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Beware of Pink


It’s that time of year again when you can’t escape from being bombarded with pink when you are out shopping. It’s everywhere you look and the retailers’ shelves are bulging with pink products.

What is the purpose of all this pink? The pink ribbon is a well-known symbol associated with breast cancer awareness and every October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s an annual global campaign to raise awareness of the most common form of cancer in women. Men can get breast cancer too although it is rare.  

I have no problem with raising awareness as I am a breast cancer survivor and it's vitally important that we all know what to look out for. However, I do have a problem with some of the methods of raising awareness.  

You may have noticed that there are a growing number of companies promoting pink products in October? On the surface it seems great because they are donating a portion of their sales to charity. However, companies are making money from Breast Cancer Awareness Month and using it for their own ends.

How exactly does the sale of a product in pink packaging raise awareness of the disease? Does the packaging advise us how to reduce our risk of developing the disease?

We need to question who really gains from these promotions? Most of the pink sales ultimately benefit the companies far more than they help those that are living with and at risk of breast cancer. In addition to an increase in sales, companies also reduce their tax burdens through charitable donations and it is also a very effective PR strategy.

Most pink donations only equate to a tiny amount from the sale of pink products. For example, the tickled pink oral-B toothbrush is donating 10p from the sale of each £25 toothbrush to charity which equates to 0.4% from each sale. So not even 1% goes to charity yet the product is pink and so is the packaging. It doesn't take a genius to work out who benefits more from the use of pink and the term pinkwashing springs to mind. If you are not familiar with the term pinkwashing it is associated with companies that use the pink ribbon symbol to promote their products. Not all companies share the same ethics and many use and abuse the pink ribbon symbol as an opportunity to boost their bottom line. The pinkwashing term was first coined by Breast Cancer Action (BCA).

As consumers we also need to question what happens to the money raised? Does it really benefit those that need it the most?  

An abundance of pink products in October merely serves to upset and offend many of those that have been through breast cancer or are living with the disease. It displays a lack of empathy and understanding of the real issues and it trivialises the disease.     

More funding needs to support research to find out why there is a breast cancer epidemic and why so many more young women are developing the disease. According to Lester Barr, Chairman of the charity Prevent Breast Cancer, “only three per cent of cancer research money goes into prevention.”

Ultimately, too much emphasis is placed on awareness rather than preventative action. More should be done to help prevent breast cancer and we should be asking why the amount of people diagnosed with the disease is on the increase.