These Boobs Were Made for Walkin’

It’s time to think pink! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and remember: Cancer is a word – not a sentence. As we continue to try to “save second base” (especially if you’re too sexy for your hair), know that cancer survivors are sexy!

Now, for some perspective on why breast cancer should be top of mind for everyone. In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new invasive breast cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in women. [1] Moreover, an estimated 42,170 women will die this year from breast cancer; that’s about 7% of all cancer deaths.

The National Cancer Institute projects that approximately 12.9% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. The rate of new female breast cancer cases is 128.5 per 100,000 women per year, and the death rate is 20.1 per 100,000 annually. In 2017, an estimated 3,577,264 women lived with breast cancer in the United States based on the most recent data.

Female breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed among women aged 55–64. The 5-year relative survival rate is 90%. The percent of female breast cancer deaths is highest among women aged 65–74.

So, yeah … using an entire month – which ends with the spookiest holiday of the year – is perfect timing to examine this scary cancer. But how did we get here?

Ribbon of hope

In October 1985, the first organized effort to bring breast cancer into the spotlight was spurred through a partnership between the pharmaceutical division of Great Britain’s Imperial Chemical Industries and the American Cancer Society. Among the notables who helped kick off the week-long event was former First Lady Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor.

Since then, the campaign has spread around the world. Efforts to increase awareness of the disease, educate people about prevention and early detection, and raise money to support research have extended to countries worldwide. Today, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and medical societies work together to promote breast cancer awareness.

The most recognizable symbol of the breast cancer awareness movement has become the pink ribbon. The Komen Race for the Cure logo featured an abstract female runner outlined with a pink ribbon and was used during the mid-1980s through the early 1990s. Today, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation continues to be the most recognizable name tied to the pink ribbon and breast cancer.

In 1992, Estée Lauder cosmetics launched a nation-wide campaign that featured a pink ribbon. An impressive 1.5 million pink ribbons were handed out and ushered in the premier visual reminder of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. More recently, the National Football League has become a preeminent supporter of the cause. Many players, coaches, and referees show their support on game day.

And a cottage industry has blossomed with snappy ta-tas-centric taglines on T-shirts:

  • Breast friends get screened together
  • Yes, my boobs are fake; my real ones tried to kill me
  • Thanks for the Mammories
  • Put Your Breast Foot Forward
  • Check your bumps for lumps

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance for all Americans to take time and acknowledge those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. So, as we welcome October, keep your life on track and be sure to check your rack. Ready, Set, Go Pink!

[1] Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html