The breast cancer ribbon

November 12, 2012

The breast cancer ribbon

Over the past 19 years, since it was first used the breast cancer ribbon has come to be recognized symbol of breast cancer causes and awareness but how did it come about?

The use of ribbons

Ribbons have long been used as symbolic devices and are often used in memory of someone or something. Yellow ribbons represent and remind us of soldiers as well as hostages whom we continue to wait for and hope will return home safely. Red ribbons are used to represent awareness for HIV/AIDS. Black ribbons are used for such things as melanoma, death and when in mourning. Silver represents aging and lavender can be used to represent any form of cancer. The pink ribbon is the breast cancer ribbon. The colour pink has a number of meaning and messages that it communicates. It can mean youth, peace, femininity, a sense of calm and health. While this colour seems to be a great choice for the breast cancer ribbon, curiously it was not the colour first used.

History of the breast cancer ribbon

In 1992 Charlotte Haley, a breast cancer survivor, created the original breast cancer ribbon. As well as Ms Haley, there were another four generations of women in her family whom had also battled with the disease. She created the symbolic loops one day at her kitchen table using peach coloured ribbon and began to personally distribute them. She asked people to wear them as a way of calling the attention of legislators who at the time were only using 5% of The National Cancer Institute Annual Budget of $1.8 billion to develop and research cancer prevention.

In the same year the Editor in Chief of Self, Alexandra Penney teamed up with breast cancer survivor and vice president of Estee Lauder to create and distribute the pink breast cancer ribbon. Along with 1.5 million ribbons women were given a breast self exam card in return received 200,000 petitions addressed to the White House calling for an increase in funding for breast cancer research.

Although the pink breast cancer ribbon has now replaced the peach coloured ribbon, the work done by Charlotte Haley represents a pivotal point in the awareness of breast cancer and produced a reaction from corporation and legislators responsible for the significant increase in the funding of breast cancer research to what it is today. It is thought that it is now in the hundreds of millions. Evelyn Lauder as well as being responsible for the pink breast cancer ribbon also helped to set up the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which plays an important role in funding research and public awareness of breast cancer.

The latest twist is the pink and blue breast cancer ribbon, which represents the disease in men and is intended to raise awareness of breast cancer in males.

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