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I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen's Race is for Money, Not the Cure

Dr. Mercola

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Feb. 22, 2012

In the United States, virtually everyone has seen the "pink ribbon" campaigns plastered on everything from make-up and cupcakes to t-shirts and fried chicken buckets, and recognize the symbol as a sign of breast cancer awareness.

It's certainly a noble cause, considering that if current trends continue one in 8 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives.

Unfortunately, this cause is noble only in appearance; in reality, the multimillion-dollar company behind all those pink ribbons -- the Susan G. Komen Foundation – uses less than a dime of each dollar to actually look for a breast cancer cure... and that's just the surface of the problem...

Former CEO of Komen's "Race for the Cure" Made More than the President of the U.S.

Hala G. Moddelmog, former CEO and president of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, made over $550,000 one year -- more than President Obama makes (she is now the president of Arby's Restaurant Group).

Employee salaries, or "administrative costs," actually eat up about 11 percent of the company's annual revenues, which might not sound too extreme until you consider what their annual revenues are.

The Komen Foundation has assets totaling over $390 million, and according to Charity Navigator had a total revenue of nearly $312 million in the fiscal year ending in March 2010.i

A breakdown of how this money was spent was given in a recent article on AlterNet, written by Emily Michele, which showed that only 20.9% of funds are actually used for research – even though a "search for the cure" is their most highly advertised mission.ii Where else does the money go?

  • 13% for health screening
  • 5.6% for treatment
  • 10% for fundraising
  • 11.3% for administrative costs
  • 39.1% for public education

While public education may seem like a worthwhile effort, this is only true if it includes education about prevention! But as Michele writes:

"There are no mentions of eating healthy foods, getting proper levels of cancer-preventing Vitamin D, or cutting out sugar — the substance that feeds cancer cells — in any of its "public health education" efforts. Even though these are scientifically proven ways to prevent cancer."

What it amounts to, more accurately, is a wildly successful advertising campaign, from which the Komen Foundation profits handsomely. What is mentioned, often, is the importance of screening for early detection of breast cancer, along with the pink ribbon trademark intended to bring awareness about the disease. Michele continues: "It's not curing breast cancer to be aware that you could get it, nor is finding out that you have cancer and treating it in the early stages in hopes of entering into remission. That's not a cure."

Pink Ribbons are a Money Maker, Not a Cancer Cure

Plastering pink ribbons on every conceivable product has much more to do with raising awareness of the Komen Foundation than it does curing breast cancer. As Michele states:

"... the pink-ribbon-plastered "awareness" and "education" campaigns are often little more than a highly effective form of advertising — which in turn, brings in Komen's millions. In other words, a way to raise funds for itself, while getting a pat on the back for its efforts to "save lives.""

The most atrocious part of this ad campaign is when the ribbons are used on products containing substances that may actually cause breast cancer, including:

  • Fried chicken
  • Yogurt that contains artificial growth hormones linked to breast cancer
  • Cosmetics and fragrances that contain cancer-causing chemicals
  • Alcohol

The term "pinkwashing" has been coined to describe this deceptive trend, with sponsoring companies claiming they have joined the fight against breast cancer while engaging in practices that contribute to the disease. The Komen Foundation receives mega-millions in sponsorship dollars from such corporations...

"Komen receives over $55 million in annual revenue from corporate sponsorships, from such health-minded companies as Coca Cola, General Mills, and KFC — ...Buy a bucket of junk food, and pretend as though you're helping to save lives while you slowly take your own," Michele writes.

Then there are the ties to the drug companies... it's reported that the Komen Foundation owns stock in several pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, the maker of Tamoxifen, a cancer drug that has been found to increase the risk of certain cancers.iii They also reportedly own stock in General Electric, which makes mammogram machines. Their focus on early screening, detection and drug treatment fits these ties to a "T," while education about the real underlying causes of cancer are sorely missing from their campaigns.

Komen Founder's First-Class Travel Expenses Also Questioned

The Komen Foundation has been making headlines for its recent decision to pull funding to Planned Parenthood (a decision they reversed just days later following public outcry), but less highly publicized is an expense report from Komen founder Nancy Brinker, which was brought forward by The Daily Beast.

