Going Pink Doesn't Help Breast Cancer Awareness


breast cancer awareness adsBreast cancer awareness has always gone hand-in-hand with the color pink. The majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer are women, and pink is considered the most feminine color in our culture, so we just don't question it. But maybe we should. A new study from the Journal of Marketing Research claims that emphasizing gender in breast cancer awareness ads might actually lower a woman's perceived risk for breast cancer, making her give less to gender-specific cancer charities and even make her less likely to remember the ads!

It seems kind of counterintuitive, right? Why doesn't pink work?

According to the research, a gender-linked (in other words, girly girl) ad triggers a defense mechanism that causes women to unconsciously ignore or downplay the message that may make them feel particularly threatened.

Interestingly, when one group of women looked at a super-pink, obviously female-targeted ad about breast cancer, and another group looked at a more gender-neutral one, the first group gave lower personal risk estimates (on a scale of 1 to 7) for breast cancer than those who looked at the neutral one.

The fix? Instead of axing the pink altogether, awareness ads could use messages that make us feel better about ourselves ("You're important!") and address our fear of the disease ("Admit it, you're afraid of breast cancer.").

Whenever I see female-centric breast cancer ads, I do get a bit defensive ... and scared, because it's freaky to think about a disease that almost exclusively targets my gender. (Just like uterine cancer.) But I agree that scrapping pink just isn't in the cards. The breast cancer awareness folks are going to have to continue to think of new, thought-provoking, and compassionate ways to reach out to women.

What do you think about this study?

Image via Cliff1066/Flickr

breasts, cancer


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Basabi Basu

Wonder how the pink affects the men? Does it make them more conscious about their female partners', or sisters' and daughters' heightened risks? 

It is rather interesting that being 'pink' or being female still gets our backs up. 

BigMo... BigMommaJesca

Whaaaaat?  I'm, like, the least girly-girl I know, and it's never OCCURRED to me to bristle at the pink!

Maybe I'm girlier than I thought.  Uh-oh...

sueccc sueccc

I think this is crazy.... the pink ribbon is known world wide and has meaning throughout.

Heather Thompson

I lost my husband to breast cancer. He was a firefighter. Pink never bothered him, as his fellow firefighters tour the states in bright pink fire trucks (the PINK HEALS TOUR).I walk every year w/ his dept in Palm Beach Co. Fl. Family, firefighters, friends, Drum & Pipe Corp, ALL IN PINK. We want men to know this is a non-gender disease!

Annemarie Rooney

"Pink" is the color for breast cancer. Just like purple is the color for lung cancer. It is a color... We all know that breast cancer doesn't chose male or female, it effects both sexes. It isn't abouth the color "pink" it about "BREAST CANCER AWARENESS!"

nonmember avatar Shannon

I'm a female and I don't like the color pink at all, I wear it to support the cause, but personally I do not like it, it feels offensive.

But I think you are all missing the point. The study is showing that the psychological association with the color pink may be doing the cause more harm than good. It's not about gender or being proud to wear pink as a male, it's about possibly scaling back the amount of pink in an advertisement for Breast Cancer Awareness. If you read the article, they're suggesting that adding in more personalized and gender neutral (yes, the color pink does make some people's mind automatically shut off) tones to make people realize the risk.

Photo... Photomom89

I wish they would make a bigger deal about other types of cancer. It isn't that I think breast cancer isn't worthy of all the attention it gets I just feel like other forms of cancer deserve that same amount of attention. 

Mahala Dixson

I agree with Photomom.  But I do see the point that the author of the post is making though, it's a sub concious thing I guess.  I have a son who has battled Neuroblastoma since he was 3 months old.  Neuroblastoma is one of the most common types of Childhood Cancer along with Leukemia and Brain Tumor's. Did you know the color for all types of Childhood cancer is GOLD?  And that September is Childhood Cancer awareness month? Brain tumor ribbons are gray, and I think Leukemia is bright green (please correct me if I am wrong on that I need to brush up on my seperate cancer colors again).  All cancers need cures, they ALL NEED FUNDING.  Childhood Cancer gets VERY low funding that has to be spread between 12 different childhood cancers.  46 kids are diagnosed every school day with cancer and 7 children will die every day :(  I hate cancer, all cancers.  It steals our families. 

nonmember avatar lib

Mahala, the color for leukemia is orange.

Melissa Shadle-Powell

does it really matter as long as awareness is being spread????????????????????

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