Pinkwashing for breast cancer awareness questioned

By KEVIN BEGOS | October 11, 2011 | 4:35 PM EDT

A portion of the bras hung across the Hot Metal Bridge over the Monongahela River are seen below the superstructure of the bridge Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Aerie, a bra company that's part of Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters, has a current breast cancer campaign: where this steel bridge in the city has been draped in thousands of bras, to heighten breast cancer awareness awareness. Aerie said $1 from every sale during October will be donated to a breast cancer charity, up to $50,000. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Advocates are asking whether breast cancer awareness has lost its focus, and become more about marketing than women's health.

Activists have even coined a new word: Pinkwashing.

They say that's when a company or organization does a pink breast cancer promotion, but at the same time sells and profits from pink-theme products.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and products that have been offered over the years include a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun with a pink pistol grip, the "Pink Ribbon Combo" from Jersey Mike's subs — even a pink eyelash curler. One year, there was a pink bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Pink ribbon groups say such sales help to fund millions of dollars of research to find cures for the disease.