breast cancer awareness?

Let’s discuss.

Katie

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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3 comments

  1. Katie…..
    You continue to inspire me.
    I have been VERY fortunate to not have to have battled the monster personally. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about the women closest to me, my family and friends 🙁 You have been an amazing source of strength and encouragement. Not just for the people you know, but by reaching out and advocating they way you do, thousands of other women, young women, too!
    Continue to inspire us Katie. Continue spreading your love, you light and your very positive message of HOPE!
    I love you,
    Denise

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