National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) originated in October 1985 when the American Cancer Society (ACS) partnered with the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, now part of AstraZeneca, to sponsor a weeklong event. Today, the ACS is only one of many public and private organizations that help sponsor NBCAM programs in the United States, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is now observed worldwide.
The first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was held in Dallas, Texas, in 1983 with 800 participants. By 2002, races were being held in more than 100 US cities and 2 foreign countries, with more than 1.3 million participants. In 2014, plans include over 150 races worldwide. Events are planned for the Bahamas, Belgium, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Tanzania. Recognizing that breast cancer is a global disease that requires local solutions based on differences in cultures, healthcare systems, and economic conditions, International Komen Race for the Cure events are unique in each country.1
Some aspects of the US approach to breast cancer have had global influence. The first support program for breast cancer patients, Reach to Recovery, was founded in 1952 by Terese Lasser, became an official program of the ACS in 1969, and was adopted in Europe in 1974.2 Traditionally, physicians in Poland opposed patient involvement, but Zbigniew Wronkowski, MD, and Krystyna Mika, PhD, at the Centre of Oncology in Warsaw started a small (only 3 women!) support group focused on rehabilitation. Not until the mid 1990s, however, did Polish physicians begin to accept the patient-to-patient support model.2 Breast cancer survivors became known as “Amazons,” and in 1993, the Polish Federation of Breast Cancer Support Groups—Amazons was organized. By 2010 there were more than 200 Amazon groups with over 15,000 members.3
In Australia, the Pink Lady icon is a symbol for breast cancer awareness. Last October, Breast Cancer Network Australia organized the presentation of a Tribute Field of Women, for which 15,000 Pink Lady silhouettes, representing the estimated 15,000 Australian women who would be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, were placed in Bennelong Lawn in the Royal Botanic Gardens, near the Sydney Opera House.4
In 1992, Evelyn H. Lauder, then Senior Corporate Vice President, launched the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign. In 2000, the “Global Landmarks Illumination Initiative” was created. Since then, historic landmarks around the world have been illuminated with pink lights annually in October. In 2010, the BCA Campaign illuminated 38 global sites, including the Taj Mahal, the Tokyo Tower, the Hotel Majestic in France, and the Empire State Building in New York City.5