With Halloween this week, one might assume that orange and black are the hands-down winners for favorite marketing décor. Yet pumpkins and witches hats have a formidable challenger in the pink ribbons signifying breast cancer awareness month, which currently adorn everything from grocery shelves to athletes’ uniforms.
The purpose behind breast cancer awareness month and the pink ribbon campaign is noble: to raise awareness about the risk and prevalence of breast cancer and build support and funding for continue research for treatments and ultimately a cure. Sadly, however, some seem to want to use the occasion not for education, but to spread misinformation about what scientists believe contributes to cancer.
Some feminist organizations and breast cancer groups are calling the pink ribbon campaign a “sellout” for allowing products that use commonly used chemicals to sport the pink ribbon. Certainly it would be a mixed message if the pink ribbon graced a pack of unfiltered cigarettes or rot-gut whiskey. But allowing canned goods, everyday cosmetics, and other household items that contain harmless amounts of chemicals to support breast cancer awareness month by featuring a pink ribbon is not just okay, but to do otherwise would send the wrong message about consensus views on what causes—and doesn’t cause—breast cancer.
Ms. Magazine, for example, objects to the pink ribbon being used on cosmetic products that contain phthalates, which they argue are linked to increased rates of cancer. Yet there is very little to suggest that normal use of phthalate-containing personal care products is really associated with heightened risk for cancer. And in fact, while campaigns like the Campaign for Safe Cosmeticscontinue to warn readers about phthalates, the Food and Drug Administration describes a long list of studies that have been conducted on phthalates that have never found any link to adverse health effects.