Too much pink: Some area breast cancer survivors find overuse of pink memorabilia has lost awareness message

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Oct. 12, 2011 at 5:12 a.m.
Updated Oct. 13, 2011 at 5:13 a.m.

Wendi DuVall takes pride in her breast cancer survival and the pink ribbon message.

However, the pink ribbon has taken on a life of its own, and it's not a good thing.

"We can't stand to see our pain marketed," the Victoria resident said. "It leaves a lot of us with a bad taste in our mouths."

Not all the marketing is bad, DuVall said, but some companies have transformed a once meaningful message into a money-earning machine.

A Gallop poll showed products with a breast cancer awareness tie-in are bought by 84 percent of Americans, according to an Associated Press report.

The overuse of pink and the sale of pink-packaged, animal-based foods, which can lead to cancer, has been coined "pinkwashing."

The name is a fitting one, said Lillian Alex, a six-year breast cancer survivor from Victoria.

"This is something that needs to be taken seriously and should not be used as a marketing tool," Alex said.

Both Alex and DuVall ask breast cancer awareness supporters to not only look at the color or trend, but look at the message and understand what the product is helping benefit.

Think Before You Pink, a national project through the Breast Cancer Action organization, found that products such as Lean Cuisine had more benefit for itself financially than for breast cancer awareness.

Simply buying the product did not help donate to awareness, but instead, the purchaser had to visit the product's website and buy a pink lunch tote bag and then $5 from the purchase of the bag would be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

And the items don't stop at just pink ribbons.

There are pink golf balls, cleats, wristbands, water bottles and Tupperware - the list is endless.

Just because it's pink, doesn't mean it helps with breast cancer research, DuVall said.

And if it helps, it may not be helping as well as you'd think, DuVall said.

Supporters have good intentions by buying the products, but a sense of urgency is needed in understanding where the money is going, DuVall pressed on.

"Pink is so overused," DuVall said. "It has always made me crazy how many businesses use the pink ribbon and increase their sales through the month of October. Those of us in the cancer world refer to it as 'Pinktober.'"

Instead, survivors such as DuVall and Alex have latched onto local grassroot awareness events, such as walks and annual events with local breast cancer awareness chapters.

Last year, the Victoria Fire Department purchased a pink fire truck and began the Guardians of the Ribbons South Texas chapter. The truck tours South Texas and offers women cancer survivors and families of those who've died of cancer to sign the truck.

Recently, DuVall signed the truck.

This is an excellent example of truly supporting breast cancer, she said.

"They are true advocates," DuVall said. "Please don't be sucked into the pink ribbon. Do your research."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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