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Breast Cancer Awareness Month History

written by: Daniel Barros • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/12/2010

Ever wonder how BCAM or NBCAM came to exist? Here we discuss the history of breast cancer awareness month. Detailing how the month of October became branded "Breast Cancer Awareness Month".

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    The History of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    We have recognition for several different groups - Black History Month, Latino History Week, and now Breast Cancer Awareness month. I myself wasn't even aware that there was a Breast Cancer Awareness Month until I first got to college. BCAM is a relatively new recognized month. Let's look at how this came about.

    First, this all started back in 1985 - with the corporate idealism of a little pharmaceutical company (you may know them) called AstraZeneca. They decided that in conjunction with their production of breast cancer medication, that they would also promote Breast Cancer Awareness, as a mammography can detect early breast cancer and provide a preventative treatment using specialized drugs. The idea soon took off and BCAM was created.

    However, it was soon after that the "pink ribbon" idea was incorporated. Evelyn Lauder (of Estee Lauder fame) first pioneered the idea in 1993 and in no time at all, the iconic "pink ribbon" came to symbolize breast cancer and the fight against it. Some say though, that the Susan Komen foundation was the first one to hand out the ribbon in 1991.

    With the ribbon came the advent of sponsored events for the month and several different corporations started donating mass amounts of money towards the cause, some even having a "Pink day" for their employees to come dressed in pink to promote BCAM.

    With any good intention, there is always a shadow that hangs over the whole event. There is a moderately sized opinion (which includes myself) that these companies aren't donating as much money as they should be. Sales of the pink ribbon items are significantly high, and the foundations that should see a large amount of that money actually do not. To make sure that you're not being swindled when purchasing a BCAM item, make sure to check the tag, or confirm on the internet how much of the proceeds are going towards charity.

    The other item of interest involves the term "Pinkwashing", which constitutes one of the most hypocritical things I've ever read up on. Pinkwashing literally refers to a corporate sponsor of BCAM who produces chemicals linked to BC - in this manner, with their right hand they're causing the problem, and with their left, they're solving it (to put it into an analogy).

    Other critics claim that BCAM is not entirely about all the sorts of factors that influence breast cancer. Specifically, the environmental factors that influence the disease all but go unchecked by the foundations that are a part of BCAM. Environmental factors have been proven to contribute significantly to the development of breast cancer, and while mammographies can detect early conditions of breast cancer, environmental factors are major contributors as well and need time and energy to be understood.

    Breast Cancer is a complicated disease, and as such, events like BCAM are helping to solve the problem once and for all.