The Good and Bad of Susan G. Komen For the Cure

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • That colossus of breast cancer advocacy and research funding, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, launched a new media campaign Tuesday, 19 months after a massive 25th anniversary celebration featuring a slew of edgy ads. (“If you’re going to stare at my breasts…”)

    The current promotion, called Imagine, features Komen’s signature “running pink ribbon,” which will be emblazoned nationwide on everything from shopping carts and mall displays to airplanes: long-time corporate partner American Airlines last Thursday unveiled two aircraft painted stem to stern with the new logo, with six pink jets more in the wings.

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    Sometimes I feel assailed by Komen; they’re the big gorilla in the corner, the corporate behemoth constantly in your face with their logo, their press releases, their ads. There are times when I just want to say “enough already”—stop with the pink, would you? The Race for the Cure®, the Breast Cancer 3-Day, the Circle of Promise, Komen’s initiatives go on and on and on… Like any major billion-dollar organization, Komen is everywhere. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I do sometimes heave a tired sigh at yet another pink-ribbon something—just as I occasionally grow weary of seeing Golden Arches everywhere I turn.

    But maybe it’s just that I’m still mad at Komen for coming down hard on the small company I work for, when we tried to make a donation to them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month last year. We advertised that a percentage of sales of particular products would be donated to Komen. Sounds innocent enough, right?

    Well, you would have thought we were out to destroy their good name, because we got some fairly unfriendly legal-type communications asking us to cease and desist. Apparently, you can’t advertise that you’re going to donate to Komen without getting their permission first. So, who knew? We had to make our donation to another foundation.

    But then I wise up. The bureaucracy, all the in-your-face pink-pink-pink, is a small price to pay for the HUGE amount of money Komen donates to breast cancer research and support.

    Komen is, after all, a major funding source for breast cancer research, second only to the federal government. Since its inception 26 years ago, Komen has raised more than $1.2 billion for research and community health programs. And it’s pledged an additional $2 billion, by the year 2017, to bring about a significant decrease in breast cancer deaths. Who can argue with those massive figures? Not I.

    Komen kicked off its current campaign last week by announcing that American Airlines, the world’s largest air carrier, has agreed to raise the money for Komen’s first Promise Grant, to the tune of $7.5 million. This grant, awarded to the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, will fund the study of inflammatory breast cancer, the single largest research investment ever in this oft-misdiagnosed and aggressive cancer. It’s that kind of corporate leverage that only a foundation as large as Komen can manage.


  • So in the end, all I can say is—thanks, Komen. You’re entirely undeserving of my occasional cynicism. I can’t wait to see the new ads you’ve come up with. After all, it’s not like you’re selling hamburgers. You’re trying to cure breast cancer.

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    And I can get behind that for sure.

    Also read Phyllis Johnson's post on the Promise Grant and Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Published On: August 14, 2008