Group warns against products marketing breast cancer causes

Global Business

The Eiffel Tower illuminated in pink for the launch of the Pink October campaign is seen in Paris, France, 26 September 2016. (Photo by CFP)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and pink is the color of choice to support victims, survivors, and important research.

But there are critics who say the pink movement around the world has become more of a business to make money, leaving little or nothing for the actual cause.

CCTV America’s May Lee has more on the controversy.

It’s an explosion of pink during the month of October, an international health campaign in support of breast cancer awareness.

There are pink ribbons of all shapes and sizes. Races for the cure in many cities. NFL players in pink cleats. And plenty of celebrity support.

And then there are all the pink products flooding the market. Everything from pink makeup to pink windshield wipers to pink striped cars with claims that part or all proceeds support breast cancer causes.

But that, say critics, is a lie.

Watchdog group “Breast Cancer Action” coined the term “pinkwashing,” a label for companies and organizations that are using breast cancer to line their own pockets.

“Pink Ribbons, Inc.” is a documentary that exposes the ugly side of breast cancer fundraising, which totals six billion dollars a year.

According to marketing expert Ira Kalb at the USC Marshall School of Business, slick presentations, packaging and messaging can all be used to deceive the consumer for a big profit.

“Good marketing can be done by bad people, and it’s going to have a bad affect. And unfortunately, I see that quite a bit,” Kalb said.

Breast cancer scams are so prevalent because the disease is so pervasive. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer afflicts more women worldwide than any other cancer. By 2030, cases will rise to nearly 22 million with 13 million deaths predicted.

Dolores McCoy is a breast cancer survivor. She had a mastectomy and chemotherapy less than two years ago. She’s not surprised by unscrupulous breast cancer profiteers and can only hope the good outweighs the bad.

“If you have breasts, you can get breast cancer, so when it affects that many people, someone is going to try and make money,” McCoy said. “But I’d like to think that more people than not are doing for the good and doing for the cause.”

Scams taking advantage of the innocent and well-intentioned aren’t going away, so here’s a simple piece of advice from one breast cancer watchdog group, if you see a pink ribbon on a product think before you pink.

Karuna Jaggar of Breast Cancer Action on the pitfalls of cause-related marketing

CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo interviewed Karuna Jagger, the Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action about how donors can be more informed when buying cause-marketed products and giving to breast cancer charities.

Study a nonprofit’s tax return before giving

All charities have to file a nonprofit tax return with the IRS and they are publicly available. Here’s one from the leading breast cancer nonprofit The Susan G. Komen Foundation provided by

CCTV America’s Lisa Chiu highlighted areas that a donor can examine on these returns to be more informed before writing that check. Scroll through and click on each yellow highlight to learn more.