The Movement Begins
In 1982, Nancy Brinker established the Susan G. Komen Foundation and held its first “Race for the Cure” run in Dallas, Texas with 800 participants (http://www.komen-dallas.org/site/PageServer?pagename=who_affiliate_history). In October 1985, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month organization held a weeklong conference to openly discussed breast cancer. The founding members of the Boards of Sponsors were the American Academy of Physicians; CancerCare, Inc.; and AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation. This campaign, presented to members of a US Congressional Committee and to the press, highlighted the crucial need for widespread access to mammography. AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company, manufactures several breast cancer treatment drugs. Since this first engagement, October has been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (http://www.nbcam.org).
Following the formation of this awareness program, some individuals and organizations began to question the involvement of a pharmaceutical company in these prevention and awareness efforts. Formed in 1990, San Francisco’s Breast Cancer Action began to draw attention to perceived conflicts of interest and the need to examine other factors, such as environmental pollutants, as contributing causes of the disease. Calling itself the “watchdog of the breast cancer movement,” Breast Cancer Action determined its three priority areas: “to advocate for more effective and less toxic breast cancer treatments by shifting the balance of power in the FDA’s drug approval process away from pharmaceutical industry and towards public interest, to decrease involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer, and to create awareness that it is not just genes, but social injustices – political, economic, and racial inequities – that lead to disparities in breast cancer outcomes” (http://bcaction.org).
In 1993, Evelyn Lauder created the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (http://www.bcrfcure.org) after she raised of more than $18 million for the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering ( http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/658.cfm). The center (opened in 1992) is the first to provide comprehensive breast cancer prevention, diagnostics, treatments, and support services all in one location. The facility was designed utilizing natural light, warm uplifting natural tones highlighted with original artwork throughout the 20 private chemotherapy treatment suites, waiting rooms, and therapy areas. This design concept is intended to make the patient experience less daunting and to enhance interaction between patients and their care team, thus empowering patients to become active partners in their own care.
The Creation of the Pink Ribbon
In June of 1990, the Komen Foundation handed out pink visors to its survivor participants at the Washington, DC race. The following year, New York City Race for the Cure handed out pink ribbons to honor the breast cancer survivors who attended the fundraising event. In 1992, Self Magazine and the Estee Lauder Company collaborated to create a marketing campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer the magazine’s October issue titled, 2nd Annual National Breast Cancer. Alexandra Penney, editor in chief of Self Magazine, offered Evelyn Lauder a guest editor role for the special issue.
To strengthen the campaign, Self and Estee Lauder Company enlisted the help of Charlotte Hayley (who battled breast cancer), who independently produced and sold peach colored ribbons in an effort to encourage legislators to support funding for the disease. Each set of five ribbons she made came with a card stating, “Since the National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 Billion, only 5% goes to cancer prevention. Help us wake up legislators by wearing this ribbon.”
Ms. Hayley informed the group that their idea was too commercial for her, so the ribbon color was altered to pink. The campaign mission was to garner signatures from women to demand additional federal funds and to present these women with pink ribbons in support. The campaign was a huge success and the group garnered 250,000 signatures. The petition was presented to then First Lady, Hilary Rodham Clinton (http://www.bcrfcure.org/about_history.html) with the intent to secure increased federal funding for breast cancer research. Since this national campaign, the pink ribbon symbolizes the breast cancer awareness movement and many organizations now utilize this symbol in their marketing efforts supporting breast cancer research.
With all this financial support, where does all the money raised by all these companies now go? The “Think Before You Pink” campaign targets this exact question.