Or at least that seems to be the message this month as America's favorite cancer takes center stage.  Football games, food products, clothing -- everything has turned pink. The only thing missing has been the Pink Panther, stuck in a long term deal selling fiberglass insulation.

I think it's worth looking at the marketing juggernaught behind breast cancer to ask why. Why is breast cancer so popular?  

Big Pink is a well developed campaign that raises breast cancer, among all other cancers, as the one where patients are purely victims, undeserving of their fate.  It is also the one where 99% of fatalities are women, the group that half the population are born sworn to protect. As a disease personified, we can target breast cancer with loathing that it takes away our mothers, sisters and daughters.

In all these ways, breast cancer is perfectly made for a culture that sees death and disease as a reflection of personal morality.  Breast cancer victims are unfairly burdened with their disease -- they did nothing to deserve it.  Unlike other common diseases:

Lung Cancer: Smokers know full well what they are doing.  They saw the writing on the wall cigarette box 30 years ago.  Why didn't they stop? They don't love their family? We dismiss these suffering people as self indulgent, ignorant and lacking in self control.

Heart Disease: Fat slob should have taken a pass on the bacon and trained for marathons. Then they wouldn't have clogged arteries. We like to think of the victims as gluttonous old men who didn't take care of themselves.

Diabetes: You eat too much. Didn't you listen? Michelle Obama told you but you still didn't listen.  Here we can dismiss the victims as lazy people who enjoyed the sweets.

Big any major disease and you will easily identify a moral basis for the disease.

These three disease groups kill a total of 816,000 Americans per year, nearly 20x more than are killed by breast cancer.  But none of them have nearly the recognition and wholehearted public sympathy that breast cancer receives.
(Heart 616k + diabetes 71k + lung cancer 129k = 816k)

I won't argue that breast cancer doesn't warrant a coordinated campaign of fund raising and research.  It certainly does.  But the current love affair with pink conceals what is otherwise a Puritanical view of the connection between behavior and disease.  This near universal American bias is exploited by the major breast cancer organizations to their benefit. (I'm not sure I believe this last sentence.  Tough to prove.)

Disrupting the Moral Dimension of Disease
When treating patients with the a disease linked to behavior, health care providers enter the clinic with the same biases found among the general public.

The moral dimension of disease undoubted affects the quality of life for millions of Americans each year who are fighting for their lives against a disease they don't deserve.