Not So Pretty in Pink

Will eating Oreo cookies help cure breast cancer? Delightful Deliveries would like you to think so. For $29.99, they will send you a box of nine white chocolate Oreos, decorated with shocking pink sprinkles and edible pink ribbons. Or if you prefer, for the same price, you can get a giant pink fortune cookie decorated in the same sprinkles and ribbon motif.

According to my local newspaper, which featured these cookies in a photo spread that urged readers to “Shop for a cause. Buy products that support the fight against breast cancer.”, Delightful Deliveries will donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale of these cookies to the Susan G. Komen Foundation (although there is no mention of this on the Delightful Deliveries website). The rest presumably benefits their corporate coffers.

The company’s website does suggest that you send these delectable items to a “Breast Cancer Survivor as a unique and sweet way to show your support.” This seems like a rather irresponsible sales pitch given that one of the most standard pieces of advice given both for cancer patients and those seeking to prevent it, is to eat a healthy diet.

There are numerous diseases for which runs and walkathons are used to raise money. Breast cancer is unique however in the extent to which cause marketing exhorts us to shop for a cure. While no doubt many corporations have the best of intentions, some of the marketing is disturbingly deceptive and seemingly designed more to promote the company than benefit the cause.

Of particular concern are products that contain ingredients that have been linked to cancer. Many cosmetics contain parabens. According to Breast Cancer Action,

“Parabens are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function. (Estrogenic chemicals mimic the function of the naturally occurring hormone estrogen, and exposure to external estrogens has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer.)”

When a company like Estee Lauder donates money from the sale of lipstick that contains parabens, it is quite troubling. The same can be said for Yoplait’s “Save the Lid, Save a Life” campaign that asks consumers to buy yogurt containing rBGH, which has been linked to breast cancer as well. As is the pink Teflon-coated cookware being sold by Meijer stores. Teflon is made with PFOA, a chemical considered by the EPA to be a likely carcinogen.

Think Before You Pink, a campaign organized by Breast Cancer Action has an excellent list of questionable corporations on their website, The website also has a good list of questions one should ask about these products, such as:

* How much money from the sale of each product actually goes towards fighting breast cancer?

* Which organizations benefit?

* What does the company do to insure that its products aren’t part don’t contribute to causing cancer?

It also would be worthwhile to ask organizations such as the Komen Foundation whether they see a conflict of interest in accepting funds from the sale of such products.

Unfortunately it isn’t just corporations that are jumping on the pink bandwagon. Numerous states are now raising breast cancer awareness with special license plates. Late last year, First Lady Glenna Fletcher unveiled the state of Kentucky’s new pink “Drive for a Cure” plate. This too unfortunately is an oxymoron. Vehicle exhaust and pollution, including benzene which is a known carcinogen, have long been linked to breast cancer.

Ending the scourge of breast cancer is an important goal. But as we are inundated throughout October with requests for our time and money to aid this cause, we need to act as conscious consumers and make sure that our efforts are truly worthwhile.

LUCINDA MARSHALL is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network,