October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

History of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Second to Nature Honors the American Cancer Society’s NBCAM Legacy

This month, we’re explaining October as breast cancer awareness month for the latest Second to Nature blog. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) campaigns focus on increasing awareness and fundraising for research to find a cure. The American Cancer Society encourages awareness by promoting mammography and self-examinations. For most of the time October has served as NBCAM, the symbol has been a pink ribbon.


It Began in October 1985 with an American Cancer Society Campaign

In October 1985, the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries’ pharmaceutical division founded NBCAM. The American Cancer Society’s goal was to promote awareness and mammography. Today, fundraisers held during NBCAM benefit the American Cancer Society’s research efforts. In 1991, the Susan B. Komen Foundation distributed pink ribbons to participants in an October breast cancer survivors’ fundraising race.


Why the Susan B. Komen Foundation Got Involved with NBCAM

Former First Lady Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor, helped launch the 1985 American Cancer Society campaign. In the late 1970s, Mrs. Ford’s survival story had inspired Susan B. Komen during her own breast cancer journey. Though Susan passed away before October 1985, the Susan B. Komen Foundation honored her legacy by participating in NBCAM campaigns.


NBCAM Uses the Pink Ribbon to Promote Mammography and Awareness

The most recognizable way that most people observe NBCAM is by wearing pink ribbons and clothing during October. According to the American Cancer Society website, “people wear pink ribbons to honor survivors …” They also wear pink ribbons to honor the memory of those who lost their cancer battles. Pink ribbons also show support for the progress the American Cancer Society’s progress is making to permanently end breast cancer. One way that pink ribbons show support for this progress is promoting mammography awareness.


Why Does the American Cancer Society Push Mammography During NBCAM?

As we shared in our October 2021 blog, mammography has contributed to reducing breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by almost 40 percent since 1990. The Centers for Disease Control says mammography is the best way “doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years” before patients feel it.  Mammography is stressed during NBCAM to encourage early detection.


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