The Origins of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Oct 02, 2019
The Origins of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is breast cancer awareness month. But for a survivor, it is every single day. Do you know the history behind the yearly observance and what happened before it officially started? 

October is breast cancer awareness month. But for a survivor, it is every single day. Do you know the history behind the yearly observance and what happened before it officially started? 

Happy October to our strong survivors, patients, friends, family members, and support groups. This month we will be standing together wearing pink to honor each of you. But before this yearly observance became a permanent staple in October, do you know how it was established and the history leading up to its creation? As we stand together, we wanted to share a little history of how we got to where we are today. 

As you know, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an international campaign observed through the month of October. Its focus is to increase global awareness about breast cancer. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the then Imperial Chemical Industry. The aim of the organization from the start has been to promote mammography as the best form of prevention against breast cancer. The purpose now is to increase awareness, to educate about the methods of early detection and prevention, and to raise money to continue research for a cure. But at the end of the day, it all goes beyond the month of October. It is truly about working towards prevention, education, and guaranteed treatment for everyone. 

The very first organized effort to bring widespread attention to Breast Cancer happened as a week-long event in October of 1986. But the journey of awareness started long before that night in October 1986. 

  • In the 1950's, the New York Times refused to publish an ad for breast cancer. 
  • In 1969, the modern mammogram was invented.
  • Shirley Temple Black, First Lady Betty Ford, and Second Lady Margaret Rockefeller were some of the first public figures to talk about, discuss, and receive treatment in the public eye. 

The 1980's came in with a rush of change along with a rush of sadness. After her three year battle, Susan G. Komen passed away at the age of 36. In 1982, the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was started, and in 1983 the very first Race for the Cure was held in Texas with 800 participants. Today those numbers are in the millions, and races happen across the country. They passed out pink ribbons as a symbol for awareness at the Race for the Cure race in New York City in 1991. But the pink ribbon is something of a mystery of how it came to be the symbol it is today and who is credited with its creation. 

Some credit it to Susan G. Komen, some to a woman named Charlotte Haley, and others to Evelyn Lauder. Charlotte Haley in the late 80's/early 90's started to pass out peach color ribbons to raise awareness for the lack of breast cancer funding and research after her sister, daughter, and granddaughter were all diagnosed. Evelyn Lauder, who in 1993 formed the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, along with SELF Magazine editor Alexandra Penney approached Haley to use the ribbon. She refused, saying both Estee Lauder and Self were just too corporate. These women approached their lawyers who suggested they change the color. So they took the peach ribbon and turned it pink. When the Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded, Lauder stated the pink ribbon as its symbol. But this was two years after the Race for the Cure passed them out in 1991. No matter its origin, today it serves a symbol of survival, strength, and hope. We wear it proudly. 

Since the creation of these powerful foundations, many other walks and events have been organized to raise awkwardness, education, and fund to continue research. This includes the three day Susan G. Komen 60 mile walk. 

Every day your strength and your story adds to this history. Even though you and the journey you are on goes beyond this one pink month, we will continue to use it to spread awareness for you. We are here to support you, proudly stand by you, and to remind you that on this journey you are not alone.