Why the Color Pink for Breast Cancer

Roslyn Lifestyle breast cancer awareness, pink, pink ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Month

It’s pink for breast cancer.  The pink ribbon is everywhere. It’s synonymous with breast cancer awareness. And every year I wonder how and why it was that a pink ribbon became the symbol for the fight against breast cancer. This year I decided to delve.

For some of us, when we hear the word pink, some expressions come to mind: pretty in pink, pink is so girly or in the pink.

Agreed – pink is uniquely feminine in our society today, and often represents a person full of health and vibrancy. It seems to be an indicator for renewed health and survival.

So no surprise pink would become a symbol for breast cancer awareness. I wanted to be sure that these were the reasons pink was chosen to be the breast cancer awareness color.

As I researched for more information I was surprised to learn there really is a story to using pink and designating a pink ribbon as a symbol.

Using colored ribbons as symbols for different causes was not new

We had red for AIDS, and yellow to show support for Armed forces. Both these symbols had been around and gained popularity. In fact, the New York Times named 1992 the year of the ribbon.

Just a refresher on that story: In 1979, Penny Laingen, wife of a hostage taken in Iran, was inspired by the song to tie yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard. The ribbons signaled her desire to see her husband home again and the yellow ribbon became a message, springing up across the country in solidarity. That was step one.

Step two occurred 11 years later, when AIDS activists looked at the yellow ribbons that had become resurrected for soldiers fighting the Gulf War and turned a ribbon bright red, for people dying of AIDS.


breast-cancer-ribbon-2

The groundwork was laid for a ribbon. The story about the pink ribbon is lengthy and not without some controversy, so I’ll do my best to give you the essence of it.

The way it goes is, the ribbon color could have/should have been peach. What?

The presence of a pink ribbon already existed when the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation gave out pink ribbons to every participant in the 1991 fall race. But it hadn’t become a national symbol.

It needed something bigger. In 1991  Self magazine (doing its first October edition for breast cancer awareness) collaborated on the edition with Estee’ Lauder’s senior corporate vice president (a breast cancer survivor). It was a hit. And then, for the 1992 edition, the Self magazine editor in chief, Alexander Penny had a flash – she would create a special ribbon and enlist the cosmetics giant to distribute it in NYC stores.

Evelyn Lauder promised to put the ribbon on cosmetics counters across the country.

What happened one week later?

Penney, heard about a woman named Charlotte Haley, a 68 year old woman who had battled breast cancer and lost family members to the disease, and was promoting a peach-colored ribbon for breast cancer.

By the time Self magazine called Charlotte Haley, thousands of peach colored ribbons were in circulation. Charlotte did not want to team up with anyone – she said it would be too commercial.

So they asked their lawyers what to do and they said, “Come up with another color”.  So they chose pink.

“Pink is the quintessential female color”

This was said by Margaret Welch, director of the Color Association of the United States. “The profile on pink is playful, life -affirming. We have studies as to its calming effect, its lessening of stress….You can’t say a bad thing about it.”

Pink is, in other words, the antithesis of cancer.

Over the years the pink ribbon has popped up everywhere: t shirts, chocolate covered kisses, wreaths, signs, nails and many more. How could I end a blog post about a color (and an important one at that) without a collage?

Breast cancer awareness collage

In the spirit of Breast Cancer Month

Too many women lose their lives far too soon to Breast Cancer. Early detection saves lives. It’s time for us all to make sure that we are breast aware and that our daughters are too.

Being breast aware simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like so that you can examine them on a monthly basis to make sure there’s nothing untoward and if there is making sure we address it with our doctors as soon as possible. If you find anything out of the ordinary get it checked.

Here’s a handy FREE app for Android and iPhone to help you if you don’t know how to check yourself ibreastcheck.

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Roslyn
I loved going to work each day for 30 years as a professional career counselor. When I retired, I explored my creativity and regard for crafts until I discovered beading. At age 68 I turned my new found passion- jewelry design, into a business. At age 72 I took on learning about social media marketing and developing my computer skills. I am sharing my journey from inception, to frustration, to elation -in the hope of inspiring others that 'it is not too late to start again'. Welcome to my re-invention!

Comments 34

  1. We have had cancer affect members of our family. My wife has just undergone screening and we are waiting for the results. Thanks for your great blog and reminder of the importance of breast cancer awareness..

