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The Breast Cancer Awareness Scam: What Brands Don’t Tell You About Donations

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consumers are inundated by products splashed with pink ribbons in order to “educate” them on breast cancer symptoms and treatment. But behind the scenes, these companies are profiting at the expense of survivors. Many companies partner with organizations, such as Susan G. Komen so portions of their profits go to that charity. In certain cases, these schemes are actually promoting the consumption of products linked to developing breast cancer.

For instance, KFC launched their Bucket for the Cure campaign in 2010. For every bucket of chicken sold, 50 cents went to the Susan G. Komen foundation. This is a slap in the face to anyone who actually cares about breast cancer prevention and treatment. Animal protein has been found to increase the levels of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1. Plus, chicken is high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, none of which help promote health.

Another company benefiting on the pink ribbon packaging is Yoplait yogurt. Through their save the lids program and sponsoring Susan G. Komen’s races, they have raised over $22 million for the organization. Ironically, there is ample evidence indicating dairy is linked to breast cancer (and other types of cancer). First off, dairy is filled with hormones that increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer. Secondly, casein, which is the main protein found in cow milk can lead to unwanted health consequences. Thomas Colin Campbell, an American biochemist specializing in nutrition has found that casein is the “most relevant chemical carcinogen ever identified.

Furthermore, in 2011 the Komen foundation released a perfume called “Promise Me.” The product originally sold for $59 dollars, with only $1.51 dollars going to breast cancer research. The perfume also contained two chemicals that are potentially hazardous to human health. Coumarin is a known immune system toxin. Benzyl Salicylate, also a known immune system toxin, is associated with endocrine disruption and is suspected to be an environmental toxin.

Consequently, when looking at the Susan G. Komen site she leads women to believe they are hopeless in preventing breast cancer. On their site, they list dairy and meat consumption as a factor neither increasing or decreasing the risk of developing breast cancer. They even go as far to say that “most risk factors we have some control over have only a small effect on risk.” This serves to discourage women and allow them to falsely believe that their fate is completely out of their hands. While it is true one can be genetically predisposed to the disease, they can exacerbate or minimize this predisposition by diet, exercise and exposure to environmental toxins. But, these methods of prevention have no potential for profit and thus will continue to be downplayed by the organization.

With various campaigns, such as the ones previously mentioned, along with generous donations, breast cancer awareness organizations are flooded with funds. An estimated $6 billion is raised every year for breast cancer research and organizations. But how much of this money is being put to use? Generally, the same number of women since 1992 are being diagnosed with breast cancer and are dying from the disease. This should make anyone question how their donations are being put to use. When billions of dollars have consistently been pouring in with no results there must be a reason why.

Nancy Brinker, founder and past CEO of Susan G. Komen made $684,717 in 2012, which is a huge jump from her 2010 salary of $417,171. This highlights the economic gain these companies have relished in the big business of disease.

The unsettling bottom line is that people profit off the existence of breast cancer. When organizations dedicated to breast cancer awareness find a cure they essentially become obsolete.

Some are working to shed light on this scam. One such organization is Breast Cancer Action. They launched their Think Before You Pink campaign in 2002. The campaign aims to increase the transparency and accountability of companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is another organization worth supporting. Founded in 1947, most of their funds go towards cancer treatment and research. The Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center is also dedicated to breast cancer research and treatment.

Many organizations are preying on your philanthropy, knowing that breast cancer touches the lives of many Americans. So, remember that just because a product is adorned with a pink ribbon doesn’t mean it deserves your dollar.

Cassidy Hopson is a junior at the University of Florida majoring in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @CassidyHopson.
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