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Cancer Ribbons

The Colors, The History, and Ways to Create Your Own Ribbons


Updated July 14, 2014

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Cancer Ribbons

Cancer ribbon colors

Cancer ribbons are a great way to raise awareness, but a friend confided in me recently that she “totally screwed up" when talking to someone wearing a ribbon: she thought the ribbon represented a different cancer, and found herself feeling humiliated. Most people are understanding if you don’t know which ribbon color goes with which cancer, but for those who wish familiarize themselves, here’s a list of cancer ribbons that are used to raise awareness for common cancers.

Cancer Related Ribbons

Uncommon cancers are sometimes represented by a light purple ribbon: the ribbon used to represent all cancers. In some cases, people will instead use the ribbon for rare diseases: a black and white zebra print. I’ve used both the common and scientific names for some cancers to hopefully make it easier to find the ribbon you're looking for. It’s also important to note that in some cases, a cancer is represented by more than one ribbon color, and that this can vary depending on where you live. I may have missed some cancer awareness ribbons, so feel free to email me if you see anything missing.

History of Cancer Ribbons

Thought to have begun with Napoleon Bonaparte, ribbons to represent illnesses and causes are here to stay. Here is some of the history behind ribbons for cancer awareness.

Cancer Ribbons for Creative People:

Are you a creative type who would like to make her own ribbons or incorporate the ribbon in other arts? Check out these resources:
  • The American Cancer Society provides these instructions for making a lapel pin. Note that it is written with instructions for pink for breast cancer, but you can use the color chart above to craft a lapel pin for whichever cancer you wish to support, or for all cancers. Make Your Own Lapel Pin.
  • If you’re into quilting instead, check this out: Cancer Awareness Quilt Block Pattern. Here’s a beautiful example of the final product.
  • Is it clipart you need? Check this out: Cancer Ribbon Clipart Images.


South Florida Cancer Association. Our Adoption and Display of the Cancer Awareness Ribbon. Accessed 01/07/13. http://sflca.org/awareness_ribbon.html

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