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Why is a Pink Ribbon the symbol for breast cancer awareness?

October 6, 2009

DSC_6491It’s October which means the pink ribbons are out in force.  Hard to look in any direction and not see them in a store front, on the back of a car, on a shopping bag or a container of food.  According to an article on Wikipedia, the first appearance of a pink ribbon in connection with breast cancer was in the Fall of 1991. The Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.[1]

The next year, Alexandra Penney, then editor-in-chief of Self,[2] a woman health magazine, was working on the second annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) issue. Evelyn Lauder, who was the senior corporate vice president at Estée Lauder, was invited to be the guest editor of the NBCAM issue edition. Penney and Lauder came up with the idea to create a ribbon to distribute in it’s stores.

Charlotte Hayley, who battled breast cancer, produced peach color ribbons. She sold them with a card saying, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is 1.8 billion US Dollars, and only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon”.[3] Her message spread fast. This made Penny and Evelyn Lauder interested in Hayley’s concept. They offered to adapt Hayley’s idea by working with her. But Hayley rejected the offer, saying that they were too commercial.

After discussing opportunities with Lauder, Hayley and their lawyers, they came up with a “new” color. The new color of the ribbon was pink and became an international symbol for breast cancer awareness.

Pink was chosen for the ribbon color to symbolize breast cancer because it is a bright, vibrant, strong, healthy color. This puts it in direct opposition to the often very debilitating and destructive nature of breast cancer. Pink is also seen as a feminine color. Breast cancer is a very personal disease as the breasts are a strong part of femininity and what makes a woman a woman. Choosing such a color that is a bright, healthy symbol of women was seen as a positive and striking way to increase awareness of breast cancer as well as support funding of research to fight this disease. [4]

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