Breast Cancer Action's New Executive Director, Karuna Jaggar

Last August Breast Cancer Action–the organization well known for phrases such as “pinkwashing” and “Think Before You Pink”– announced the retirement of executive director Barbara Brenner following 15 years of service and leadership. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I wonder who they’ll find to fill Barbara’s shoes?” After all, those are some pretty big shoes.

During Brenner’s tenure, the organization advanced evidence-based policy related to screening mammography, challenged the patenting of the breast cancer genes BRCA1 & BRCA2, successfully urged the FDA to require pharmaceutical giant Genentech to demonstrate unequivocally the life-saving effects of the drug Avastin, persuaded General Mills to stop using rBGH (i.e., the growth hormone used to stimulate milk production in cows that was found to be linked to cancer) in yogurt the company sold to fundraise for breast cancer programs, and persistently educated consumers and the media about pink cause marketing. I outlined BCA’s strategies and successes in Pink Ribbon Blues, so you might imagine that I have a particular interest in seeing their work move forward.

I’m thrilled to hear that, after an exhaustive professional search, Karuna Jaggar has become BCA’s new executive director. Jaggar has been a patient advocate for ten years and has fifteen years of experience working in non-profit leadership advocating for women’s social and economic empowerment and specifically working to reverse inequities among low-income women and women of color. In a letter to the BCA membership, Jaggar states her commitment to the organization’s goals:

Under my leadership, BCA will remain uncompromising on issues of health, social and environmental justice:

  • We will continue to fearlessly and relentlessly tell the truth about breast cancer.
  • We will continue to unapologetically place the health rights of all women front and center of this epidemic: patients before profits.
  • We will focus attention on the larger system-wide factors responsible for the continuation of this epidemic. Rather than putting the burden of cancer prevention on individual lifestyle “choices,” we will insist on health policy that protects us all.
  • We will work to change the conversation by demanding an end to involuntary exposures to toxins in every day products that are linked to breast cancer.

Understanding breast cancer through a health equity lens means demanding greater corporate accountability and better treatment options; it means paying keener attention to the social inequities that cause differences in breast cancer incidence and outcomes; securing changes at the policy level to reverse involuntary exposure to carcinogens; and shifting the balance of power at the FDA away from pharmaceutical companies towards patient interests.

The work BCA has done in the past two decades to shape policy and inform the public about the unintended consequences of pink culture has helped to create a strong foundation for conscientious action on the part of individuals and collectivities. As the new leader of BCA, Jaggar is committed to building on this foundation by creating coalitions, strengthening organizational capacity, and invigorating the voices of those working for change. Jaggar concludes her statement of introduction with, “We have much work to do, and we are the people who will move this forward.”

Indeed, we are the people who will move this forward. Thoughtfully. Thoroughly. Unflinchingly. BCA’s model of advocacy represents a strong and continued focus on the systemic issues that contribute to the breast cancer epidemic while stalling movement toward the eradication of the disease. It is a much needed effort in the current culture of pink parties, boobie-thons, awareness rhetoric, and industry strong-holds. I couldn’t be happier that Karuna Jaggar is stepping into the ACTION!

Meet Karuna Jaggar. Read the BCA press release about the new executive director.

Be Sociable, Share!

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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

Praise » 

Flyer »

Press Release »

Hardback Cover »

Paperback Cover »

Request Review Copies »

Order the Paperback »


"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

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

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' 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?

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