'Pinkwashing' has its benefits
October has ended, and with it ebbs the wave of pink that emerges each year in the 10th month. Since being declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month more than 30 years ago, October has been awash in pink as Americans are urged to better understand this disease and work to see the signs that can lead to early detection. In the early 1990s, pink ribbons began to appear. Nowadays, pink is everywhere in October; even the NFL has nobly joined in, as players don pink socks and other uniform accoutrements to help spread the word.
To critics, it's become too much, and in a few ways, we agree. Coy references to women's anatomy — T-shirts that urge "Save second base," for example — aren't appreciated, since we believe such crude talk is degrading and adds juvenile humor to a serious issue.
Critics also believe the month has become too commercially motivated. For example, a noted national fast-food chain introduced a pink chicken bucket a few years back. Although it donated some of the proceeds to the cause, it still earned its own profits from the promotion.
The word critics use to describe the pink phenomenon is "pinkwashing."
We still believe strongly in Breast Cancer Awareness Month because we sense more people — men and women — are aware of the disease because of it. What started as an idea in 1985 has become a legitimate worldwide cause.
Nearly everyone knows a woman who has battled this terrible disease. The members of the Herald's editorial board know someone who right now is in this fight. She is stoic and a pillar of strength. We see how her friends and even casual acquaintances are both devastated by her multiple diagnoses yet heartened by her spirited fight.
And we would do anything if we could save even one woman from the stress, pain and sadness she and her family have endured.
So when we hear some say that October has become too engrossed in pink ribbons and the commercialization of the effort, we shrug it off.
Why? Because it appears the campaign is working, and that's all that matters.
The goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is simple: Great changes in social attitudes and fewer women dying from breast cancer, which affects one in eight women in the U.S.
Breast cancer can be deadly, but when detected early, the survival rate can be as high as 98 percent.
We believe the "pinkwashing" of October has a lot to do with reducing breast cancer deaths.
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman's risk of dying of breast cancer decreased by 38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014. The ACS estimates that it resulted in nearly 300,000 fewer breast cancer-related deaths during that time.
It's probably true that October's breast-cancer campaign has become too commercialized and fraught with slang terms that make us uncomfortable.
But we can accept it, since thousands of lives are being saved because of it.