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A Brief History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Every October, there is an explosion of pink ribbons as the nation and the international community honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This global attempt to increase awareness of breast cancer and to remind women about the value of early detection is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created in 1985 as a collaborative effort between the American Academy of Family Physicians and AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation and CancerCare, Inc., and various sponsors. Today it has grown to include a partnership of national public service organizations, government agencies, and professional medical associations that work together to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Since its inception, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization has been vigorously promoting educational events and programs to encourage and empower women to take control of their own breast health by practicing regular self-breast examinations, getting mammograms as recommended, scheduling regular visits with their physician for breast care, following any prescribed treatment, and learning as much as they can about breast cancer and breast health.

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Some of the ways Breast Cancer Awareness Month is recognized and celebrated is through community events such as walk-a-thons, including the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and the Komen Race for the Cure. In Australia, the National Breast Cancer Foundation holds Pink Ribbon Breakfasts in various locations, and a Global Breast Cancer Conference is being held in Seoul, Korea October 8 through 10.

The wearing of ribbons as a sign of awareness is believed to have begun during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, when yellow ribbons were used. The pink ribbon that has become the worldwide symbol of breast cancer and Breast Cancer Awareness Month was first used in the 1990s, which was a time when wearing ribbons was becoming a growing trend. The Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons in 1991 during its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.

The pink ribbon for breast cancer was chosen reportedly because it is a color of health and it represents femininity. (A blue ribbon is the symbol for men with breast cancer.) Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estee Lauder Companies, established The Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993 and established the pink ribbon as its symbol.

Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, breast cancer does not confine itself to a 31-day period: it is a relentless, daily reality for millions of women and their families. Likewise, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month organization conducts business year-round. Anyone can visit the NBCAM website at any time for updated information on breast cancer, resources, and events related to breast cancer awareness.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month organization
Susan G. Komen For the Cure