Every Oct. 1, Tokyo Tower is illuminated in a warm pink light to commemorate the beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

As the second-most common type of cancer among women after skin cancer, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.

Unlike other developed countries that have seen a decrease in the rate of breast cancer, the incidence of the disease in Japan is among the highest in the world. Moreover, in sharp contrast to the West, lack of awareness in Japan discourages women from getting regular mammography screenings that can spot breast cancer before it is too late. In fact, this single most effective tool for detecting breast cancer early is not even covered by Japanese health insurance.

One organization determined to change this is the Run for the Cure Foundation. Based in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, the foundation is dedicated to increasing breast-cancer awareness and making screening tests more accessible to everyone. The organization currently raises money to fund breast-cancer education and awareness programs throughout Japan, and to donate mammography machines to rural screening centers, train technicians and fund screenings for medically underserved women.

The foundation is holding its annual Run for the Cure/Walk for Life on Oct. 18, comprising a fun 5-km walk or a 5- or 10-km run around the Imperial Palace.

To register for the race, visit www.runforthecure.org , where you can sign up to run as an individual, family, company or team. Once registered, you can send invitations to sponsors and help raise money for the event. This year, participants will each receive a pink band and a T-shirt created by famed Japanese fashion designer, Junko Koshino.

If you feel that the 5-km walk is too much of a challenge for you, you can still participate by cheering on runners and buying raffle tickets for a draw being held on the day of the run. Prizes include a trip for two to Saipan with a 3-night, 4-day stay at the Pacific Islands Club and a chance to participate in the Saipan marathon, among others. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the registration site in Hibiya on the day of the run.

And remember: It is vital for women and their loved ones to remember the importance of periodic screening, as breast cancer, if detected early, is almost 100 percent curable.

Special thanks to Being A Broad magazine for providing information featured in this article.

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