What Do the Different Cancer Ribbon Colors Mean?

The most common cancer ribbon colors are pink for breast cancer, gray for brain cancer and lavender for general cancer. Other ribbon colors include dark blue for colon cancer, orange for kidney cancer and white for lung cancer.

The ribbon’s usage as a symbol probably started in 1979, when Penney Laingen led a movement to tie yellow ribbons around trees in response to the Iran hostage crisis. In 1990, bright red ribbons were first used to represent the AIDS awareness movement. Finally, in 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation started issuing pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. While pink was initially chosen only to avoid similarity with another breast cancer activist’s peach-colored ribbons, the color pink was later justified by explaining that the color is quintessentially female.

Once the pink ribbon became a national icon, organizations that work to raise awareness of other cancers adopted the idea, choosing different colors for different types of cancer. Most ribbons are single-colored like the breast cancer ribbon. Amber ribbons for appendix cancer, bright green ribbons for gallbladder cancer and light blue ribbons for prostate cancer are examples of this. Other ribbons, usually representing cancers that aren’t common, are multicolored. For example, zebra-striped ribbons represent carcinoid cancer. Cervical cancer is represented by ribbons that are half teal and half white. Thyroid cancer is represented by ribbons that incorporate teal, pink and blue.