The Thinking 

The Indiscreet, In-Your-Face, Sickly Sweet, Ever Pervasive Campaign Against Breast Cancer

October 26, 2011


KENDRA writes:

I was watching a football game at a restaurant the other night, and noticed that some of the male players were wearing light pink shoes and other accessories. My husband told me that it is a campaign for breast cancer awareness, and I found this to be absurd. I once saw a male construction worker driving a backhoe painted pretty pink, and another time, saw a dump truck painted pink, also with a male driver. I have seen men out in public wearing pink shirts and hats with breast cancer awareness logos. Do these men really feel comfortable driving pink vehicles, or are they just too far gone to notice the problem? I wonder if the pink shoes and equipment affects their job performance. It is almost as bad as having to watch tampon commercials with my husband and young son in the room.

I would never ask the men in my life to promote such a private women’s issue. My polite grandfather could not even get himself to say the word “breast” while he was living.

Here is the site for the “NFL Crucial Catch” campaign.


                                   — Comments —

Karen I.  writes:

I completely agree with Kendra’s comments! 

I am high risk for breast cancer and I have lost relatives to it, so I have thought about the pink ribbon breast cancer crusade. It is absurd. I go for mammograms and get a pink ribbon blanket to put over me while I wait. Somehow, it annoys me to see those ribbons while I wait anxiously for my results, hoping this isn’t the year I get the bad news and thinking of what could happen if it is. I need to focus on a prayer when I am feeling that way, not a pink ribbon. 

Breast cancer is a nasty, brutal disease. When one of my mammograms did not come back good and I required an invasive, very painful biopsy, the pink ribbons brought me no comfort. I think people still feel helpless in the face of the horrors that breast cancer brings with it, and they feel that by waving the pink ribbon flag, they are somehow fighting it. They aren’t. They are trivializing it. The pink ribbon crusade is like putting a cartoon band-aid on a gaping wound. It’s cute, but it does not make anyone feel better.

Laura writes:

Not only does Delta Airlines allow stewardesses to dress like slobs this month if they give to breast cancer research, but the airline is also selling glasses of Minute Maid pink lemonade for two dollars each and the profits go to breast cancer.  Retailers are eager to jump on the pink ribbon bandwagon.

There is no reasonable association between pink lemonade and breast cancer. It’s degrading.

Breast cancer research is a worthy cause, but is it necessary to raise money in this trivializing way? People will eventually associate breast cancer with crass manipulation.

It is interesting that these overt expressions of saccharine, cheap femininity proliferate as real femininity declines.

Howard Sutherland writes:

I have been through cancer myself, and have many friends and relatives who have as well – including several who have breast cancer. We live in an area that is reputed to be a breast cancer hotbed; there is great local interest and a lot of pink ribbons on car bumpers and elsewhere. All that makes me sympathetic to breast cancer awareness, if not ready to sport a pink ribbon.

The Susan G. Komen phenomenon is powerful; it reminds me of Candy Lightner’s drive to start MADD in California in the 1980s and how MADD went national (now we would say “viral”) in a very short time. Unfortunately, a closer look reveals that the Komen group has – from a traditionalist point of view – some unsavory associations that make it impossible for me to contribute in good conscience. A LifeNews story from August 25th reports – from Komen affiliates’ federal tax filings – that Komen affiliates gave almost $570,000 to Planned Parenthood in 2010. As Komen itself had earlier reported 2010 contributions to PP of over $731,000, one wonders just how extensive the Komen-PP connections are – and just which PP activities Komen money helps fund.

There has been a body of recent research plausibly demonstrating a link between a woman’s having undergone induced abortion and her susceptibility to breast cancer; some of that research looks pretty compelling to my admittedly liberal-arts mind. There is also, unsurprisingly, vehement denial of any such link from the usual quarters. On Komen’s website is a page addressing the organization’s connections with Planned Parenthood, including links to .pdf files of letters denying that Komen contributions fund PP’s abortion business and – more tellingly – denying any link between abortion and breast cancer. Why would Komen attempt to debunk the abortion-breast cancer connection if there were no connection between Komen contributions and PP’s abortion business? I also wonder how anyone can be sure – money is fungible – that Komen contributions to Planned Parenthood do not in fact fund abortions and abortion advocacy.

Given all that, I think anyone whose beliefs about the morality of abortion are those of traditional Christianity or similar must guard a healthy skepticism about Komen’s activities. Even though I have many reasons to be an enthusiastic supporter of cancer research, I won’t be donning a pink ribbon while Komen is in any way connected with Planned Parenthood.

(On an unrelated note, it is sobering to think that MADD’s work has largely been undone by the federal government’s refusal to secure the borders, turning American roads into drag strips for inebriated illegal aliens from points South, with the carnage of Americans that inevitably ensues. Another way diversity enriches us all?)

Laura writes:

If Komen downplays the link between abortion and breast cancer, she probably does not recognize evidence that oral contraceptives cause breast cancer too. This is from a previous post on this issue:

THE SHOCKING silence of the mainstream media regarding the link between the birth control pill and breast cancer is explored in this episode of the Michael Coren Show. See the segment (at 23 minutes) which features Dr. Angela LanFranchi, of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. Studies have shown that both abortion and oral contraceptives are what is known as Group One carcinogens for breast, cervical and liver cancers. Tobacco is a Group One carcinogen for lung cancer.

