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Duly Noted

Thursday, Feb 2, 2012, 10:26 am

Pink Fibbin’: Susan G. Komen’s Lies About Breast Cancer

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Pink ribbon cupcake, by Shutterstock.

"Can you trust a breast cancer organization whose staff and board lie about medical science, including breast cancer?" asks Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check.

What has the powder pink fundraising powerhouse done to undermine its crediblity lately? Here's a list for your reference.

1. Cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast health programs for high-risk women.

2. Hired Karen Handel as Senior Vice President for Policy. A career anti-choice pol, Handel spread lies about Planned Parenthood during her unsuccessful campaign for governor. We don't know if Handel decided to cut Planned Parenthood loose as Komen SVP, but we know she promised to cut off PP if she were elected governor of Georgia: "since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood ... In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor." Handel is also an avowed supporter of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which nurture the myth that abortion causes breast cancer.

3. Elected Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, to the SGK board despite the fact that SBA is notorious for spreading misinformation about federal funding for abortion to further its attempts to elect Republicans. Abraham has close ties to the Nurturing Network, a network of "crisis pregnancy centers." CPCs are propaganda outlets that outwardly mimick women's health clinics, but actually exist purely to dissuade women from having abortions, by deception, if necessary. A favorite CPC tactic is to tell women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, a myth which has been rejected by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the Institutes of Medicine, amongst other authorities.

4. Denied the link between the endocrine disruptor BPA and breast cancer while accepting donations from corporations that use BPA in their products, including Coca-Cola and General Mills. Komen even commissioned a special pink BPA-containing cap for bottles of DS Water.

5. Helped generate headlines like, "KFC Fights Breast Cancer With Fried Chicken," by making a pact with Kentucky Fried Chicken which guaranteed SGK a share of the proceeds from specially marked pink buckets of chicken. Other breast cancer activists criticized Komen for "pinkwashing" a fast food chain whose cuisine is a byword for unhealthy eating. Any food can be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. However, it is disconcerting that the promotion was expected to raise $8 million, which would have made it the largest single corporate donation in the organization's history. An organization that is supposed to be an independent advocate for women's health should not be so closely tied to corporations whose entire business model hinges on maintaining unhealthy eating habits at the societal level. Kentucky Fried Chicken does not want to sell fried chicken in moderation, it wants to keep KFC as a fixture of our national diet. It's downright cheap to pay Susan G. Komen $8 million for the pastel pink imprimatur of fighting breast cancer and carry on business as usual. If its stance on BPA is any indication, Komen may even be less motivated to "raise awareness" about any future discoveries regarding diet and breast cancer.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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