Breast cancer, eh? Never heard of it

The Unpersons blog raises an interesting point regarding the National Football League’s involvement with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which includes players and cheerleaders wearing pink, and awareness messages being broadcast during games: Why?

It’s safe to say that at least 95 percent of Americans over the age of 15 are aware of breast cancer – including nearly 100 percent of women.

We know it’s serious, regular screenings are crucial and the earlier breast cancer is caught the better the chances of survival. Nearly everyone knows or has known someone who has been afflicted with breast cancer.

So why are we inundated with Breast Cancer Awareness imagery? And what is the point of ramming it down consumers’ throats during sporting events, which are predominantly viewed by men?

The author of The Unpersons has a beef with the endless “Breast Cancer Awareness” campaigns, in particular because they turn the breast cancer ribbon into a marketing gimmick.

One thing that none of these statistics that the NFL blares: the causes of breast cancer! It assumes that breast cancer is some sort of magical condition that befalls you, instead of mentioning risk factors or ethnic/socioeconomic disparities or anything relevant in recent breast cancer research.

Not to mention the whole “awareness” angle seems a little silly. Have we forgotten there was breast cancer, simply because pink wasn’t slathered on every commercial product in the supermarket aisle?

Some diseases arguably need broader awareness — heart disease kills many more women; lung cancer, too, with a ridiculous mortality rate.

There’s no question that breast cancer is a serious disease, but you don’t cure disease with slogans or more money in the pockets of the NFL or Procter & Gamble.

To some degree, cancer research is a zero-sum game: Money contributed toward research for one particular type of cancer research isn’t available for another type of research.

While work in one area of cancer research may carry some overlapping advantages for other areas, more often each cancer requires its own individualized cure.

This means that if, say, 50 percent of all money contributed toward cancer research goes toward breast cancer research, the other dozens of cancer research areas are left to divvy up the remaining 50 percent.

Nearly all of us are aware of breast cancer. However, there are other forms of cancer of which many folks aren’t nearly as cognizant. 

With a little education – maybe something like, say, an awareness campaign – perhaps we could funnel a sliver of the mountain of money that breast cancer research receives toward another cancer area and ultimately reduce the incidence rate for other forms of the disease, as well.


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