Ashley Earl Blog Post 7: Mainstream Breast Cancer Culture

Everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American women and has progressively become more prevalent over the past few decades. During the 1940’s approximately 1 in 22 women were said to develop breast cancer but now it has been found that a startling 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer throughout their lifetime and because of this shocking rate, many efforts are being made to shed light on this harrowing disease (Pool 2011). Many foundations have been created with the purpose of raising awareness, promoting and funding research, and advocating for breast cancer fighters and survivors. The popularity of these foundations has shaped breast cancer and “the search for a cure” into a kind of culture in the United States, and with these companies receiving billions of dollars each year in the name of breast cancer research, many questions have been raised about where this money actually ends up being used.

The mainstream breast cancer culture has been scrutinized for many reasons, one of them being for the use of pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is “a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.” (Think Before You Pink). In the film “Pink Ribbon Inc”, it is stated that companies who display the pink ribbon on their products are actually benefiting more than the cause and they show us that their campaigning is more about making money for themselves rather than raising money to find a cure. For example, in 2010 when KFC introduced their “Buckets for the Cure” campaign in which they gave a portion of the money raised by selling pink buckets of chicken to Susan G. Komen, they were accused of pinkwashing because ingredients used in their chicken had been found to be linked to cancer (Think Before You Pink).  In her book, “From Pink to Green”, Barbara Ley points out another problem with mainstream breast cancer culture. Ley points out that most of the money being donated to research by foundations is ending up in the wrong kind of research; most of the research, she states, is dedicated towards the treatment of cancer rather than finding the cause of cancer. Doctors would be able to prevent cancer from developing in the first place if the cause was known, rather than having to just simply treat it once the woman is diagnosed. Foundations such as Susan G. Komen have recently come under fire for poor allocation of its donations and losing sight of the original quest; finding the cause of breast cancer and ending it. In 2011 the company gave only 15% of the money raised to research and many people find that number to be far too low (Begley, Roberts 2012). I do agree that the amount of money put toward research should be much higher. More emphasis needs to put on the importance of research and the right kind of research, because without it, a cure for breast cancer will never be found.

Although the Susan G. Komen foundation should improve the distribution of its donations, I believe that many people, even the authors and film makers from this week’s materials, tend to overlook all of the positive things Komen does for the fight against breast cancer. Even though in 2011 only 15% of its donations went toward research that is still a massive amount of money (approximately 63 million dollars) (Begley, Roberts 2012). Also Komen uses most of the rest of the money donated in ways that positively affect the lives of women currently living with breast cancer; “The organization’s 2011 financial statement reports that 43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment” (Begley, Roberts 2012). Many people today believe that Susan G. Komen is a corrupt foundation that spends its money foolishly but these findings prove that belief to be completely false.

I believe that the mainstream breast cancer culture in the United States has more positives than negatives. Because breast cancer and the fight against it has become such a huge part of our culture, women living with the disease now have many ways seek alternative treatments, find support groups, and receive advice, and we are continually becoming closer to finding a cure for this widespread disease.


Pink Ribbon Inc. Dir. Lea Pool. 2011. Youtube.

“Before You Buy Pink.” Think Before You Pink ». N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.

“What the Cluck?!” Think Before You Pink ». N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.

Begley, Sharon, and Janet Roberts. “Insight: Komen Charity under Microscope for Funding, Science.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 08 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.

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