The Susan G Komen Foundation has once again found itself under fire for one of its corporate partnerships. Previously the organization, which focuses on breast cancer awareness, received criticism for partnering with fast food companies. Fast food companies are considered a major contributor the nation’s obesity problem. Obesity is believed to be a contributing lifestyle cause to cancer as well as generally unhealthy.
Komen was also the subject of the film Pink Ribbons Incorporated which scrutinized both the behavior and ideas Komen promotes as opportunistic cross-marketing with little effect on curing breast cancer. Komen has become a platform for many companies to “pinkwash” their brands. For a fee, companies can put the Komen pink ribbons sign on their products to make customers feel good about purchasing them.
Now Komen is facing a backlash after it was announced that Baker Hughes was a partner. After making a $100,000 donation, Hughes will paint 1,000 drill bits “Passionately Pink” the color of the Komen Foundation. Bits that will be used for fracking for natural gas.
So Komen gets some money, Baker Hughes gets some publicity, what’s the problem? Well, fracking itself is under scrutiny itself for, among other things, possibly causing cancer as workers who used fracking equipment had dangerously high levels of benzene in their urine. Benzene is a known carcinogen and can also be the culprit in, you guessed it, breast cancer.
In addition to leukemia, benzene is also a suspected cause of, well, breast cancer.
Benzene exposure is known to induce breast cancer in laboratory animals and is modestly associated with breast cancer among women. But the best evidence we have for the benzene-breast cancer link comes from studies of young male workers exposed on the job. Male breast cancer is clearly linked to occupational exposure to benzene.
Branding fail. Then again, what does the Komen brand really stand for anyway? Treating cancer not as a disease but as some bizarre right of passage and cause for empowerment is bad enough without it being the premise for cross-marketing scams for grease merchants and frackers.
Also, does cancer really need awareness campaigns? It is one of oldest and most prevalent diseases in human history. Americans generally have a 50% chance of having it once in their lives and it is the second leading cause of death for Americans according to the CDC. It’s unlikely that people would forget about it if pink ribbons weren’t on buckets of KFC and drill bits.