Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 25 years of the pink ribbon campaign

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we outline how awareness and treatments have come a long way since the pink ribbon campaign came into being 25 years ago

The pink ribbon marking its 25th year as an international symbol of solidarity of those suffering from breast cancer

EVERY 10 minutes in the UK, somebody is diagnosed with breast cancer, which is why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important. While survival rates have significantly improved (in fact, survival rates have doubled over the past 40 years), the disease still results in around 11,400 deaths a year, and even if treatment is successful, it can have a huge and ongoing impact on people's lives.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the pink ribbon, now an international symbol of breast cancer awareness adopted by many charities across the world. Wearing pink or a pink ribbon, especially during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an expression solidarity with women who have breast cancer.

As Breast Cancer Care – the first UK charity to adopt the symbol – notes, 25 years ago, breast cancer was a taboo topic and rarely talked about openly. Here the charity outlines some of the most important points during the past 25 years of breast cancer campaigning:

1992 – US businesswoman and philanthropist Evelyn Lauder initiated the pink ribbon as the symbol of breast cancer in the United States.

1994 – The Breast Care and Mastectomy Association was renamed Breast Cancer Care. The charity's chief executive, Samia al Qadhi, met with Evelyn in America. Breast Cancer Care brought the pink ribbon to the UK, providing a much-needed shortcut to talking about breast cancer. Breast Cancer Care launched the UK's first Breast Cancer Awareness Month, putting breast cancer and the pink ribbon firmly on the map.

1994 – Nationwide started to sponsor Breast Cancer Care's Helpline, which meant it became a Freephone number and the first breast care nurse was employed on the helpline.

1997 – Cherie Booth QC became Patron of Breast Cancer Care and hosted a reception at 10 Downing Street in honour of Breast Cancer Care.

1997 – 33,100 people were diagnosed with breast cancer.

1998 – It's 10 years since the NHS breast cancer screening programme was introduced in 1988, and at this point, it's estimated the programme is directly responsible for about a third of the reduction in breast cancer deaths since 1990.

2005 – Kylie Minogue went public with her breast cancer diagnosis after she was diagnosed aged 36, catapulting breast cancer discussions into the mainstream.

2005 – The first ever Pink Ribbonwalk took place.

2005 – The Big Pink fundraising initiative was launched; fundraisers are provided with ideas and games for a pink night-in, bake sale at work, or event in the community.

2010 – Breast Cancer Care launched the first UK-wide Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13, raising the profile of people living with incurable secondary breast cancer.

2013 – Angelina Jolie announced she had a risk-reducing double mastectomy after discovering she had the faulty BRCA1 gene.

2017 – 62,000 people were diagnosed with breast cancer. An estimated 691,000 are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer. This is predicted to rise to 840,000 in 2020.

:: To mark the 25th anniversary of the Pink Ribbon, Breast Cancer Care are calling on people to hold a Big Pink to raise awareness and funds to help the charity support families facing breast cancer. Get your free kit at

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