September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

My Note: In January of this year I reviewed Gayle Sulik’s excellent book, Pink Ribbon Blues, which focused on all the hype about breast cancer and the whole issue of racing for the cure and how this has become entangled with financial gain for companies sporting the pink ribbon logo along with their pink merchandise. I call it the commercialization of breast cancer, but Gail’s book goes into such detail that  I know receive her newsletter by email. The excerpt below is from her latest email to me. See the websites at the end for the entire article.

This excerpt is reprinted with Gayle’s permission.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Will the White House be lighted in teal just as it’s been lighted in pink to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Will grocery stores line shelves with teal ribbon products? Will schools give out teal t-shirts or pins? Probably not. Pink has been the color of choice when it comes to cause support. Even as the sister of breast cancer (i.e., in 5 to 10 percent of cases both breast and ovarian cancer have a connection to mutations on the known breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2), ovarian cancer garners relatively little public support or attention.

Some people don’t even know that disease-specific ribbons besides pink exist. Nan Hart wrote on the discussion board of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (Sept. 19th) that after her daughter got a teal ribbon tattoo on her wrist, one of her daughter’s coworkers asked why her breast cancer ribbon wasn’t pink? Umm…Because it’s not a breast cancer ribbon? The assumption that one ribbon, the pink ribbon, the mother of all ribbons is the baseline of social support for cancer is indeed a huge assumption. In the coworker’s defense it just shows how well pink marketing has worked to create the association. Awareness messages aside, millions of people buy, display, consume, and think pink.

An article in Marie Claire on the “Big Business of Breast Cancer” points out that, ”Some $6 billion a year is committed to breast cancer research and awareness campaigns,” making it a “gold mine for pink profiteers and old-fashioned hucksters.” Kudos to Lea Goldman for pointing this out. Yet, for those who are working to provide information, support, and resources for other types of cancer, this story isn’t “news” at all. One woman commented on the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance discussion board that she went into a Bed Bath and Beyond this month and the first thing she saw was a breast cancer “awareness” display of pink products. “Where the education or awareness was,” she said, “I don’t know, but they’re certainly making a lot of money.” Another commenter contacted various media outlets to encourage reporting about ovarian cancer during its September awareness month. Apparently they “seemed uninterested.” Pink publicity, on the other hand, is now a year-round activity, and the related products? Many of them are around all year too….

When in comes to research, Dr. Elise Kohn states that, “There is no question that ovarian cancer is under funded and under represented in the scientific and medical communities.” The National Cancer Institute’s investment in ovarian cancer research increased to $110.1 million in FY 2009, up from $97.7 million in fiscal year FY 2005. The institute also supported $16.2 million in ovarian cancer research in FY 2009 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. [In comparison, the National Institute of Health spends more than $700 million per year on breast cancer research, and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program has allocated about $2.5 billion to peer-reviewed research since 1992.] Despite this situation Dr. Kohn states further that, “there has been an exponential and explosive growth in knowledge and treatment benefits for ovarian cancer over the last decade.” Yet, the difference in research agendas and allocations and within and across different types of cancer may also reflect differences in levels of advocacy, publicity, and political will….

More on Gayle’s website: or

P.S. I Googled teal ribbon and came up with a website on this topic:

4 thoughts on “September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

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