Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp

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Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp


By: Tim Johnson

Date: June 17, 1996

Source: The Associated Press

About the Photographer: Tim Johnson is a regular contributor of photography to the Associated Press, a worldwide news agency based in New York.


Breast cancer is the number one killer of women between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four in the United States. At least three million women in the United States are living with breast cancer. Of those, one million women have yet to be diagnosed with the disease. One in seven women will get breast cancer within her lifetime, and every two minutes, a woman is diagnosed with the disease. In 2005, an estimated 212,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed and 58,000 cases of non-invasive cancer were diagnosed. The disease claims the life of a woman in the United States every thirteen minutes and an estimated 40,000 women died from the disease in 2005. Early detection of the disease and early treatment are the only known factors in increasing a woman's survival rate.

In 1993, veteran postal worker Diane Sackett Nannery was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had spent the last fourteen years working in the Long Island Diversity Development Unit in the Hauppauge district office. Nannery began to use her position within the postal service to become the "stamp lady." She sent letters to newspapers and women's groups and organized petitions for the creation of a stamp regarding breast cancer awareness. With the assistance of former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Nannery's goal for the creation of a stamp became a reality. For decades, the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee had issued stamps on various health related issues. On June 15, 1996, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued 100 million breast cancer awareness stamps. The stamp was to serve as the centerpiece for a national campaign launched with the National Cancer Institute to stress the importance of early detection and treatment of breast cancer. The USPS, National Cancer Institute, and Breast Cancer groups participated in a public service campaign intended to educate women about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. In addition, the stamp was issued in conjunction with the 1996 running of the Susan G. Komen Foundation National Run for the Cure five kilometer run/walk.

The thirty-two cent stamp, designed by Tom Mann, depicts the silhouette of a woman, intended to capture the personal and emotional trauma brought on by the disease. A pink ribbon rests over the woman's shoulder, signifying survival.



See primary source image.


Two years after the USPS issued the Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp, a new breast cancer stamp was unveiled. On July 29, 1998, the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp was issued at a White House ceremony. Semipostal stamps have been issued in France and Germany prior to World War I (1915–1918) and in Finland to benefit the Red Cross. However, this semipostal, or fundraising stamp, was the first of its kind issued in the United States. The stamp is priced twenty-five percent above the value of a first class stamp with the surplus revenues generated by its sale allocated to breast cancer research. Seventy percent of the proceeds are given to the National Institute of Health and the remaining thirty percent are given to the Department of Defense Army research project. The original legislation, authored by Senator Diane Feinstein of California, specifies that the federal government cannot reduce appropriations to the organizations in the amount of the raised funds.

In 2005, at the seventh anniversary of the stamps issue Senator Feinstein introduced legislation to reauthorize the stamps issue and continue the fundraising generated from its sale. By the end of 2005, over 678 million Breast Cancer Awareness semipostal stamps had been sold, resulting in $47.9 million raised for breast cancer research. The General Accounting Office also reported that the stamp was an effective fundraiser. As a result, the legislation passed to continue its sales.

The forty-five cent stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler, a breast cancer survivor. It features the phrases,"Fund the Fight" and "Find a Cure." The stamp has an illustration by Whitney Sherman of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. Diana serves as a symbol of strength and independence who overcomes adversity. The goddess is reaching for an arrow, meant to signify the targeting of the disease. The placement of the arm is also a reminder for self-examinations. The background is a kaleidoscope of color meant to represent the spectrum of those affected by the disease.

In January 2005, the stamp reached international audiences when the Hungarian post office issued a surcharged stamp in the likeness of the U.S. Breast Cancer Stamp. The Hungarian stamp, called "Fight against breast cancer," benefits the Hungarian National Oncology Institute.



Josefah, Lisa. "Advertising and Marketing Briefs." Long Island Business News. (June 18, 1996) 43, 24.

Web sites

Ascribe: The Public Interest Newswire. "WIN Against Breast Cancer celebrates anniversary of historic Breast Cancer Research Stamp." 〈〉 (accessed March 21, 2006).

Senator Diane Feinstein. "Breast Cancer Research Stamp." 〈∼feinstein/breast_cancer_stamp.html〉 (accessed March 21, 2006).

United States Postal Service. "Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp." 〈〉 (accessed March 21, 2006).