Who Determines Cancer Ribbon Colors?

Cancer Ribbon Colors

We get asked this question a lot.  And, just in case you are wondering, we do not make up the cancer awareness colors – that isn’t our job. So whose job is it?

Many people mistakenly think that the well-known American Cancer Society assumes this responsibility, but that is not the case. The ACS provides many services and a lot of research funding, but it doesn’t get involved with cancer awareness colors.

So if the ACS doesn’t determine them, and Choose Hope has no hand in it, who does?? Well, that’s where many top notch, nationally recognized, non-profit organizations come into play. Organizations such as The Lung Cancer Alliance and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition provide support, education and awareness for individual cancers.  Typically, they will assign or acknowledge a color for their cancer.

Brief History of Cancer Ribbons

So how did this all begin? Cancer ribbon colors began way back in the 1980’s when Susan G. Komen was a small grassroots organization that was born from a need to raise awareness for breast cancer. The pink ribbon was created as a means to bring breast cancer out of the closet and into the light where it could get some much-needed attention and funding. As Susan G. Komen began growing and expanding, others jumped on the ribbon bandwagon. Cancer awareness colors such as teal for ovarian cancer, light blue for prostate cancer, and many others were introduced by non-profit organizations.

In the 1990’s, The Childhood Cancer Organization banded together and chose gold (because our children are as precious as gold) as the color they wanted to support childhood cancer. Organizations such as Thyca.org and the Colon Cancer Alliance came along, offering hope and help to those with thyroid cancer and colon cancer (respectively). There are so many other great organizations out there, but we’ll leave that for another blog. At the present time, we are aware of and actively acknowledge nearly 30 different cancer awareness ribbon colors.

One Cancer – Two Ribbon Colors?

Sometimes there may be two different organizations that support the same cancer, but acknowledge different ribbon colors. Bladder Cancer is a good example of that. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network uses orange while the American Bladder Cancer Society uses marigold, blue and purple to raise cancer awareness. There is no “right” one, so simply choose one and go with it!

And there are also ribbon colors out there that have no ties to any national organization. For example, the color for appendix cancer has always been amber, but no one can confirm where it came from. Sad, but true!

Where is My Cancer Color?

And what about those rarer cancers that don’t have an organization or a color? We get a lot of calls about this. “How do I find my color?” “My cancer doesn’t have a color, so how can I get one established?” Well, that’s a tough one for us, since, once again, we don’t make up the colors. Some people really want and are able to begin the process of creating a non-profit organization that can offer help and support to others with their particular cancer. Kudos to them! Others will simply use lavender which is the official color for all cancers. And some people like to use the multicolored ribbon, especially if they have multiple cancers within their family.

The bottom line is:  Do what feels right for you, but always remember that it isn’t all about the color – it’s about bringing awareness to your cancer. Talk to people, share your initial symptoms, tell your story, encourage preventive care if it’s an option. Because your story may save someone’s life some day!

If you are interested in finding your cancer color or that of someone you love, check out our Cancer Awareness Ribbon Guide.


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4 comments on “Who Determines Cancer Ribbon Colors?
  1. Craig Ogren says:

    Thanks for the post. I always wondered about that. Mine is Black for Melanoma. I always thought Gray for Brain Cancer was appropriate. Thanks again Choose Hope, for everything you do

  2. Great article regarding cancer ribbon colors. I saw you used the two bladder cancer colors as an example. As a bladder cancer awareness organization, we chose the tri-color ribbon because it was very distinctive and causes the question: “I’ve not seen that ribbon before what is it for?”. Also, each color has a meaning: navy for those who have lost their battle w BC, marigold for those who continue to fight and purple for their caregivers. And, lastly, no other cause has this tri-color ribbon this is why our board chose to go with the tri-color. Thank you, Choose Hope, for all you do!

  3. Stacy Green says:

    Our family was wondering if we could have a ribbon made for CLL (Chronic Lymphocitic Leukemia) we thought using the lime green and Orange together. Leukemia and lymphoma. What are your thoughts on this?

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