October…It’s all about the “pink ribbon”



Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world and the most common cancer among women. 1 It was estimated to account for 1,105,000 cases and 373,000 deaths in women in 2000. 2

Scientists do not know what exactly causes breast cancer, but one thing they do know: there are a lot of risk factors that are linked to this disease. Family history, age, genetic, race, obesity, alcohol, unhealthy diet and many more factors that increase the chance to develop breast cancer. 3

There are some of the risk factors for breast cancer we can’t change, for example we cannot change our family history. But there are simple changes we can make in our lives to help us create a healthy lifestyle and control and prevent this disease. We need to create awareness to the public by campaigns and education and help raise knowledge about ways to prevent the risk.

Raising public awareness about breast cancer is the key and first step to help prevent this disease. With the help of appropriate policies and programs this can be done. World Health Organization (WHO) performs national cancer control programs to promote breast cancer awareness and take action in controlling it. 4

In the month of October we are reminded about how many people are fighting breast cancer and struggling to survive. During this month we see pink ribbons everywhere. This is so important that you can see the pink skylines in big cities in the world such as New York City, supporting this cause for raising awareness for breast cancer. The “pink ribbon” is a worldwide symbol for breast cancer. Before anything we need to know where this “pink ribbon” come from.

It all started in the early 1990’s. 68-year-old Charlotte Haley began making peach ribbons. Her daughter, sister and grandmother had breast cancer. She spent time making thousands of ribbons with massages saying how the National Cancer Institute allocates only 5 percent of its budget for breast cancer prevention where she believed it should be more. As her word spread through the public, many organizations asked permission to use this ribbon as a symbol for awareness. Haley thought it was too commercial so she refused to contribute. Therefore they decided to change the color to pink, and use that for raising awareness to the public. 5

Companies use this pink symbol to sell products. This strategy has had both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side this has been a way of supporting breast cancer research, which has resulted in a large amount of funds both by non-governmental and federal organizations.  In 2007, the Breast Cancer Research foundation awarded 32 million dollars for cancer research. Tis existence of symbol everywhere also is a reminder to the public especially women to obtain a more responsible perspective and undergo the process of screenings tests and mammograms, which can help prevent and control the disease. 5

While there have been positive impacts, we witness some negative outcomes we well.  When we see pink ribbon on all items, it can become less effective. Since the vision no longer catches what it is used to and can cause visual saturation towards it.  Research shows that the proportion of women undergoing screening and mammograms decreased from 69.7% in 2003 to 66.5% in 2005. This decrease is very eye opening and catches our attention of what we could be doing wrong. There are many factors that could contribute to this decline, but this research suggests that it may be the overwhelming pink symbol that has less effect on women these days. 5

There are both pros and cons in every action and every campaign. We have to continue to raise awareness and spread the word out the most effective way possible; supporting this cause to help the research move in the best direction. The Breast cancer research is a multi-billion dollar industry that spent 572.5 million dollars on breast cancer research in 2007. Over 30 federal agencies are funding breast cancer research. 6

October is the time of the year to think more about our loved ones and the people fighting this battle. Supporting the ones we may not even know, because we are all on the same globe aiming the same target. The beautiful soothing and comforting pink color supports this cause. We hope to see brightness and a comforting light as soothing and comforting as the color pink, in the eyes of those who are fighting cancer.



This blog post was inspired by:

1. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of cancer, Timothy J Key, Arthur Schatzkin, Walter C Willett, Naomi E Allen, Elizabeth A Spencer and Ruth C Travis

2.International Journal of Cancer. Parkin DM, Bray F, Ferlay J, Pisani P. Estimating the world cancer burden: Globocan 2000.

3. What are the risk factors of breast cancer? October 2013. www.cancer.org

4. Breast cancer: prevention and control. www.who.int

5. The Power of Pink: Cause-Related Marketing and the Impact on Breast Cancer. Jennifer A. Harvey, MDa, Michal A. Strahilevitz, PhD. 2009.

6. Funding for breast cancer research. www.bcaction.org





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