By: Michael Power

Lighthearted cancer awareness campaigns are an effective way to reach a younger audience.

However some recent campaigns may be pushing the envelope too far and they risk doing more harm than good.

The Movember movement attracts a lot of attention and raises a lot of money, primarily for research into prostate and testicular cancers. In 2011, the worldwide Movember movement raised $125.7 million.

More importantly, seeing moustaches all over the place actually gets you thinking about prostate cancer. Even people who grow a moustache without raising money during November help raise awareness because people start wondering if it’s a Movember moustache or just an everyday moustache. It works because moustaches aren’t sexualized.

On the other hand there are organizations like Rethink Breast Cancer that hold events across Canada that they call “Boobyball” and “Camp Booby” to raise awareness about breast cancer among younger women.

“Marketing like this unnecessarily sexualizes a serious disease,” says Kate Grantham, doctoral candidate in the department of women’s studies and feminist research at Western University in London, On “The focus becomes the breasts, not the disease.”

In October, four volunteer models bared their breasts for all to see in the middle of downtown Toronto in the name of promoting Boobyball 10, Rethink Breast Cancer’s flagship fundraising event.

Passers-by gawked at the scene and while I would like to believe that they were thinking about breast cancer and the people in their lives that it could affect, it is far more likely that most of them (or most of the men at least) were thinking about sex.

In our culture, breasts are a sexualized part of the female body.

In our culture, sex sells.

Hip and trendy advertisements appeal to a younger crowd, so it is only natural that a sexualized campaign would work.
Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do though.

By playing the sex card, the campaign is really appealing to the lowest common denominator of society.

These campaigns should be pushing facts, like telling us how many younger women get breast cancer in Canada
and what to look for.

The ads shouldn’t be made to scare people, simply to make us more aware of the risks and the facts.

These lighthearted campaigns are important ways to make younger people more aware of the diseases that can affect them and their loved ones, but the organizers need to ask themselves if they are using the best ways to communicate their message.