LanFranchi, a breast surgeon and professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says the prescription of oral contraceptives to teenagers amounts to “child abuse.”

“You take a very intricate system, the endocrine system… and you throw a Group One carcinogen onto those healthy women what could you expect but disease?” she said.

When we are given pink ribbons are we ever urged to prevent abortion and the use of oral contraceptives? Here is an excellent online booklet by LanFranchi on breast cancer risks and prevention.

Kimberly writes:

Here is another fact you will never hear from the mainstream health organizations: According to Sheila Kippley, breast cancer is reduced by 7% with each birth and by 4.3 % with every 12 months of breastfeeding. This was particularly true for women who did not have a return of menses for an extened amount of time due to the effects of frequent nursing. To breastfeed this frequently, a woman will generally need to be at home with her baby, not working. So we will not be hearing it any time soon. They figure that such a suggestion is so impractical that they will do more harm than good by making the truth known.

Kimberly adds:

Wow! The doctor’s pamphlet you linked does mention that breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast cancer, and also mentions NFP. She does not, however mention the non-systematic form of NFP because that is even more unheard of than the systematic form. She mentions both common forms of systematic NFP, and it’s wonderful that she does point these out. But there is an even easier way to space babies effectively; ecological breastfeeding. 

I found it interesting that having a full-term pregnancy before the age of 20 can reduce the risk by one third. One third! But how can a woman go to college and pursue her career if she’s having a baby at 20? That’s the beauty of it! She can’t! :-) I sure do love to imagine America as a wholesome, housewife-filled nation.

A reader writes:

The situation that annoys me the most about breast cancer awareness is the utter disregard of men. I have a male relative who recently died of breast cancer, and his illness was met with either ridicule or glossed over entirely. His doctor had a fellow (female) doctor replace him for a day, and if you can believe it, she told him that men’s breast cancer didn’t matter much, as she is 100 times more likely to die of breast cancer than he was. Nevertheless, he died within the year and she lived on, without having contracted the disease.

He went through the treatment period without support or sympathy. When a woman contracts breast cancer, she has the backing of the entire world. Everyone gives her sympathy and wishes she could survive. The advertisements on TV tell her that she is supported, the days of pink-wearing support her, the “girl’s night out” supports her, the school fun runs support her. Where is the support for the man with breast cancer? Where is the day to celebrate men living through the disease?

In utter bafflement do I watch the parade of breast cancer/pink ribbon trash. “Women! Check yourselves every week!” “Wear pink to support women” “Women are suffering…” “Women are dying…” It goes on and on. Every gender-specific advertisement, poster, T-shirt and football jersey reminds me that I have lost a very dear family member, and that he was ignored whilst society was busy pampering the woman receiving chemotherapy alongside him.

He didn’t even get a breast cancer support pack.

Grief and anger are talking, here, but also personal outrage. Personal outrage that fathers, brothers and sons are dying of the exact same disease as mothers, sisters and wives, yet they are not the same. The same disease, the same deaths. However, men are never encouraged to check for breast cancer. They are never even told they are able to get breast cancer, until one finds out all too late.

Another example of feminism’s “me, me, me” attitude.

Jesse Powell writes:

I’d like to comment on the criticism that women’s health issues gain far more attention and public sympathy than men’s health issues. I won’t deny this is true on a general basis but at least in regards to breast cancer it is true that breast cancer is overwhelmingly a woman’s disease. The statement that “men’s breast cancer doesn’t matter much” is perfectly legitimate from a public health standpoint. It may be offensive to directly say this to a man who actually has breast cancer and an individual man with breast cancer should receive as much support and sympathy as an individual woman with breast cancer but it is still true that overall breast cancer is a woman’s disease by a 100 to 1 ratio. This means that when referring to breast cancer it makes sense to treat it as a sex specific disease and to assume in public health messages that women are the target audience. It is helpful to throw in that men can get breast cancer to but the main audience is still women. 

In addressing the issue of men’s health issues not being taken seriously I would rather compare prostate cancer to breast cancer as prostate cancer entirely affects only men while breast cancer overwhelmingly affects women. 

Breast cancer gets much more attention and research dollars than prostate cancer does. Does this signify that men’s health issues are ignored? Perhaps, but it should also be kept in mind that prostate cancer kills men at older ages than breast cancer kills women. Interestingly, breast cancer gets much more attention than ovarian cancer even though both cancers target women. Below I offer a table comparing prostate cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer showing the number of people who die from these diseases per year, how many die younger than 65 per year, and the age distribution of when people die from these cancers. I hope this helps to better judge whether men’s health issues are getting short shrift. I would be interested to know how research funding for prostate cancer and ovarian cancer compare to each other.





Total Deaths 33,720 39,520 15,460
Deaths Under 65 3,140 16,840 5,360
Under 20 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
20 to 34 0.0% 0.9% 0.7%
35 to 44 0.1% 5.7% 2.7%
45 to 54 1.5% 14.9% 11.0%
55 to 64 7.7% 21.1% 20.2%
65 to 74 19.8% 19.8% 24.6%
75 to 84 39.5% 22.3% 27.3%
Over 85 31.4% 15.3% 13.5%

Source: National Cancer Institute: Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results;

Laura writes:

Thank you for the information.

You are right. A big reason why breast cancer receives more attention is that it kills a fair number of women in that 45-64 age group.

The incidence of breast cancer among men is very low. Nevertheless, it is not just a woman’s disease.




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