Dear Susan G. Komen . . .

27 Sep

Breast Cancer Action has written a letter to Susan G. Komen requesting that SGK agree not to “pinkwash” and to recall their “Promise Me” perfume. Here, they ask you to join them I did. I hope you will too.

Here is what all the stink is about.

Susan G. Komen launched their “Promise Me” perfume (which shares the same name as Nancy Brinker’s latest book . . . talk about branding) in the name of breast cancer. “Promise Me” perfume sells for $59.00 with less than two dollars of the sale price going to breast cancer research.

Not So Sweet Smelling After All

But, here is where it really gets smelly:

After conducting an independent laboratory study, it was determined that “this perfume contains chemicals that are a) categorized as toxic and hazardous, b) have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and c) have demonstrated negative health effects. Source: Breast Cancer Action.

Here are the chemicals that are of most concern that are contained in Komen’s “Promise Me” perfume:

  • Galaxolide, a synthetic musk that works as a hormone disruptor and is detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns.*
  • Toluene, a potent neurotoxicant known widely as one of the toxic trio, has demonstrated a variety of negative health effects and is banned by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).*

*Source: Breast Cancer Action

Breast Cancer Action coined the term “Pink Washing” to describe the pinkification of products that are actually known to increase the risk of breast cancer or are thought to be linked to an increase in breast cancer. Now it seems that Komen has produced their own pinkwashed product: their “Promise Me” perfume.

I have long thought that pink bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and other alcoholic beverages that go pink for a cure to be hypocritcal at best. Alcohol consumption is known to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. But, when ever I have complained about these pink bottles, many take issue with why I would care where the money comes from . . . after all, isn’t it just a good thing to raise money for breast cancer research?

But, do people know how few of their dollars spent on these pinked products actually go to research? Probably not. And, you would think that a product commissioned by Komen would actually serve up more money “for the cure” . . . but, out of the $59.00 purchase price for “Promise Me” less than two dollars goes to research. (For more on where the money DOESN’T go see Cancer Culture Chronicles: “Komen By The Numbers: 2010 And Still No Answers” and Uneasy Pink’s: “Quick Math” and for some more of my own snarkiness: “Pinktober Comes Early”

Breast cancer action is taking Komen on. They have asked Komen to join them in a promise not to engage in pinkwashing and to recall their “Promise Me” perfume.

“We are genuinely shocked to see a breast cancer organization marketing a product containing multiple chemicals categorized as toxic or hazardous” (Breast Cancer Action)

I hope you will join Breast Cancer Action, go to their link and you can use their letter, in asking SGK to do better, to honor their promise. It only takes a moment to do.

Here is my letter . . .

Dear SGK:

I am disgusted with what I believe began with the best of intentions and has now become a giant pink money maker. I am NOT alone in my feelings. There is a movement, a group of women who are educated, strong and angry. We know you hear our voices, but, you have yet to respond. We are waiting, we will not let up.

We feel as though you are profiting over breast cancer. We feel that you really are not racing, or even slowly walking, towards a cure. I went to your OC race this past weekend and I saw the same thing that I have been inundated with ever since my diagnosis – you sell this idea that you are raising money to “CURE” breast cancer and yet you preach early detection as the solution instead. You have even trademarked the words so that no one else can use it and then waste valuable time and resources to sue anyone who uses your “for the cure” language. This makes it seem like you are more concerned about protecting profit motives than actually racing after a cure.

The reality is that even with early detection, women (and men) DIE of breast cancer. You wrap up poster women – take credit for their survival – all in a pink bow and sell this idea that it will all be okay if we just get screened early. Early detection is NOT a cure. Wake up. We have and we are NOT going away.

Facebook is credited to helping Egyptians take to the streets and to revolt.

There is an online movement, a revolution of sorts. I am one of many who are spreading the word. We are all already aware of breast cancer. The NEW AWARENESS that we need is how little money goes to actual research. (I hear that only 19% of the $389 million dollars that Komen raised in 2010 went to research). 19% is NOT enough!

Stop pinkwashing. Promise me this: stop knowingly contributing to the proliferation of products that not only increase the risk of breast cancer, but, also increase the risk of all cancers. We know you can do better. I, personally, will not rest until you do.

26 Responses to “Dear Susan G. Komen . . .”

  1. Lori Marx-Rubiner September 28, 2011 at 6:51 AM #

    Great piece…and of course you are NOT alone. As my market shelves turn over for the annual pinking that has become October, I share your anger and frustration that Komen and others are diverting the funds desperately need for research into profits!!

    • cancerfree2b September 28, 2011 at 7:10 AM #

      Thank you Lori. I appreciate your comment.

      The “Promise Me” perfume, sold in the name of breast cancer, containing toxic chemicals takes the cake if you ask me.

      They need to recall it now. It contains ingredients that are not even listed on the list of ingredients that are harmful.

      I don’t know why I should be surprised that the organization that has helped companies, encouraged companies, to “pinkwash” would engage in it too . . . but, I really can’t believe it.


      Thank you again for your comment!

      All the best,


  2. nancyspoint September 28, 2011 at 7:01 AM #

    Wow, this is amazing! I’m with you all the way!

    • cancerfree2b September 28, 2011 at 7:29 AM #

      Thank you Nancy. I am so angered to learn that Komen’s “Promise Me” perfume contains toxic ingredients (including one that is banned by the International Fragrance Association). Breast Cancer Action has asked Komen to recall the perfume. But, Komen has not done so. No warnings about the perfume have gone out. No one using the perfume knows of the perfume’s entire contents. It is disgusting to me.

