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The American Cancer Society

"Think Pink" And The Doughnuts: Caution Ahead

by Dr. Len October 06, 2008

I knew I was in trouble this past Friday when I walked into our American Cancer Society offices in Atlanta and immediately met one of my male colleagues who was bedecked in a bright pink tie and a blue and pink striped shirt.  Guess I missed the memo telling us that Friday was a “Think Pink” day here at ACS.


But that wasn’t the worst of it. 


What really got me going during the day was a series of emails that crossed my computer screen describing a number of promotions that tied the “think pink” theme to a variety of products that in my opinion probably don’t belong on anyone’s list for fighting breast cancer.


A colleague sent me a web-link that took me to a press release from a well known nationwide convenience store chain.  The story highlighted the company’s commitment to raising money for breast cancer research.  No problem there.


But it goes further: the way they are going to do it was by donating 15 cents from the sale of every specially marked doughnut they sell.  These doughnuts are in the shape of a ribbon, and coated with pink icing. 


Then there was the quote from one of the company’s executives: "They can grab a pink donut for themselves on the way to work, fill a box to take to the office or designate a day of the week as 'Passionately Pink for the Cure(R)' day with these donuts and other pink treats like …chocolate candies and coffee in pink mugs."




One of the key concerns that many of us have is the relationship between obesity and breast and other cancers, especially in post-menopausal women.  Doughnuts and candy just don’t seem to be the best way to celebrate our willingness to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer.


Maybe I am a bit too conservative in my thinking.  I can accept that criticism.  But that’s the way I feel about some of these promotions.


For example, what about a leading wine vineyard promoting their product for breast cancer research?  Send in a wine bottle cap and they donate $1 to breast cancer research, training and education.


Does anybody care that increased assumption of alcoholic beverages—including wine—is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer?


The goals are noble, and I know that the folks who put these promotions together mean well.  But somewhere we need to be asking about how we promote our causes and whether some of the promotions make sense.


I can tell you that the American Cancer Society has been approached with similar promotional opportunities, and after carefully vetting them we elected to pass on some of them given our concerns about their appropriateness relative to the goals of our programs.


There are plenty of other unusual “think pink” examples, some of which simply reflect strange bedfellows. 


John Madden Football producing a “pink” edition is one of them.  But when you read further, their promotion is related to contributions made to a foundation tied to Brett Favre’s wife, Deanna, who is a breast cancer survivor.


An athletic clothing manufacturer is donating 1000 pairs of pink gloves to football teams across the United States. That should make for an interesting sight on Friday nights around the country.


The list goes on, and I would bet you have some interesting examples of your own.


And, yes, the American Cancer Society does benefit from some of these promotions as well.  We do our best to vet those relationships to be certain they are truthful and appropriate.


Each of these “think pink” promotions are unique, and each requires your attention.  You need to understand carefully the nature of the promotion, and how much of the money goes directly to the particular breast-cancer-related-cause supported by that promotion.


As noted on the Breast Cancer Action’s “thinkbeforeyoupink” website, not every “think pink” promotion necessarily produces a real return to the organization for which it is intended.


The bottom line: we are a nation who cares about others, even in these exceptionally difficult times.  We want to help, we want to participate, we want to make things better.


The “think pink” campaigns are an easy way to make a contribution to the cause of breast cancer.  But you must always be certain you understand that you are not being taken advantage of as a result your desire to “do good.” 


Know how much of your purchase goes to breast cancer research, which organization, whether the total is “capped,” and whether or not it would be better to send the donation directly to the organization of your choice.


As to the candies and the doughnuts, my colleagues remind me that an occasional doughnut consumed in moderation (REAL moderation!!!) is not a bad thing.


So I won’t be a complete Grinch.  And maybe I’ll find some time this week to go out and buy a pink tie.

Filed Under:

Breast Cancer | Diet | Research

About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.