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Taking Back Pink

A Return to Basics

Photo by Nathan Dumlao
Photo by Nathan Dumlao

For years, I have been averse to the pink marketing and pinkwashing of cancer, selling everything from soda, beer, and fast food in the name of ending cancer. This is not because I did not want to end breast cancer—I did. But I did not see the benefit to breast cancer patients. At the time, it seemed everyone was winning except the patient. It never made sense to me that corporations and products that put human health at risk were marketing for the cancer cure by posting pink ribbons on products like buckets of fried chicken.

That all said, while some of the partnerships were a rub for me, to be clear, so much good has been accomplished by many of these efforts, and I, like everyone, wished the cure had worked for so many of those I have loved and lost.

Since our inception, we as an organization have been careful about making sure that donations and partnerships align with our core values. 

You are not going to see a soda company sponsoring a Less Cancer obesity program or a tobacco company sponsoring a smoking cessation program. 

Recently, I was approached for a pink-themed breast cancer walk.

I was a bit apprehensive; however, I was encouraged when I heard the young couple tell me what they were thinking. The young man, Chris Forsten, is passionate about health and prevention. As a personal trainer, Chris is all about healthy lifestyles, as is Chris’s whole family. His mom, Kim, and his wife, Lindsey, are the energy behind the walk.

Lindsey told me of their friend, Colleen, who was diagnosed at 29 with breast cancer. As I listened to the bright young mother speak of her friend, her face lit up, sharing hope and proactive steps that her friend is taking to get and stay healthy. I heard first hand how she wants the best outcome for her friend. I, too, want the best for Colleen. 

At Less Cancer, we work for the “Colleens” of the world and all those whom they love. We have always been guided by evidence-based science that indicates that prevention is the best way to address cancer. We do so with a wide breadth of collaborations with both government and nongovernment institutions, including federal agencies, universities, and schools, not to mention leading experts in cancer prevention and a host of other public health channels that impact cancer. 

The World Health Organization Reports 

“Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer. National policies and programs should be implemented to raise awareness, reduce exposure to cancer risk factors, and ensure that people are provided with the information and support they need to adopt healthy lifestyles.”

Each year, Less Cancer produces the National Cancer Prevention Workshop, where we address many types of cancers. We provide continuing medical education credits for nurses, physicians, and public health professionals. Although the workshop is a significant investment for the organization, we reach a global community. We, as an organization, are founders of National Cancer Prevention Day, and we initiated the Congressional Cancer Prevention Caucus, a bipartisan forum to engage Members of Congress, their staff, the medical community, advocacy groups, academia and the public on lifestyle and environmental factors that can reduce cancer risk. 

If you were to research the history of the pink ribbon, you would learn about a woman, Charlotte Haley, who had battled breast cancer and introduced the concept of a then peach-colored breast cancer awareness ribbon. She attached them to a message, sharing at the time, “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is 1.8 billion U.S. dollars, and only 5 percent goes to cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.

That is the spirit of pink I am interested in and is exactly what we have been working towards all these years. I am reminded that it is not about my preferences but rather the grassroots efforts of the many people that compose Less Cancer. 

So, next Saturday, I will be meeting up with friends for my first ever breast cancer walk in the historic town of Warrenton, Virginia at the Old Town Athletic Campus to walk for Less Cancer.

Funds will be going towards continuing medical education programming in cancer prevention. 

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