Does Putting Your Bra Color On Facebook Really Increase Awareness of Breast Cancer?

Ken AshfordHealth Care, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

Some say no:

To be sure, it's been fun to share a cyber-laugh with girlfriends; after a day or so of the Facebook bra color campaign, it started to get silly: One of my favorite status updates was "commando," and my aunt told me a friend of hers who recently had a baby updated her status with the quip "soaked in milk." But because of the lack of context, this latest awareness effort is nothing more than innocuous titillation. Were Facebookers thinking more about breasts or the cancer that plagues them?

Though moments of levity are important, breast cancer is still a serious disease, says Dailey. An effective awareness ad campaign recognizes this. She quotes Kairol Rosenthal, author of "Everything Changes: The Insider Guide to Cancer in Your 20s": "You can be fun, creative, and a little bit sexy, but it has to involve the impact of the disease so that there's a call to action." Otherwise, says Dailey, "it's all sex and no substance."

Others are jealous and angry:

As a member of the all-too-exclusive club of long-term ovarian cancer survivors, let me first say I used to resent the enormous amount of attention breast cancer got over other cancers. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (also known as "pink nausea" by certain folks) seemed to begin in late July and end in late November, totally eclipsing the far more lethal (per capita) cancers of ovarian and pancreatic.

Both are valid points.

Frankly, I'm sold on the first argument.  Why do we even have "Breast Cancer Awareness Month"?  Is there any adult out there — male or female — that isn't aware that there is this thing called "breast cancer"?  Isn't more required at this point than just promoting awareness of breast cancer?  Can we move past pink M&Ms and Facebook memes and maybe put our energies into — oh, I don't know — raising money for actual research and cures?

I'm less convinced by the second argument, although I certainly sympathize.  But the truth is that advances in cancer research move the ball forward for all types of cancer.  Is it unfair that breast cancer seems to get top billing over ovarian, testicular, lung, brain, pancratic, and all other types of cancer?  Perhaps.  But to the extent that awareness of any of those cancers leads to more dollars for cancer research, all types of cancer are likely to benefit.