Her defeat breast cancer through prevention campaign was purely grassroots. She handed out cards at local supermarkets, wrote prominent women, and spread her message by word-of-mouth. Self Magazine asked Ms. Haley if they could take her peach ribbon campaign national, but she did not want her crusade to bring awareness to the cause to become too commercial. To avoid legal trouble, Self Magazine's attorney advised it to use another color; and they choose pink. In 1992, Self Magazine, in partnership with Estee Lauder, launched its pink breast cancer ribbon campaign. Estee Lauder distributed 1.5 million ribbons along with laminated cards describing how to conduct a breast self-examination. Within one-year, Ms. Haley's labor of love in honor of her relatives and powerful grassroots campaign was gone.
The quest to aid in the defeat of breast cancer by bringing awareness to the disease through the sale and distribution of the pink breast cancer ribbon is noble. However, from the beginning the use of this symbol has been controversial. The very thing that the founder of the peach breast cancer ribbon campaign worked against finally came to pass: Her crusade in the form of the pink breast cancer ribbon was commercialized.
Retailers are now designing merchandise specifically for consumers who want to support breast cancer awareness, prevention, and eradication. Many of these companies use the pink breast cancer ribbon to promote products in which a part of the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. But, how much of the earnings from these sales are donated to breast cancer research? The percentage given to chosen charities and the effectiveness of the charities' work vary greatly. It would appear that some retailers are using a worthy cause to make a profit. In addition to the amount of these donations and their impact on alleviating breast cancer, many of the companies that implement these campaigns manufacture and sell products that contain parabens and/or phthalates - chemicals that are associated with breast cancer.
Early detection of breast cancer is absolutely essential for complete recovery from the disease and long-term survival. Public awareness of the disease that promotes early detection; educates women about the disease; and raises money for breast cancer research, education, and health care programs is one of the tools used to defeat breast cancer. Therefore, symbols like the pink breast cancer ribbon that focus attention on the disease are important.
When choosing from where to buy pink ribbons and other items that are sold to raise money for and raise awareness of the disease, consider these questions:
How much of the proceeds of my purchase actually support the breast cancer cause?
What charities will receive my donation? How effective are these charities?
What are the proceeds going to support?
Breast cancer is a worthy cause. Supporters' contributions - no matter how large or small - should be used in the fight against breast cancer. To make this happen, supporters must be very vigilant about the breast cancer related items that they buy and avoid supporting the kind of commercialism that crushed Ms. Haley's grassroots campaign and tribute to her family members, and does little to end this dreaded disease.