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Think before you buy pink items

Oct 4, 2014

Every October, hundreds of products are sold bearing breast-cancer awareness ribbons.
Credit SDRandCo/morguefile.com

From bagels to bags, pizza boxes to pajamas, 'tis the season when pink-ribbon products pile up on store shelves across Michigan. But one group says if the goal is to one day eradicate breast cancer, it's important to Think Before You Pink.

Karuna Jaggar is executive director pf the watchdog organization Breast Cancer Action. She says while many purchases do benefit breast-cancer programs, marketers can put a pink ribbon on anything in the name of awareness, without actually donating any money to the cause.

"The public does care about breast cancer, and they should," Jaggar says. "They need this opportunity to make sure their goodwill and their charitable dollar is doing what they think it's doing."

Before Michiganders make a pink-ribbon purchase, Jaggar recommends they take the time to find out how much, if any money, will go to breast-cancer organizations, which organizations get the money, and how they use it, whether or not there is a cap on a company's donations, and whether the product contains any known or suspected links to cancer.

Jaggar says the "Think Before You Pink" campaign is in no way an effort to discourage contributions. Rather, she stresses the goal is to empower consumers to feel confident their goodwill and money are doing what they think they're doing.

"If a pink-ribbon product doesn't meet your own standards of a charitable contribution, we always encourage people to give directly to a breast-cancer organization whose work they believe is really most essential and most powerful to addressing the breast-cancer epidemic," says Jaggar.

There are several different fronts on which to fight the battle, and Jaggar hopes consumers will take the time and effort to direct their money toward what they feel is most important.

"Do you expect your money to be going to research for better treatments or research into the root causes of the disease? Or emergency funds for low-income women who need child care and transportation," says Jaggar.

As for some critics who say the pink-ribbon campaign overshadows other causes, Jaggar says it isn't productive to pit diseases against each other. Instead, she feels the focus should be on finding systemic solutions to public health issues.

An estimated 220,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,000 will die from the disease.