Cancer will afflict 41 percent of Americans in our lifetime. More than 15 million are survivors right now.
Because cancer affects our lives in so many ways, we generously give more than $5 billion per year to support research for treatments and cures.
While donating to a cancer nonprofit is one way to help the cause, another is to create awareness within your community and among your friends, families and co-workers.
One of the more fascinating developments in fundraising and awareness campaigns is the proliferation of lapel ribbons.
According to Smithsonian.com, awareness ribbons dates back to tokens given to jousting (or warring) knights in the medieval ages. Some Americans think that awareness ribbons began with the “Civil War Era” use of yellow ribbons to welcome home veterans. However, the Library of Congress says the “tradition” is more recent – when the song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” became popular in 1973.
The ribbon became the universal symbol of awareness and support in 1979 when Penney Laingen, wife of one of the men held prisoners during the Iran hostage crisis, decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband and the other hostages.
During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, actor Jeremy Irons wore a red ribbon on stage at the Tony Awards to show support and create awareness for the disease.
The first cancer awareness ribbons were developed by Susan Koemen, who started Race for the Cure for her breast cancer foundation. According to pinkribbon.org, the foundation gave out pink ribbons in 1991 to every participant in its New York City race and the rest is history.
In the years since, ribbons with branded colors have become public statements for support. Here are some of the current colors and their relationships to types of cancers:
Pink - Breast Cancer
Teal - Ovarian Cancer
Pearl - Lung Cancer
Purple - Pancreatic Cancer and Leiomyosarcoma
Orange - Leukemia and Kidney Cancer
Black - Melanoma
Navy - Colon Cancer
Burgundy - Multiple Myeloma
Grey - Brain Cancer
Blue - Prostate Cancer
Gold - Childhood Cancer and Osteosarcoma
Burgundy and Ivory - Head and Neck Cancer
Lime - Lymphoma
Peach - Uterine Cancer
Teal and White - Cervical Cancer
Yellow - Sarcoma/Bone Cancer and Bladder Cancer
Green - Liver Cancer and Adrenal Cancer
Periwinkle - Esophageal Cancer and Stomach Cancer
Teal/Pink/Blue - Thyroid Cancer
Lavender - All Cancers
Blue and Green - Anal Cancer
Orchid - Testicular Cancer
Amber - Appendix Cancer
Marigold, Blue and Purple - Bladder Cancer
Zebra Print - Carcinoid Cancer & Endocrine Cancer
Rainbow - Adrenocortical carcinoma
Some nonprofit organizations benefiting cancer research and patient support share ribbon colors or have differing ones for the same type of disease – sometimes depending on where they are located and services them provide.
It doesn’t matter if you know which color is associated with certain cancers. It’s most important that patients are celebrated and research, diagnoses and treatments are supported.
Johnson Memorial Health provides a Cancer Patient Navigator service through our Cancer Care Center.