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Every October, the world busts out the hot pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It’s an annual, international health campaign organized by major breast cancer organizations in the U.S. with a mission of raising funds for research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of the disease. Professional athletes trade in their team colors for pink gear, and stores flood their racks and websites with pink items.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and it is predicted that there will be 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 43,600 deaths from breast cancer in 2021 alone. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women.
Although in-person events and fundraisers are slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, you still have many options available to help support breast cancer awareness, research and treatment through donating, volunteering, learning and sharing educational resources with other women.
Breast cancer care and research for all women
The yearly statistics are sobering, but breast cancer mortality rates have declined 40% from 1989 to 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization attributes this to earlier detection, which emphasizes the importance of raising awareness of this disease and supporting organizations that help all people receive the care they need.
However, mortality rates are not declining equally across racial demographics. Although white women are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than Black women, white women are less likely to die from the disease. Between 2013 and 2017, breast cancer mortality was 39% higher among Black women than white women, according to Susan G. Komen. Additionally, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and with more aggressive types of breast cancer than white women, according to the organization.
A review of studies published by the Susan G. Komen organization outlines the three primary drivers of breast cancer disparities as tumor biology differences, genomics (such as the rate of inherited gene mutations) and patterns of care (including obstacles to care and disparities in quality of care).
See related: Managing the costs of women’s preventive healthcare
Avoid ‘pinkwashing’ marketing tactics
Just because an item for purchase features a pink ribbon, it doesn’t necessarily mean the purchase actually benefits breast cancer research. The term “pinkwashing” in this context refers to a company’s claims that it supports breast cancer programs when its contributions to a breast cancer charity aren’t directly tied to the purchases consumers make.
“There are a variety of businesses that do that, and they’re not transparent in how they’re generating money for the cause and what the consumer is actually doing to impact the cause,” says Lisa Giuroiu, vice president for corporate partnerships at Susan G. Komen.
Ultimately, if you’re not sure a company will truly turn your donation into a benefit for a breast cancer charity (or the company won’t tell you which breast cancer organizations will get the money), you may want to make a direct donation to a cancer charity instead.
Find where to donate
It can be tough to discern whether you’re donating to a reputable organization. Breast cancer charities are no exception. Groups such as Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are great resources if you’re not sure whether the nonprofit you’re contemplating donating to is the best one.
According to Charity Navigator, it’s best to research how much of a charity’s total expenses are spent on programs or services before you donate online. A reputable breast cancer charity should spend about 75% on programs and services. Ideally, a maximum of 25% should go toward administrative expenses for overhead costs, including hiring and paying employees.
Here are some of the most reputable breast cancer charities, according to both Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy:
- Susan G. Komen
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- Dr. Susan Love Foundation
- Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
- Entertainment Industry Foundation
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Other ways to contribute to breast cancer research
For many Americans, budgeting for monetary donations right now isn’t a great option. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved and support women’s health in other ways.
Organizations like Susan G. Komen and the American Cancer Society typically host in-person fundraising events throughout the month of October to raise awareness and support for this cause. Amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, they switched many gatherings to virtual events instead.
This year, organizations are offering a hybrid of options so people can participate as they are able and comfortable. For example, Susan G. Komen is hosting both in-person and virtual walks/runs in cities across the country.
Using the Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America*
The Susan G. Komen credit card allows you to earn cash back rewards, while also giving back.
“The beauty of the card is that a donation is made to Komen while at the same time, the consumer is getting their own cash back rewards,” Giuroiu said.
You can earn 3% on the category of your choice – gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement and furnishings – plus 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on other purchases. For every new card that is used to make a transaction and remains open for the first 90 days, Susan G. Komen will receive $3 and 0.08% of all retail purchases. The organization will also receive $3 for each renewal of a card that was in good standing during the 12 month period and doesn’t have a zero balance at the time of renewal.
Since 2009, Susan G. Komen has received more than $10.3 million from this Bank of America program.
“From a credit card perspective, this is one way that people can do something very, very easy to join the fight and help find the cures that need to be found,” Giuroiu says. “Everyone has the ability to impact and save a life. Everyone can be a part of the solution.”
Donating credit card rewards
If you’re looking for a way to use your credit card, hotel or airline rewards, you might be able to donate your points or miles to causes you support. Here are some ways you can do it:
Donating cash back rewards: Once you cash out your rewards, you’re free to donate that money wherever you want. This is fairly easy with a cash back card; you might also be able to do it with a travel card, though it will likely come with a lower redemption rate than other options.
Purchasing charity gift cards: If you have an American Express card with Membership Rewards or a Wells Fargo card with GoFar rewards, you can use your rewards to purchase a charity gift card to JustGiving or CharityChoice, respectively. Both programs partner with many different organizations, including those focused on breast cancer research and advocacy.
Donating hotel and airline rewards: Many hotel and airline loyalty programs give you options to donate your points and miles to a select group of organizations. Options are usually limited, but certain programs might host giving campaigns for breast cancer awareness during the month of October. Watch your loyalty program of choice for more information.
The bottom line
There is much work to be done, according to Giuroiu, and it goes far beyond just wearing pink.
“It seems there has been complacency around breast cancer and the urgency that has existed has waned somewhat,” Giuroiu adds. “Our perspective is that that’s not OK. Breast cancer is killing people. We find that to be absolutely unacceptable.”
*All information about the Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.