The NFL not promoting public health in its breast cancer awareness message

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footballOctober marks breast cancer awareness month, as we pointed out last week. If you follow football, and even if you don t, you may have noticed players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel in order to raise awareness for the A Crucial Catch campaign. The goal of this campaign, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, is to promote the importance of annual cancer screenings. Well, if you ve been following the work we ve been doing at ACSH, you know that this message is clearly not in the interest of public health.

The idea that annual screening saves lives is no longer being touted by the medical community. In fact, a study published this past April conducted by the Swiss Medical Board found no evidence suggesting an effect of mammography screening on overall mortality, echoing the results of a study published in BMJ earlier this year. Furthermore, the US Preventive Services Task Force has officially changed its recommendation regarding mammography screening, now advising that women get mammograms every two years beginning at the age of 50 instead of at 40.

Even worse, the money being raised by the NFL for breast cancer is not going to the cause it is claiming to support. According to an analysis by Business Insider, only 8 percent of the profits go to cancer research. This comes to only $4.5 million total to breast cancer research since this campaign began, despite the NFL s annual revenue of $10 billion. The rest goes to the NFL and the manufacturers of the merchandise the NFL is selling.

Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, sums this situation up very well in her article in The Guardian saying, If the NFL truly cares about the health of its female fans, it will stop spreading bunk science to women at cancer risk. If the league cares at all about the health of its own employees, league officials will confront concussions and ensure that their cheerleaders are fairly paid. And if Roger Goodell and Co. really care about the health of all women, it will focus on violence against women at the hands of some of those employees and stop using pink ribbons as a distraction.