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Thinking pink? Think smarter.

As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How could we miss it? Everything from penalty flags to food labels to light bulbs is turning pink this month, ostensibly in support of “breast cancer awareness.” Now, I love a good “Save the Ta-Tas” bumper sticker as much as the next person, but I also love good, solid funding for cancer-fighting research. The disease will kill approximately 40,000 women in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. Right now, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States and thankfully, that list is being added to every day, thanks to new technology, better treatments and earlier detection.

But, before we all start feeling good about buying “Pinktober” goods at the grocery store, let’s take a step back and look at how much funding this month’s “pink-out” actually raises.

For example, Susan G. Komen has been criticized for donating only 20 percent of its funds to cancer-fighting research, with a sizeable chunk also going to “public education,” which is a sugarcoated way of saying “advertising.” The Komen fund does great things for cancer research, and I’m not suggesting a boycott by any means, but donate with your eyes, as well as your wallets, wide open.

Many organizations, according to watchdog Breast Cancer Action, actually cap their donations to well-meaning foundations like Komen or Avon, but will not increase that cap, no matter how many people buy their pinked-out items. In those cases, you’re paying for a marked-up product, and the only one benefiting from the extra cash is the company that slapped a ribbon on its goods for an extra buck. Not so warm and fuzzy, is it?

Am I saying we should all stop buying pink products to raise awareness? Of course not. But think before you pink, and don’t stop there. If you really want to make a difference, donate directly to a foundation or a cause that can make a real, demonstrable difference. The American Cancer Society is one. www.metavivor.org is another, and there are many others. With direct donations, you can see where your money is going.

And ladies, don’t forget that prevention is the best medicine. If you’re in the target age range, get your mammograms, and get them today. Bertrand Chaffee Hospital offers digital mammography and is running special programs to encourage women to get their breasts checked, this month. Check out www.bertrandchaffeehospital.com for details.

Don’t forget to do regular self-exams, too. Early detection is key, and staying on top of your own health can pay off, in the long run.

Breast cancer kills women (and men, too) every day, and this month, pink products and awareness campaigns open all of our eyes to the reality of the disease. But let’s not get so carried away with buying pretty, pink things that we forget that there’s nothing rosy about a cancer diagnosis, and be careful to keep our attention where it belongs: on focused, dedicated research to kick cancer where it counts.


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