October22012

Pink or Teal?

We’ve all seen the pink ribbons on everything from yogurt containers to trash cans. Termed “The Pink Invasion,” the abundance of pink has people happy that breast cancer awareness is so high, but leaves some feeling that other cancers are not being given the attention that they deserve. While some feel the abundance of pink insults those suffering cancers there are a lot of different ribbon colors that represent a lot of different things and people get overwhelmed at the choices. It is easy for the average person to get confused as to which to support.

Pink represents Breast Cancer, Red represents AIDS, and Purple represents All Cancers and also domestic violence. The list of ribbon colors and the causes they represent is extensive. Some causes have multiple colors, and some colors have as many as 15 causes they represent. For many the choice to support a particular cause is a personal one, one that they make because they have been affected by that particular cause. What is particularly frustrating is when their particular cause is drastically underfunded and under recognized.

One example is Ovarian Cancer, which is represented by the teal ribbon for some organizations and with the silver ribbon for others. While the pink ribbon that represents breast cancer is much better known, the two causes do share some significant similarities. Both are cancers that are primarily suffered by women and both have been linked to the same genetic cause. Yet the teal and silver ribbons are much less well known. In fact, Breast cancer fundraising is at levels seven times that for fundraising for other individual types of cancer.

One tragic explanation offered for this disparity is the fact that women diagnosed with breast cancer have a significantly higher level of survival than that of women receiving a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer. Another is that, unlike breast cancer there is no organization for Ovarian Cancer that is united and covers most nations. One other explanation is the extensive marketing by Breast Cancer organizations like Susan G Komen. Even other breast care organizations question the massive marketing push using the pink ribbons. One organization that works at fundraising for Breast Cancer Research, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has a campaign based on asking people to “Think before you Pink,” when making donations.

The pink ribbon was co-created by socialite and Breast Cancer survivor Evelyn Lauder to raise awareness of Breast Cancer and to promote research after her bout with the illness. The daughter in law of cosmetics magnate Estee Lauder, Evelyn was also an executive at the Estee Lauder Cosmetics Company. Because of this, the pink ribbon received a great deal of promotion from the Estee Lauder Company. Sadly, while she survived her bout with Breast Cancer, Evelyn Lauder later developed Ovarian Cancer, which claimed her life in 2011.

Today the Susan G Komen For the Cure organization, which uses the pink ribbon as its trademarked symbol, raises billions of dollars each year worldwide. It is the most recognized Breast Cancer Organization. Only around 23-27% of this money actually goes toward researching a cure for breast cancer. Komen has also run into scrutiny for its politically charged decisions regarding the use of money raised.

It is always important to be aware of where the money you donate actually goes. This information is available online and should be evaluated before handing over your hard earned money. While you may feel an emotional reason for supporting a particular cause, make certain to do your research to ensure that organization actually does what they claim. Questioning administrative costs is important, because it is an indicator of how much the executive staff pays themselves. This is a good indicator of the organization’s priorities. Don’t get taken in by marketing ploys. If you are absolutely passionate about a particular cause, make certain that you find an organization with the same goal.

So whether you support breast cancer research, ovarian cancer research, or research for all types of cancer, be informed about that little ribbon you decide to wear. With an informed population of donors, organizations will have to work harder towards their stated goal and direct more funding towards research. If you choose pink, or purple or teal, know where the money goes that you give that organization. This is especially true if you are asking friends, neighbors and coworkers for donations towards that cause.

I chose to support Frocktober and the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation after seeing how committed they were to finding a cure for this terrible disease. They also try to find new treatments that target cancer without leaving the body a complete wreck. These new treatments and drugs are a step to making Ovarian Cancer manageable, instead of the death sentence it is today.

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