What Does a Bikini Parade Have to Do with Breast Cancer?

A recurring question on this blog is this: Is there a limit, in terms of appropriateness or “correctness,” in fundraising for causes that would help put an end to breast cancer?

My blogging colleague and friend, fellow BC ~survivor/advocate/NBCC summit attendee and former chemo recipient, AnneMarie Ciccarella, @chemobrainfog wrote about an upcoming bikini parade planned by a tanning salon owner in Madison Lake, MN. Proceeds from the march will go toward a nonprofit group called the Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation (preventbc.org). This true story is problematic at many levels, as AnneMarie points out.

But sometimes an extreme case of something – here what’s billed as a BC fundraiser – can be instructive. A few months ago I wrote about Boobstagram – a French website that asks women to submit pictures of their breasts to increase awareness of the value of healthy breasts. The site, vaguely and with few words, tries connecting the barely clad images with “the fight against cancer.” Although I’m still not convinced that the concept utterly lacks merit in principle, and maintain that some of the voices raised here were, perhaps, too quickly dismissive and uptight about the possibility of fundraising or BC activism by this method, I acknowledge that the men running that company seem to be doing nothing useful in terms of reducing breast cancer or its complications.

The Minnesota bikini march will take place on July 28. The line-up starts at noon. The walk will begin at 1PM. According to the announcement on the Electric Beach Mankato website, “only females in bikinis will be counted toward the world record.” The organizer and salon owner, Cynthia Frederick, needs 451 participants to break the Guinness World Records mark for largest bikini parade. That site lists the record as 357 women, based on a 2011 event in Queensland, Australia. But that achievement was recently surpassed in Panama City, FL. What’s different about the prior demonstrations is that there was no pretense of raising money or awareness to help fight, prevent or cure breast cancer.

Minnesota bikini parade participants will pay $20 or $25 for tee shirts. Net proceeds will to go the Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation. The foundation’s site suggests that sunlight prevents BC by increasing vitamin D levels (which is total BS, to be perfectly clear). Taking too much vitamin D can do damage, as can excessive sun exposure.

As I read this, a tanning salon – a business that causes melanoma and other skin cancers – is promoting a walk of bikini-wearing women in midday summer sun to break an amusing world’s record. The parade will, if anything, harm those women who, naively or otherwise, believe they’re supporting a legitimate effort to prevent breast cancer. Any funds raised will support a foundation that promotes what’s tantamount to snake oil for the disease.

So there is a line, in the sand… And it’s been crossed!

If I were an investigative journalist, I’d want to know more about the organization that calls itself the “Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation.” Does it get tax breaks? If so, why?

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6 thoughts on “What Does a Bikini Parade Have to Do with Breast Cancer?

  1. Aaaarrrrrrggggh! This kind of story makes me crazy. Brilliant publicity stunt by this tanning salon owner – and look, it’s working: even you are helping her raise the profile of a business you’d never even heard of before now.

    And don’t get me started on these “awareness” events (or sites like Boob­stagram). Don’t we already have breast cancer awareness month (a.k.a. Pinktober) flooding us with images of pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink-handled Tasers, and (yes, seriously) pink Smith & Wesson handguns. I recommend your readers visit the excellent site “Think Before You Pink” for a list of questions to ask of event organizers like the woman who’s running this bikini parade.

    And yes – according to their website, this Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation is indeed “a non-profit organization with a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status”.

  2. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for commenting on this, from a “heart” perspective. While I agree that it’s smart to think before you buy anything to support a “pink” BC foundation, I think the same about any charity’s fundraising. This event is in a different league.

  3. Thanks for adding to this discussion, Elaine. I’m thinking I might have to write something up on this one too, because get this, I grew up near Mankato. How can I not? Ha. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that ESPN will be in the area for the opening of Vikings training camp do you? On second thought, maybe I should stay out it…

  4. Thanks, Elaine….

    I appreciate the shout out (I wrote about Boobstagram too….. this truly comes from that famous, “you can’t make this SH*T up” file).

    Today, I posted some videos of a talk given this past March by Dr. Larry Norton of MSKCC. He discusses D3. Last night, I found an interesting article in Med Page today about the rise in melanoma and it points directly at tanning salons:

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/SkinCancer/33885?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyHeadlines&utm_source=WC&eun=g225690d0r&userid=225690&email=bethenextstep@gmail.com&mu_id=5221042

    If I go to MNT and just search tanning beds, a host of recent articles instantly appears.

    I’m preaching to the choir with research papers…. but between sexualizing breast cancer and having the owner of a tanning salon “host” the event… Well…. quoting from something I reprinted on my blog:

    “Debunked but still popularly accepted benefits of tanning beds include increased sex hormones, dental cavity prevention, promotion of bone regeneration and repair, reduction in breast and colon cancer, and prevention of diabetes.”

    :) You ROCK….

    AnneMarie

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