Breast Cancer 'Pink Cause' Has Some Women Weary

"We need to look critically at what research is being funded. We still have no idea of the cause of breast cancer," she said. "Look at cancer of the cervix. We now have a vaccine ... no pink ribbons, runs, walks or products."

It's unclear, however, whether the multi-million dollar pink campaigns will ever lose steam, and many would argue that they shouldn't.

"Cause marketing partnerships, especially in these difficult times, are a way for people to purchase things they would purchase anyway and support their favorite charity," said Carrie Glasscock, manager of corporate relations for Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.

The Financial Power of the Pink Ribbons

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, which brings in $50 million annually from its pink ribbon campaigns, has some words of caution for those purchasing products with cause-related marketing.

The organization recommends that before purchasing a ribbon-linked product people ask themselves, "Is this company committed? How is the program structured? Who does the program benefit? How will the organization that benefits use my money? Is the program meaningful to me?"

The Komen group also uses its patented "running ribbon" shape for its 200 officially approved corporate sponsors each year.

"I've been at Komen for four years, and the number of corporate partners has nearly doubled," said Glasscock. "We don't see any sign of it slowing."

This year, the sponsors run the gamut from Purina cat food to American Airlines, which decorated eight planes with the Komen pink ribbons. Glasscock said the airline promised $1 million for the next eight years to study a specific form of breast cancer.

"I can tell you, of course, every one's entitled to their own opinions," said Glasscock. "But Komen would not choose to partner with a corporation that was not making a commitment to the cause."

Lillie Shockney, a breast cancer survivor and administrative director at the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center, said she supports the pink campaign, even with the bad apples.

"I don't feel exploited at all. I am pleased to see that companies are supporting these research efforts," said Shockney. "It seems to me like a win-win -- a company makes money, and research benefits as well.

"But having a reporting system that shows where the money goes would be well received," she said.

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