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Breast Cancer Ribbon

In 2005, there were over 200,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed. The American Cancer Society determined that more than 40,000 women would die in 2005 of breast cancer, second in cancer deaths only behind lung cancer. To try to learn why breast cancer occurs and how to prevent it, there are many research studies under way, such as Sister Study. This long term study homes to discover the causes of breast cancer by following 50,000 women whose sisters had breast cancer.

To help fund research such as this, the American Cancer Society and other agencies depend on charitable donations and fund raising. One of the most visible symbols of breast cancer research is the breast cancer ribbon. The pink breast cancer ribbon has helped raise funds and consciousness about this disease for the past several years.

The breast cancer ribbon was designed in the early 1990s by Charlotte Haley. The idea of using a ribbon to raise breast cancer awareness has roots in the yellow ribbon used by families of the Iranian hostages in 1979. That ribbon was used to signify unity and hope. During the 80s, AIDS activists used the red ribbon to raise awareness. The use of these ribbons set the stage for the creation of the breast cancer ribbon. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation began handing out pink visors during the Race for the Cure run to breast cancer survivors who were running. After the noticing the appearance of the AIDS ribbon during the Tony Awards, the foundation decided to start handing out pink ribbons at the New York City race.

In 1992, Alexandra Penney was the editor-in-chief of Self magazine. She was in charge of designing the Breast Cancer Awareness month issue and looking for something to promote consciousness of the disease. Evelyn Lauder, a senior corporate vice president at Estee Lauder and a breast cancer survivor herself had helped the year before. She promised to put the ribbon on cosmetic counters all over the country. At the same time, Charlotte Haley, another breast cancer survivor had created a peach colored ribbon along with a card that read “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and American by wearing this ribbon.” However, when Penney contacted Haley to combine their efforts, she wanted nothing to do with it, so Penney decided to use the color pink for the ribbon.

Estee Lauder handed out 1.5 million pink breast cancer ribbons in 1992. People started paying attention to breast cancer statistics and the need for research and funding. The next year, Estee Lauder created a heart shaped compact with a pink ribbon design.

Between 1991 and 1996, funding for breast cancer research increased to an astonishing $550 million dollars. Today, you can find all types of products that help support breast cancer research. There are nightshirts, teddy bears, broaches, pens – just about anything you can think of – all with pink ribbons. Avon alone has raised $25 million dollars for breast cancer research by selling merchandise that features the breast cancer ribbon.

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