Interview: Pink Ribbon Marks 20 Years & Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Breast Cancer with SELF Magazine’s Sara Austin

The iconic pink ribbon which has become the symbol of National Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, and the international symbol of breast cancer awareness in general is marking its 20th anniversary (this month), and many will be surprised to know it was co-created by SELF magazine and Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder. In the last 20 years since the pink ribbon made its debut, the breast cancer mortality rate has dropped to a new low of 30%, but there is still work to be done. SELF magazine’s Features Director Sara Austin joined me on Friday to talk about the 20th anniversary, new breast cancer findings, tips for lowering your risk of contracting the disease, and ways you can help support the cause when making purchases this month!


Candace Rose: With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, can you tell us about the 20th anniversary of the pink ribbon which was created by Self magazine?

Sara Austin: “Yes, it’s hard to believe, but it’s 20 years ago this month Self created the pink ribbon. It’s something not a lot of people know, but it’s something that we’re really proud of. We’re most excited to mark the huge amount of progress that’s been made in women’s health in those 20 years. The breast cancer mortality rate has dropped 30% and the five-year survival rate for breast cancer (when it’s caught in it’s earliest stage) is now 98%, so that is great.

We also want to keep the progress going and we’re celebrating in all different kinds of ways and spreading the message. We’ve got people spreading digital ribbons at our Facebook page and people are tweeting at us (on Twitter) @SELFmagazine with the hashtag live pink (#livepink) and they’re telling us the healthy habits that they’re working on everyday to help lower their risk and support the cause.”

Candace Rose: What can we do to lower our risk?

Sara Austin: “There’s so much science that we know now that we didn’t know 20 years ago. We know that if women can exercise a little more, eat vegetables, keep your weight in check, breastfeed when you can, and drink a little less – all of those are going to significantly lower your risk for breast cancer.”

Candace Rose: At what age should we start getting screened for breast cancer?

Sara Austin: “Well, before you’re 40 unless you’re at particularly high risk for some reason. You just want to know your body. You don’t even have to necessarily do self breast exams- they’re not proven to help; although they don’t harm you. But once you’re 40 you want to talk to your doctor about whether you want to start annual mammograms, and you definitely want to start them by the time you’re 50.”

Candace Rose: What else can we do to support the cause this month?

Sara Austin: “Well, there are some amazing charities and companies that are kicking in a contribution when you buy their products. We brought a few that we love! These are all Estee Lauder’s beauty brands. They are all doing special products this October to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. One of them is the Evelyn Lauder Dream pin, which honors Evelyn Lauder who was the co-founder of the pink ribbon with SELF, so love that. It’s $12.50 and 20% goes to BCRF.


We also love these pink running shoes by Aasics. They did these with Christina Applegate to benefit her charity Right Action for Women which supports women who have increased risk of breast cancer. They are $100 at And I love these because not only are you supporting the cause when you wear them, but if you use them and exercise, you’re also lowering your risk – so that’s living pink!”


Candace Rose: Can you tell us about SELF magazine’s award winning Cancer Handbook?

Sara Austin: “Absolutely, it’s a handbook that we’ve been doing for 20 years as well and this year we’re really focused on this prevention message. It’s not only about getting early detection and treatment (although those are critically important) it’s also about changing your habits 365 days a year, and doing all of those smart things that you want to do anyway like keeping your weight in check and eating your vegetables so that you can lower your risk as low as it can possibly go.”

Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?

Sara Austin: “Well, you can head to, there’s all kinds of good information about picking a charity and new prevention news, and lots more pink products that will help you kick back a little to the cause and you can buy something cool at the same time.”


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