      I have had enough. I went to the OC Komen race last weekend. It was a madhouse in the Survivor’s Tent (in fact, most of the people in the tent, clambering for a free breakfast, were not survivors). I went the preceding year (Nancy Brinker happened to be the keynote speaker, there to promote her new book: “Promise Me”) . . . it was a totally different scene last year . . . but, then things probably are run differently when the person who heads your organization shows up.

      It was overly crowded and the lines for food were not clear (one line interrupted another line so that the people in one line waited for 25 minutes or more . . . ) I was concerned about a few women who had been standing in line for a very long time (due to the second line cutting them off). These women were clearly actively going through chemotherapy or radiation. There was shoving and pushing in the lines and it just was a mess.

      So I went up to a volunteer to point out how this was affecting these women (the women the breakfast was intended for) and she yelled at me, telling me that there were “two lines” and that I “needed to move”. She went on for a bit, she was a real prize that one. I was so shocked by her yelling at me that I didn’t even know what to say.

      Others came up to her (she continued to yell) and finally someone from Komen came and put up a divider and redirected the lines so that people could get through.

      It was complete chaos, the tables were so close together that we were getting bumped, the set up did not anticipate the fact that there would be a line. They allowed no space for it. It may sound like small details, but, when you compare it to last year, being able to sit and enjoy a breakfast with other survivors and women in treatment, it was very disappointing to say the least. The survivor’s breakfast was the main reason that I came. And, it was a mess. It was so out of control that while I was in line I was pushed and shoved. It was that crowded and that out of control.

      And, I was yelled at by a volunteer for simply trying to help some women, who should not have had to stand in that line getting pushed and bumped into, get some food.

      I can not even imagine having gone to this breakfast while I was in treatment.

      Well, I didn’t mean to turn my reply to your comment into another blog post. I was going to write about the volunteer/survivor tent experience. But, I feel it is such a small part of what currently rubs me the wrong way about Komen (and I know there are so many really nice, hard working volunteers) that I did not want to dedicate a post to it.

      OCKomen has contacted me via twitter asking me to call them to talk to them about it. I will do that as soon as I have a break. Perhaps I will write about what they have to say.

      Thank you for commenting.

      All the best,


      • cancerfree2b September 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM #


        Thank you for signing the letter! Breast Cancer Action is awesome. I am so glad that they are drawing attention to this.

        I hope Komen will do the right thing here.


  3. Sandy September 28, 2011 at 9:25 AM #


    I signed Breast Cancer Action’s letter to SGK. Thanks for making more people aware of this!


  4. kredit trotz schufa eintrag September 28, 2011 at 11:42 AM #

    Very well written article. It will be useful to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

  5. Beth L. Gainer September 28, 2011 at 12:53 PM #

    Totally awesome posting! Love the letter. I went onto the BCA website and submitted the letter that’s on the site.

    • cancerfree2b September 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM #

      Beth, That is awesome! Thank you. And didn’t Breast Cancer Action write an amazing letter? Hopefully Komen will respond responsibly.

      All the best,


  6. britta September 29, 2011 at 7:04 AM #

    Brava! I agree with everything you’ve said. I, too, signed BCAction’s awesome letter.

    • cancerfree2b September 29, 2011 at 7:21 AM #

      Thank you Britta!

      Please spread the word!

      Al the best,

      P.S. Have you seen Breast Cancer Action’s “pinkwashing” video?

  7. Brenda Coffee September 29, 2011 at 9:23 AM #

    This is a great, eyeopening post for everyone! Bravo!

    I hope to have some news in the next couple of weeks that will enable all of us to take our viewpoints and concerns directly to a key “someone” who not only needs to hear them, but who can respond to them. Wish I could give you details today, but more when I know more. I know you’ll make your voice heard!

    • cancerfree2b September 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM #

      Thank you Brenda. I am passionate about this. I truly appreciate your comment and the comments (support) of others. It has proven not to be easy to openly take this point of view . . . there is a backlash sometimes . . . as if I don’t appreciate the money that HAS been raised and given to research . . . as if I am getting in the way of helping women . . . it is not popular here in Orange County to be critical of Komen. I hope to change that, I hope to change Komen. That is my real goal . . . to force the issue, to force AWARENESS so that Komen will do better by all of us. They owe us that much by owning the language “for the cure”.

      And, I wish I could hear your details today too, but, I look forward to hearing it when you can 🙂

      Together we have a voice and the ability to make a difference.

  8. leisa October 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM #

    I personally am so offended that Sunflower Market, who sells natural healing supplements, would get into bed with Susan B Komen, and then try and shove the pink bracelets down our throats.

    • cancerfree2b October 3, 2011 at 1:21 PM #

      Leisa, I was unaware of Sunflower Market’s partnership. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. This profit off of breast cancer is really disgusting.

      Thank you for your comments.

      All the best,


  9. Rachel@CancerCultureChronicles October 3, 2011 at 12:43 PM #

    It is all quite simply not good enough, and the blogger voices grow louder and stronger everyday with posts like this. Thanks Lisa!

    • cancerfree2b October 3, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

      Thank YOU Rachel! I am grateful that Breast Cancer Action is doing something (and for what that have accomplished to date . . . for example, cleaning up Yoplait Yogurt a bit).

      It is really discouraging to see THE organization for breast cancer, profiting off of a dangerous product, sold in the name of a cure . . . it is beyond sick.

      The more this is understood by all the well intentioned people that donate their time and money to SGK, the sooner we will (I HOPE) see some real change. SGK essentially diverts money that would otherwise be donated to research (that is, after all, what people think Komen does with their money . . . direct it mostly towards research. And, it is a logical conclusion given their use of a trademarked “for the cure” name). So I guess there is an 81% surcharge? This is so gross to me.

      UGH, sigh, ugh, ugh, sigh . . .



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