Komen, Still Spreading Screening Hype


I was taken aback a moment ago when I came across a Facebook update from yesterday posted by a Komen Affiliate. It was advertising free mammograms. There is nothing wrong with offering free mammograms per se, but the announcement included a heavily scrutinized advertisement that claims getting screened is the key to surviving breast cancer. It isn’t. If concern about Komen’s misrepresentation of scientific information sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve already been over this.

Professors Steven Woloshin, MD, and Lisa M. Schwartz, MD, . . . → Read More: Komen, Still Spreading Screening Hype

Promises of Hope. Not Cure.

Gayle and Rachel June 2011

A version of this essay was published on September 27, 2012 on Girl w/ Pen, a collectivity of feminist scholars, writers, and thinkers who publicly and passionately dispel modern myths concerning gender.

“I too used to secretly look forward to October, when I would drape myself in pride with all manner of garish pink, survivor-emblemed merchandise and take my place in the Survivors circle whilst bopping out to “We Are Family” or whatever the cheesy designated anthem was for that year, at one . . . → Read More: Promises of Hope. Not Cure.

As Komen's brand falters, some are calling on Brinker to lead


Support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been on the decline ever since it made the decision earlier this year (2012) to disqualify Planned Parenthood from applying for grants to offset the costs of breast cancer screenings and clinical exams for low-income women. Komen reversed the decision after three days of public outrage, but the organization continues to be under scrutiny.

The Komen/Planned Parenthood ordeal revealed a darker side to the corporate nonprofit that many would-be supporters find objectionable. There have been calls . . . → Read More: As Komen’s brand falters, some are calling on Brinker to lead

Changing the Conversation about Breast Cancer, One Conversation at a Time

Running Ribbon Swag

It’s nearly impossible to take a vacation from pink ribbon culture. Even an escape to the sandy shores of south Jersey doesn’t guarantee entrée to a ribbon-free zone. To a great extent that’s because breast cancer activists did such a good job raising awareness about the importance of the breast cancer epidemic. Unfortunately, after that little pink ribbon transmuted from an awareness symbol to a brand logo, things changed. Now, it’s a convenient icon used to sell anything from toilet paper to fried . . . → Read More: Changing the Conversation about Breast Cancer, One Conversation at a Time

Komen leadership in flux

question-mark Crop 4

Earlier today (Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012) Komen President Liz Thompson announced her plans to leave Susan G. Komen for the Cure next month. Founder Nancy Brinker will also give up her role as Komen CEO and serve as chair of the board as soon as a replacement is found, and two board members are stepping down, Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law.

The news comes exactly one week after Komen was criticized once again in a key public forum, this time by MDs who called out . . . → Read More: Komen leadership in flux

The trouble with Komen: Misusing statistics/Generating false hope


This article was edited since its original publication.

It is now widely known that the benefits of wholesale mammography screening were overpromised. Rates of overdiagnosis (i.e., when a diagnosed tumor lacks the potential to progress to a clinical stage, or is so slow-growing that the person would die from other causes) are higher than previously realized. We still do not know what causes breast cancer, how to prevent it, or why it recurs. The breast cancer that kills (i.e., metastatic) continues to strike hundreds of . . . → Read More: The trouble with Komen: Misusing statistics/Generating false hope

“Keep the Race Moving Toward the Cure”

photo-Lisa Valentine crop

Pink Ribbon Blues Contributor Lisa Valentine has written two essays for the PRB Blog: “What Lies Beneath,” which examines cultural expectations about women’s breasts, and “I Didn’t Know Then What I Know Now,” which shares how Lisa went from being an avid Komen supporter to a new kind of breast cancer advocate. Earlier today (Jul. 12) Lisa published an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighting the exploitive character of much of today’s pink ribbon culture.

In “Keep the Race Moving Toward the Cure,” Lisa Valentine . . . → Read More: “Keep the Race Moving Toward the Cure”

Yet another "breast cancer awareness pitch"

A sea of pink

A sea of pink

It’s June. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is months away. Yet, I’ve received countless “pitches” throughout the year from PR firms gearing up for another year of pink ribbon festivities and revenues. In the wake of mounting concerns about pinkwashing, profiteering, political biases, and the overwhelming diversion of funds from research, prevention, and the kinds of actions that might help people in dire straits after a cancer diagnosis, the happy-go-lucky pitches keep flowing in. Here’s one I recently received.


I Didn’t Know Then What I Know Now

Lisa Valentine is a regular Pink Ribbon Blues reader and growing contributor to the blog. Earlier this year, Lisa wrote an essay called “What Lies Beneath,” which examined cultural expectations about women’s breasts and her decision about mastectomy and reconstruction. Today, Lisa shares how she transitioned from being an avid Komen supporter to a new kind of breast cancer advocate. I’m grateful for Lisa’s contribution to the public discussion about pink ribbon culture and industry, for her commitment to evidence-based knowledge in changing . . . → Read More: I Didn’t Know Then What I Know Now

Context is Everything — Framing the Film Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Today on Pink Ribbon Blues, Barbara Brenner shares a speech she gave at Smith College about the new film, Pink Ribbons, Inc. Barbara Brenner, former executive director of Breast Cancer Action, spent the last 15 years of her life as a breast cancer activist and now faces a different illness, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). A leader in the breast cancer movement, Barbara Brenner recently received a Smith College Medal for her exceptional professional accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the . . . → Read More: Context is Everything — Framing the Film Pink Ribbons, Inc.

New @ASCO guidelines on the screening, assessment & care of anxiety & depressive symptoms in adults w/cancer ascopost.com/ViewNews.aspx?… #bcsm

“Pink Ribbon Blues,” Book

Paperback includes new Introduction on fundraising controversies and color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).

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Recent Sulik Interviews

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception Listen to BlogTalkRadio »

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' Listen to KCRW »

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer. The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

"Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed" Philly Inquirer

"Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science" Reuters

"The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

"Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood." In Deep with Angie Coiro

"Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue?" NPR's All Things Considered

"How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health?" America’s Radio News Network

"Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer" The Kojo Nnamdi Show

"The Big Business of Breast Cancer" 
Marie Claire

"Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases?" Slate

"Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red" The Sacramento Bee

"Get Your Pink Off" Ottawa Citizen

"Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions" USA Today