Brinker reportedly billed the charity over $133,000 for expenses from June 2007 to January 2009, which might not be so unusual except that at the time she had a full-time job with the federal government, serving as chief of protocol for the State Department. Also questionable are her preferences for five-star hotels and first-class travel, which some former Komen employees have said are "at odds with the organization's important mission."

The Daily Beast reports:iv

"... the perception that she could be taking liberties with charity funds could be troublesome, some observers and former colleagues say. [Rick] Cohen of [the journal] Nonprofit Quarterly points out that first-class travel at a nonprofit organization not only is unusual, but also can create the perception that donors' dollars aren't reaching the intended beneficiaries. "For most nonprofits, they wouldn't think of first-class travel," he says. "There is the issue of perception.""

Perception is reality after all, and it's hard to have a positive perception of a company that also reportedly spends nearly $1 million a year suing small charities that use the word "cure" in their names or advertise in pink – even if they're raising money for the same cause! The Wall Street Journal reported:v "[The Komen Foundation is] launching a not-so-friendly legal battle against kite fliers, kayakers and dozens of other themed fund-raisers that it contends are poaching its name. And it's sternly warning charities against dabbling with pink, its signature hue."

American Cancer Society More Interested in Wealth Than Health?

The American Cancer Society, which has colored its Web site with pink ribbons, along with the National Cancer Institute also almost exclusively focus on cancer research and the diagnosis and the chemical treatment of cancer, much like the Komen Foundation.

The ACS also has close financial ties to both the makers of mammography equipment and cancer drugs, as well as ties to, and financial support from, the pesticide, petrochemical, biotech, cosmetics, and junk food industries—the very industries whose products are the primary contributors to cancer.

Once you realize that these conflicts of interest are there, it becomes quite easy to understand why the ACS and other cancer organizations rarely addresses the environmental components of cancer, and why information about avoidable toxic exposures are so conspicuously absent from their national "awareness" campaigns. The truth of the matter is that you have to be very careful when donating to any charitable organization, and be sure that the money you are giving is in fact going toward the purpose you intend to support.

In the case of ACS and most other large cancer charities, your money will go toward research to create new, often-toxic and sometimes deadly cancer drugs, questionable screening programs like mammography, and into the bank accounts of its numerous well-paid executives -- all while the real underlying causes continue to be ignored or intentionally concealed.

What Can You do to Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

If buying pink t-shirts is not likely to save many lives from breast cancer, what will? I recently interviewed Dr. Christine Horner, a board certified general and plastic surgeon, who shared her extensive knowledge about breast cancer—its causes and treatments, and the pro's and con's of various screening methods. I suggest you listen to that interview now, in addition to learning about the many all-natural cancer-prevention strategies below.

Download Interview Transcript

  • Eat healthy. This means avoid sugar, especially fructose, as all forms of sugar are detrimental to your health in general and promote cancer. Also, focus on eating whole foods and fresh vegetables while avoiding cancer-causing foods.
  • Exercise. Research suggests that one of the most powerful ways to lower breast cancer risk substantially is through the simple act of exercise.
  • Vitamin D. There's overwhelming evidence pointing to the fact that vitamin D deficiency plays a crucial role in the promotion of cancer... You can decrease your risk of cancer by MORE THAN HALF simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with adequate sun exposure. And if you are being treated for cancer it is likely that higher blood levels—probably around 80-90 ng/ml—would be beneficial. The health benefits of optimizing your levels, either by safe sun exposure (ideally), a safe tanning bed, or oral supplementation as a last resort, simply cannot be overstated.
  • Get proper sleep, both in terms of getting enough sleep and sleeping between certain optimal hours. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the ideal hours for sleep are between 10 pm and 6 am. Modern research has confirmed the value of this recommendation as certain hormonal fluctuations occur throughout the day and night, and if you engage in the appropriate activities during those times, you're 'riding the wave' so to speak, and are able to get the optimal levels. Working against your biology by staying awake when you should ideally be sleeping or vice versa, interferes with these beneficial hormonal fluctuations.
  • Effectively address your stress. The research shows that if you experience a traumatic or highly stressful event, such as a death in the family, your risk of breast cancer is 12 times higher in the ensuing five years. So be sure you tend to your emotional health, not just your physical health.