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  2. Thanks for sharing how the pink ribbon came about for breast cancer. Very interesting post. I agree pink represents femininity in a profound way. What a great cause for pink to represent. So many women are dealing with cancer and deserve out deepest respect.

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  3. Thank you for sharing such relevant and vital information, Roslyn. Early detection saves lives and raising awareness is key. I never knew the origin of the ribbon! It is interesting that pink demonstrates calming effects, which is vital for those undergoing treatment or even in effort to prevent cancer altogether.

    Love the collage, too!

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  4. Oh my goodness…I kind of always “assumed” it had to do with it being a “female” color, which made sense. This story makes it so much more personal and makes it stand out so much more by knowing how it evolved and what it means. Thanks oodles for doing that research and bringing light to an important cause!

    Laugh lots, Love more!
    MamaRed

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  5. WOW! I had no idea about this. I (erroneously) assumed pink had been chosen because pink is a “girly” color. I’m so glad you posted this! Next year I’m going to do even more for breast cancer awareness. Maybe I’ll ask if I can borrow some of this from you, OK?

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  6. Such a great honor.. to those who are survivors or who we have lost in the battle. You are right… I LOVE pink! It just seems weird to have been peach. Funny thing, they have these ribbons for tons of things.. autism and more. wow!

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  7. This was really interesting to understand the history behind why pink was chosen. Like so many I thought it was simply because “pink” is a girl color and breast cancer is usually associated with women (although men get it too). I work with the military so I have a strong history of the yellow ribbon campaign and it is important to understand the history behind the symbols.

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  8. This is a wonderful tribute to the pink ribbon for breast cancer month, Roslyn. When I think of pink I think of rose quartz which also represents an opening of the heart and is considered the heart stone. Thanks for sharing the story about how the pink ribbon came about and I definitely remember both the yellow ribbon campaigns and the red ribbon campaign which continues on today with many corporations using that colour to signify their support for the aids movement. Enjoyed reading the piece a lot!

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  9. It was great learning a bit more about the color pink and breast cancer. Pink is a favorite color of mine. I have been dying to use it in a room decor. Clients are usually hesitant. I can see it in some great look Earth and Moon jewelry

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  10. What an interesting story! I rejected the awareness for breast cancer for years because of the way it was commercialized and because I knew there were ways of addressing cancer in a more natural way rather than cutting, poisoning and burning. It seemed to me that big pharma and the medical field was making too much money with those 3 methods. They were not open to using any type of preventative options other than cancer causing monograms. They were not open to using or combining any form of natural means in prevention or treatment. That is getting somewhat better now but still not totally there. I still have some conflicting emotions about it but now know people like my own mother who has used a combo of our top of the line nutritional supplements and medicine to fight her stage 4 lung cancer. Now my brother has done so with prostate/bladder cancer. I currently have an aunt and a very good friend who are battling breast cancer right now. Thank you for giving me this story. I shared it on my personal FB wall and my biz FB page.

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      Pat Moon, I so understand your reaction which is why Charlotte Haley refused to work with Revlon and Vogue. Because I have a dear froend who does the yearly Avon 30 mile walkathon, I had to give up my objection, in order to support her. Often we have mixed reactions to causes that have gone viral.

  11. Thanks Roz for sharing this great story about the Pink Ribbon! I was unaware of how the Pink Ribbon became the symbol of Breast Cancer! I have had a few different people in my life that has had breast cancer. My Ex Mother in law was diagnosed with a lump a few years ago that was cancer. She got the treatments and is doing wonderful now. A few days ago a Very dear friend of mine contacted me to let me know a friend of ours had a double mastectomy. So we are Praying for her recovery! Cancer is such a scary disease and hopefully one day they will figure out how to treat it better. Sometimes it is miss diagnosed, when it is finally detected it’s to late. I know someone right now that was not feeling well last October and it took them 9 months before they realized it was cancer and now she only has 2 months to live. There is nothing they can do for her now. I feel for her and her family. What a shock for all of them!

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      Sorry to hear Barbara of the how much breast cancer has touched your life. I will say what always bothered me is that I can’t believe with all the time, money and research they don’t have a better handle on it.

  12. Lovely post in support of such an important cause. My heart breaks when I hear of someone dealing with this disease. Luckily I know more survivors than loved ones lost. And thank you for the interesting info on the ribbons. I love your blog for learning new stuff! It’s awesome!

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