We need to change the way we fund cancer research


The Appalachian Online

Lauren Merrill

Each year 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer , according to the Huffington Post.

With February being National Cancer Prevention Month, it is important to be educated about all cancers and how they can be prevented. But this cannot happen if some cancers get more attention than others for all of the wrong reasons.

Although breast cancer is not the most deadly cancer and doesn’t affect the most people, it does receive the majority of money.

The funded amount that went to breast cancer was a little over $110.3 million as of August 2015, which is the greatest amount for any cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

This might seem strange because lung cancer, which received the third highest amount in funding, is the leading cause of death in women, while breast cancer is the second, according to the American Cancer Society.

If this is the case, why is breast cancer receiving so much attention?

One big reason for the massive campaigns for breast cancer is that companies want to target a female audience to improve their image.

The desire to expand sales or gain viewers, especially in the month of October, is also a big driver.

The NFL is one of the biggest examples of this. By heavily promoting breast cancer awareness, the NFL is trying to expand their female audience.

The NFL has also been conducting the “Crucial Catch Campaign” since 2009 to get more women viewers by encouraging screenings. In 2011, 58 million female viewers ages 18 and over saw the campaign, according to sportsonearth.com.

By highlighting breast cancer, the NFL is trying to get more women to watch football.

Companies also believe that by selling the pink ribbon brand, they will make larger profits by appealing to consumers who care about the cause.

A 2013 Cone Communications study of cause-related marketing revealed that 89 percent of consumers would be likely to buy products from a new brand if it is affiliated with a charity.

This is why Kentucky Fried Chicken paired with Susan G. Komen in their campaign  “Buckets for the Cure.”

KFC agreed to donate 50 cents for every bucket of chicken sold to the Komen Foundation, with an” ultimate goal” of $8 million, according to ABC. When the campaign ran in 2010, it was the single largest donation to Komen at that point.

These campaigns are raising awareness for the wrong reasons.

The KFC campaign shows an instance where the company benefits more than the cause. If one bucket of chicken costs $10, only 50 cents goes towards the foundation, while $9.50 goes back into the company. Breast cancer is just used as a springboard for profits.

But the Komen Foundation realizes this is happening. The foundation doesn’t even put the majority of its money into research.

In 2011, the Komen Foundation devoted only 15 percent of donations to breast cancer research grants, according to Reuters.

All of this is highly misleading because many women believe the goal is to look for potential cures.

The NFL is also guily in this regard.

Ultimately, the NFL’s breast cancer campaign only sends about 8 percent of the proceeds for research, according to a 2013 Business Insider report. The rest goes back into the company.

Breast cancer seems to continually get more attention than any other type of cancer, but for all of the wrong reasons. Money is the main reason companies invest in breast cancer.

For many of these campaigns, the numbers just don’t add up.

One thing that organizations such as the Komen Foundation could do is to only accept direct donations from companies, instead of letting the companies create campaigns that are designed to profit them without doing much to help the cause.

Organizations could also make more of their own awareness campaigns to bring more attention to all types of cancers, instead of relying so heavily on companies.

Breast cancer is important, and we should work to do all we can to combat the disease. Still, the cynical marketing campaigns surrounding this illness have the double negative effect of taking attention away from other cancers without doing much for breast cancer.

It is time we give all cancers the attention they deserve, and start supporting the cause in a way that gets results for those suffering.

Merrill, a sophomore journalism major from Chapel Hill, is an opinion writer.