October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which means that everywhere you go things are painted pink. There’s a long and complex debate over whether or not the pinkifying of breast cancer is a good or bad thing—but according to one study there’s a key problem with painting the town pink. According to the Journal of Marketing Research, associating breast cancer with pink makes women take the risk of breast cancer less seriously.
The researchers investigated how breast cancer–awareness products—which are almost always pink and are often traditionally “female” objects like spatulas and aprons—actually impacted breast cancer screening and prevention. And they found that the emphasis on female-ness is actually detrimental in many ways. These objects make women feel less vulnerable to breast cancer, make women donate less to ovarian cancer research and make the advertisements more difficult to understand and therefore less memorable.
Lisa Wade at Ms. Magazine explains that this isn’t restricted to pink and breast cancer:
When people are faced with a personal threat, they tend to subconsciously go on the defensive. In this case, when women are exposed to information about breast cancer at the same time that they are reminded that they are vulnerable to it, they subconsciously try to push away the idea both that they’re vulnerable and that breast cancer is something they, or anyone, needs to worry about.
Instead, researchers say, advertisements should focus on a woman’s self-worth. So this year, ditch the pink, and find another way to stay healthy.
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