Demand Focus on Breast Cancer Prevention, Not Awareness

Target: Entities who use the pink ribbon to promote breast cancer awareness, specifically companies like Avon and AstraZeneca.

Goal: Shift the focus of breast cancer fundraising from awareness to prevention.

Since 1984, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) and the associated pink ribbons have been the defining voice in the national breast cancer discussion. Millions of people have bought pink ribbon products, participated in walks for the cure, and donated to the cause, but breast cancer rates have risen 40% over the last 35 years. Many of the corporations involved with this cause are linked to either products known to cause cancer, or the manufacturing of cancer drugs themselves, and have made millions of dollars on their pink ribbon products. It is time we turn the focus of the discussion, as well as the research and the money, away from breast cancer awareness and onto prevention of this devastating disease.

It is right there in the name; from the beginning, the goal of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has never been the eradication or even the prevention of breast cancer. NBCAM was founded by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (then Imperial Chemical Industries), who found mammograms to be the most cost effective way to detect breast cancer in their employees. Today, AstraZeneca manufactures the third highest grossing breast cancer drug.

Today, pink ribbon products are much more a clever marketing scheme than an actual serious contribution to cancer research. Yoplait yogurt is a prime example, with the pledge to donate $.10 for every lid you send in. You could eat Yoplait every day for ten years, and you would only raise $365.00 towards cancer research, while spending $1,825.00. Avon is another culprit – 1/3 of the money raised by their pink ribbon products goes towards its own overhead.

It is not enough to be aware of breast cancer anymore; the goal must be prevention. Yet less than 7% of the money Avon raised went to research into the causes of breast cancer (not to mention the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition has listed more than 250 of their products in the “highest concern” category!). On the pink ribbon website, the opening graphic reads “The best prevention is early detection.” The best prevention is prevention, and the only way to determine how to prevent a disease is to research into its causes.

Enough is enough. Americans are aware breast cancer exists. Let AstraZeneca and Avon know that their marketing is unacceptable in the hope that they will lead the way in making this fight truly about beating cancer, and not about their own bottom line.


Dear Pascar Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, and Sherilyn S. McCoy, CEO of Avon Products,

The focus of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as the allocation of the funds you receive through NBCAM and their associated pink ribbons, must be shifted. It is time to invest a majority of resources and money towards a cure for this terrible disease instead of simply making people aware of a disease your products treat and have been known to cause.

Your focus on awareness is shortsighted, and makes it seem as if you are not committed to solving the ultimate problem, which isn’t lack of an early diagnosis, but the disease that is being diagnosed itself. It’s not as if awareness isn’t an issue – early diagnosis has saved a lot of lives – but it is only a small piece of the puzzle. I write you in the hopes that you will shift your focus and resources to finding what causes cancer, and finding a cure for the disease, instead of putting a band-aid on the much bigger problem.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. When are companies going to cease making and selling deodorants that contain aluminium???? Clearly it is a high scorer in the cause of breast cancer …… these products should be taken off the market ….. its all about greed ……..

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