What Do the Cancer Ribbon Colors Mean?

Cancer ribbon colors are numerous, and each color represents a different type of cancer. Cancer ribbons are great ways to raise awareness, support and funds to help the fight to end cancer. The cancer colors represented by these ribbons may be specific to a type of disease or represent an age-related cancer.

The yellow cancer ribbon, for example, is one of the most recognizable ribbons out there. In fact, yellow ribbons were the first form of ribbon awareness used in in 1979 to show support for American embassy personnel during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Now, ribbons are used to represent and show support for a wide array of causes.

The pink cancer ribbon also has a storied history. Taking a nod from AIDS activists who began using red ribbons as a symbol of support, the Susan G. Komen foundation began handing out pink ribbons during its annual Race for the Cure campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer.

These ribbons are more than just decoration. They represent a movement of fighters and supporters working to end cancer once and for all. To be a true cancer activist and ally, continue reading to learn all the different types of cancer ribbons and what they stand for.  

Cancer Ribbons That Are Used Today

Many cancer ribbon colors have remained the same since their start, but some may have changed slightly over the years. The color choices are not influenced by medical providers or health insurance companies but, instead, organizations that create awareness and support for the condition. Browse through this helpful guide to each ribbon color so you can be up to date on all the latest cancer ribbons.

Yellow

The yellow cancer ribbon shares its color with many other causes. It began as a sign of support for Americans during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Throughout the years, the yellow ribbon has signified support for American troops and suicide prevention.

Yellow ribbons are also used to show support for two types of cancer. The childhood cancer ribbon has more of a gold tone to it and represents any type of cancer that predominantly affects children. Bone cancer and sarcoma are represented by a light-yellow ribbon.

Pink

The pink cancer ribbon is one of the most recognized cancer ribbons due to the prevalence of the condition it represents. Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in the United States. The pink ribbon has been used by breast cancer activists and foundations to raise awareness and money to aid research into new treatment options.

Fun fact: the pink cancer ribbon that is tied to breast cancer today was once a light peach color. Many attribute the start of the pink ribbon to Charlotte Haley, who began making peach ribbons in her dining room. Each set contained a notecard explaining the need for more breast cancer funding.

Purple

Purple cancer ribbons represent a few different types of cancer. The pancreatic cancer ribbon, for example, is a bright purple color. However, altering the hue of purple changes the representation. In fact, purple has the most variance of all the cancer ribbons today.

For example, lavender ribbons are meant to represent all types of cancer. It is a universal show of support for anyone fighting cancer. Lavender cancer ribbons may also denote support for certain rare forms of cancer that do not have their own color.

Light purple cancer ribbons are linked with testicular cancer, and violet ribbons represent support for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Periwinkle, which is a cross between blue and purple, shows support for stomach cancer.

White

The lung cancer ribbon color is white or pearl. The color is less visible than others, representing a stigma placed on those battling the disease that they have somehow caused it themselves. It is important to note that most lung cancer fighters never smoked cigarettes.  

The white ribbon has slowly gained more national attention and support. More organizations and activists are placing the ribbon in front of a black background to help it stand out in contrast.

Blue

Like purple, blue cancer ribbons can represent a handful of different cancer types. The colon cancer ribbon color is dark blue, and sometimes incorporates rectal cancer as well. The broader term is known as colorectal cancer. These ribbons used to be brown, but perhaps it was a poor choice for the disease type.

Light blue ribbons represent prostate cancer, which will affect nearly one out of every nine men during their lifetime. This is slightly different than teal, which represents ovarian cancer. Cervical cancer is also represented by a teal ribbon but features a white accent color down the side.

Grey

Grey or silver cancer ribbons represent brain cancer. There are many different types of brain cancer that are caused by various types of tumors, such as glioblastomas and astrocytoma. A grey ribbon shows support for those battling any type of brain cancer.

Orange

Orange cancer ribbons represent leukemia. It is the most common form of cancer affecting children and teens. In fact, leukemia represents one-third of all childhood cancer cases. While a gold childhood cancer ribbon shows support for children battling cancer in general, many supporters wear orange to denote the specific battle against leukemia.  

Orange ribbons also represent kidney cancer. However, these ribbons are generally a lighter color orange or peach. Some activists recognize orange ribbons in support of skin ailments, but most skin cancers are represented by black ribbons. Melanoma, for example, is the most common form of skin cancer and is supported by a black ribbon.

Multicolor

Many types of cancer ribbon colors feature multiple colors. Thyroid cancer, for example, has three colors intertwined in its ribbon of support: blue, pink and teal. The blue represents the throat energy center (in relation to chakras), pink represents spiritual influences in healing and teal is meant to be a healing color.

Bladder cancer also features a ribbon with a unique color combination of blue, yellow and purple. White and black ribbons that resemble zebra stripes show support for rare cancers and diseases. The cervical cancer ribbon is white and teal, and head and neck cancer is represented by burgundy and white.