Mary Allison: Battle to stop cancer continues 20 years on

MODELS mark 20 years since fashion world began campaign which has raised £14m for research, writes Mary Allison

Naomi Campbell is just one of the celebrities who have helped raise awareness and funds for vital breast cancer research. Picture: Mario Testino
Naomi Campbell is just one of the celebrities who have helped raise awareness and funds for vital breast cancer research. Picture: Mario Testino

Fashions come and go. But one thing hasn’t changed for the last 20 years - the fashion world’s commitment to stopping deaths from breast cancer.

This month, with the help of Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, Breast Cancer Now celebrated two decades of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. Twenty years ago we joined forces with Ralph Lauren to unite the world of fashion with breast cancer research. He set up the campaign following the loss of his good friend to the disease.

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Over the years the campaign has seen huge names like Kylie Minogue, Twiggy, Claudia Schiffer and Mario Testino raise awareness and funds for vital breast cancer research. And with the amazing support of the UK public the campaign has raised more than £14 million.

Through Fashion Targets Breast Cancer we are linking the catwalk with cutting edge breast cancer research. That £14 million, along with the millions our incredible supporters have raised over the years, allows us to fund the best research and brightest minds to try and stop women dying from breast cancer by 2050. Thanks to the contribution that campaigns like Fashion Targets Breast Cancer make, we’ve been able to fund one of the world’s largest studies into the causes of the disease. Our Generations Study is investigating women’s risk of developing breast cancer across generations of women of all different ages. It aims to determine whether genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors play a role in developing the disease.

The Generations Study has already given us unprecedented insight into the causes of breast cancer. It has reported important results on the age women go through menarche (age of first period) and menopause, which can both slightly alter a woman’s risk of the disease. It is results like these that hopefully explain why breast cancer incidence continues to rise.

An important part of our research also focuses on giving women the best treatment possible. The Breast Cancer Now Research Centre houses more than 130 of the world’s leading scientists and clinicians. Since this centre opened, we have seen it make many significant discoveries. The research we fund has contributed to the discovery of a new targeted treatment and helped improve the way that doctors diagnose patients.

As well as investigating the best treatment options for women, scientists funded by Breast Cancer Now are working hard to try to stop breast cancer developing in the first place. The Breast Cancer Tissue Bank is the UK’s largest unique collection of almost 37,000 high-quality breast tissue, breast cells and blood samples from male and female breast cancer patients. These samples give scientists the chance to get as close to the disease as possible – so they can find the cures for breast cancer. By consistently collecting and storing breast cancer samples, and giving scientists across the UK and Europe access to the tissue they need, we can make results more reliable and bring greater benefits to people, faster.

But, sadly, despite all of this brilliant research and remarkable developments, breast cancer is not a done deal. Mothers, daughters, friends and family members are still being diagnosed with this disease in ever increasing numbers. This year in Scotland, around 4,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and around 1,000 will lose their lives. That’s why it’s important that we continue to fund the best research. It’s hard to believe that simply buying that Fashion Targets Breast Cancer T-shirt or bracelet can help that much but this is what powers breakthroughs in breast cancer research. And this is what will lead us to the day when no-one will die from this heart-breaking disease.


• Mary Allison, Director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now

2016 Photography: © Mario Testino for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer