Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October can feel different for each of us — some wear pink to celebrate, some quietly observe the month, some feel grief, and some feel unseen or misunderstood. We want to normalize it all. Here’s what you need to know about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held in October every year, aims to promote screening and prevention of the disease, which affects one in eight women in the United States every year and 2.3 million women worldwide. Known best for its pink theme color, the month features a number of campaigns and programs — conducted by groups ranging from breast cancer advocacy organizations to local community organizations to major retailers — aimed at:

  • supporting people diagnosed with breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer
  • educating people about breast cancer risk factors
  • stressing the importance of regular screening, starting at age 40 or an age that’s appropriate for your personal breast cancer risk
  • fundraising for breast cancer research

The History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The event began in 1985 as a week-long awareness campaign by the American Cancer Society, in partnership with Imperial Chemical Industries. It eventually extended to a month-long event. In 1992, the pink ribbon came into play.

The original use of ribbons for specific causes dates back to 1979, when "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" inspired Penney Laingen — whose husband was a prisoner of war — to display yellow ribbons as a symbol of hope.

The breast cancer awareness ribbon almost wasn't pink; a grassroots effort by Charlotte Haley began with peach-colored loops. At the same time, Alexandra Penney, Self magazine's Editor-in-Chief, partnered with Evelyn Lauder, Estée Lauder's Senior Corporate Vice President and a breast cancer survivor, to distribute pink ribbons after the magazine’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue.

Because of the incredible reach of the magazine and Estée Lauder brand, pink triumphed over peach, and is now used by breast cancer organizations around the world.

Learn more about breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be a good reminder to learn more about breast cancer, the risk factors for you and those you love — and how to minimize them — and the importance of being screened for the disease.

Breast cancer awareness: Statistics

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women.
  • Black women are most likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group. Experts believe that it’s partially because about 1 in 5 Black women is diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, more than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

Breast cancer risk factors

Just being a woman and growing older are the two biggest risk factors for breast cancer. Those factors are difficult to change, but you can change other risk factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and not exercising regularly.

Breast cancer screening

Regular breast self-exams, an annual exam by your doctor, and yearly mammograms are important tools in breast cancer detection — especially early detection, when cancers may be more treatable.

Things to do this Breast Cancer Awareness Month

  • If you delayed your annual mammogram because of COVID-19, schedule your appointment now and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
  • Learn more about breast cancer and how it affects people’s lives from our podcast, videos, and medically reviewed educational content on Breastcancer.org.
  • Join our community discussion forums to ask questions or connect with others. You can also attend a virtual meetup for support related to your diagnosis or if you are a caretaker for someone who’s been diagnosed.
  • Support the work of breast cancer advocacy organizations, and consider making a donation to Breastcancer.org. Millions of people turn to Breastcancer.org to make sense of a breast cancer diagnosis. We’re here to help people understand complex medical decisions and get the best care possible. Donations are an essential part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our website content and community forums free for everyone.

This information is provided by Breastcancer.org.
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