The pink elephant in the room: Declining public interest in breast cancer and the impact of marketing efforts

Benjamin Greiner, Marissa Lee, Blessie Nelson, Micah Hartwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Public interest in breast cancer is associated with breast cancer awareness month. However, no study has analyzed the temporal trends in breast cancer interest or assessed how funding for breast cancer research is influenced by public interest.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of Google Trends using the search query "Breast Cancer" between January 2004 - July 2020. We then computed bivariate correlations to assess the association between relative search interest (RSI) and the financial records of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

RESULTS: Average search interest has declined since 2004. We identified increasing breast cancer RSI beginning in October 2009, corresponding with breast cancer awareness month, with an overall peak in 2012 followed by a downtrend through 2017. These fluctuations in peak RSI corresponded with the U.S. National Football League's initiation of "Pink October" during which the players wore pink jerseys which started in 2009 and ceased in 2017. We also found a strong correlation between peak RSI and Susan G. Komen Foundation net assets as well as funding of public health screening services and public health education.

CONCLUSIONS: Average interest in breast cancer has been declining since 2004 and peak interest, as well as breast cancer funding, has been declining since 2012. This suggests new marketing efforts are needed to improve breast cancer awareness and to increase fundraising.

POLICY SUMMARY: Considering the decline in breast cancer interest and funding, we recommend implementing local, regional, and national policies that improve marketing campaigns and improve breast cancer awareness.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)100287
JournalJournal of Cancer Policy
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Breast
  • Breast Neoplasms/epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Mass Screening


Dive into the research topics of 'The pink elephant in the room: Declining public interest in breast cancer and the impact of marketing efforts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this