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How The Pink Ribbon Become A Symbol For Breast Cancer Awareness

The pink ribbon is the rock star of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. We see the graphic splashed on magazines and pink loops pinned on runners, politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities. A powerful reminder of the search for a cure to breast cancer, do you know the history of the pink ribbon?

Ribbons As A Symbol

Using a ribbon to send a message dates back to the 19th century when women pinned a yellow ribbon on clothing to remember loved ones in the military. In 1973, Dawn’s hit, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree,” inspired people to wrap trees with yellow ribbon as a gesture of support for loved ones. This practice became popular when people used yellow ribbons for family members during the Iran hostage crisis.


At the end of the 1980’s and early 90’s, activists and non-profit organizations used a red ribbon to raise awareness for people suffering from AIDS.

Running With The Ribbon

Since Susan G. Komen For the Cure was launched in 1982, the organization has used the color pink. The first logo included an abstract image of a woman with a pink ribbon.

While initially participants were given a black and white ribbon at early Race for the Cure events, the organization transitioned to using pink to support their survivor program.

Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle

In 1992, Alexandra Penney, editor for Self Magazineand breast cancer survivor and VP of cosmetic line Estée Lauder, Evelyn Lauder, devoted an issue to breast cancer awareness, choosing the pink ribbon as their symbol. The Estée Lauder Company gave customers an estimated 1.5 million pink ribbons accompanied by postcards with instructions for breast self-exams. The pink ribbon took off!

What The Pink Ribbon Means Today

Today the pink ribbon represents vitality, awareness of the disease, and the power of women.

Tiffany Trojca

As the image pervades our culture, it will continue to encourage women to seek early detection, support breast cancer research, and connect with survivors.

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