October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month or NBCAM. During the month of October, charities raise awareness in order to increase funding for research to combat the horrible disease. The campaign is also used to help remind people that it’s very important to get checked for breast cancer, especially if the disease runs in your family.
NBCAM was founded in 1985 in October as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer (“About Us”. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month).
A variety of events around the world are organized in October, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings. In the United States, the National Football League promotes breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink on and off the field, and comic strip artists use pink on one day in October.
Sometimes referred to as National Breast Cancer Industry Month, critics of NBCAM point to a conflict of interest between corporations sponsoring breast cancer awareness while profiting from diagnosis and treatment. The breast cancer advocacy organization, Breast Cancer Action, has said repeatedly in newsletters and other information sources that October has become a public relations campaign that avoids discussion of the causes and prevention of breast cancer and instead focuses on “awareness” as a way to encourage women to get their mammograms. The term pinkwashing has been used by Breast Cancer Action to describe the actions of companies which manufacture and use chemicals which show a link with breast cancer and at the same time publicly support charities focused on curing the disease (Focus on Pinkwashers, Breast Cancer Action’s think before you pink campaign site).
Almost everyone has a loved one that has been impacted by cancer. It’s important to educate yourself as well as others in your life about the disease. Early detection and support for others go a long way in fighting and ultimately defeating breast cancer.