Cancer Ribbon Colors and Meanings

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

diagram of the colors of different cancer ribbons
What color are the different cancer ribbons?.

Cancer ribbons are a great way to raise awareness, but we have heard from people who are embarrassed when they do not recognize a particular cancer ribbon. 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

A light purple or lavender ribbon is generally used to represent all cancers as a whole.

Sometimes, instead, many different ribbons are combined together to represent all cancers.

Uncommon or rare cancers may be represented in a few ways; either with a light purple ribbon or a black and white zebra print ribbon. The zebra stands for a common saying in medicine. In a field of horses, you are most likely to see horses, but many who are living with cancer realize that "zebras" - rare cancers - occur as well, and when you add all of these uncommon and rare cancers together, they are actually quite common.

It's important to note that a specific cancer may be represented by more than one ribbon color and that this can vary depending on where you live. Some ribbon colors also represent specific non-profit groups who advocate for a particular type of cancer. For example, a white or pearl ribbon is used to represent lung cancer, but turquoise ribbons are used by one of the lung cancer organizations.

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:


South Florida Cancer Association. Our Adoption and Display of the Cancer Awareness Ribbon. Accessed 05/31/16.

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