Cancer Ribbon Colors, Meanings, and Months

Learn the colors behind more than 50 ribbons of cancers

Cancer ribbons are used to raise awareness about specific cancers such as lung, breast, and prostate cancers. People wear these ribbons to show support for those facing a specific cancer diagnosis. There are more than 50 cancer ribbons that represent individual cancers as well as related issues such as support for cancer caregivers and bone marrow transplants.

This article explains which colors are used for which types of cancers and the months associated with raising awareness for specific cancers.

Cancer-Related Ribbons Colors
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Building Awareness With Ribbon Colors

Some well-known cancer ribbons include the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the purple ribbon for pancreatic cancer. In addition to ribbons, advocacy groups have set aside specific months dedicated to awareness of specific types of cancer. During these months, ribbons are often worn more frequently by individuals. Some groups have successfully had prominent organizations adopt the ribbon colors. For instance, sports teams may wear pink jerseys in October to call attention to breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Ribbon: Pink 

The pink ribbon, today so quickly identified as a symbol in the fight against breast cancer, was first introduced during the 1990s as part of the Susan G. Komen New York City Race for the Cure. Breast cancer survivors often don the ribbon or iterations of it on t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and even tattoos. Healthcare professionals and those working for a cure and awareness also use the ribbon to encourage screening for the disease.

The second most common cancer after skin cancer, breast cancer is diagnosed in more than 290,000 people each year. Thanks to early detection and better treatments, though, survival rates are improving.

Prostate Cancer Ribbon: Light Blue

About 14.7% of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States are for prostate cancer. However, this type of cancer is talked about far less than other cancers that occur less frequently. That's at least partially because men are less likely to want to discuss their prostate cancer diagnosis. The light blue ribbon was designed to bring attention to this disease that can often be successfully treated and has a five-year survival rate of 98%.

Lung Cancer Ribbon: Pearl or White

As the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, a lung cancer diagnosis can be especially frightening. A pearl or white ribbon then seems an appropriate sign of hope for those fighting the disease, supporting loved ones, and working to find a cure. Ribbons as well as other items, such as pearl jewelry or white clothing, are sometimes worn as a way to build awareness of lung cancer.

A goal of many people and organizations is to create an understanding that those with lung cancer are not to be blamed for their disease. While lung cancer is associated with smoking, that does not mean that those who smoked and now suffer should be forgotten. In addition, more than half of the people diagnosed with lung cancer are former smokers or people who have never smoked.

Directory of Ribbons Colors and Months

While some cancer ribbons are well-known, others are often only worn by a select group of supporters. However, there is a great need to draw attention to all types of cancers. Here is a directory of the different ribbon colors used to promote awareness for different diagnoses and the months traditionally set aside for those groups.

Cancer Ribbon Colors and Awareness Months
Cancer Ribbon Awareness Month
Appendix cancer Amber  
Bladder cancer Yellow, purple, and navy blue May
Bone cancer Yellow July
Bone marrow transplant Green  
Brain cancer Gray May
Breast cancer Pink  
Breast cancer (inflammatory) Hot pink  
Breast cancer (hereditary) Teal and pink  
Breast cancer with gynecologic cancers Teal and pink  
Breast cancer (metastatic) Teal, pink, and green
Breast cancer (in men) Pink and blue October
Cancer survivor Lavender June
Carcinoid syndrome Black and white zebra stripes November
Caregiver Purple November
Cervical cancer Teal and white January
Childhood cancer Gold September
Colon cancer Dark blue March
Colorectal cancer Dark blue March
Endometrial cancer Peach  
Esophageal cancer Light purple/periwinkle April
Ewing's sarcoma Yellow July
Gallbladder/bile duct cancer Green February
Gastric (stomach) cancer Periwinkle blue November
Glioblastoma Gray  
Gynecological cancer  Purple September
Head and neck cancer Burgundy and ivory, or red and white April
Hodgkin lymphoma  Violet September
Kidney cancer  (renal cell carcinoma) Green or orange March
Laryngeal cancer Burgundy and white  
Leiomyosarcoma Purple July
Leukemia Orange September
Liver cancer Emerald or jade green October
Lung cancer Pearl, clear, or white November
Lymphedema Light blue  
Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin) Lime green September
Melanoma Black May
Mesothelioma Pearl  
Myeloma Burgundy March
Myeloproliferative diseases Orange and red  
Neuroendocrine cancers Black and white zebra-stripes November
Oral cancer Burgundy and white April
Osteosarcoma Yellow July
Ovarian cancer Teal September
Pancreatic cancer Purple November
Pharyngeal cancer Burgundy and white April
Prostate cancer Light blue September
Rectal cancer Blue March
Retinoblastoma White  
Sarcoma Yellow July
Skin cancer Black May
Skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) Red and white May
Small intestine cancer Periwinkle blue  
Testicular cancer Purple (orchid) April
Throat cancer Burgundy and white  
Thyroid cancer Blue, pink, and teal September
Uterine cancer Peach September
Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia Pearl  

Variations in Color

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.

Ribbons for All Cancers

In addition to calling attention to specific types of cancer, advocates work to build awareness of cancer in general. To call attention to cancer as a whole, some people wear a light purple or lavender ribbon. A similar color is also sometimes used to represent esophageal cancer and cancer survivors, though. Thus, there is some crossover of colors and ribbons.

Another way that some people represent all types of cancers is by combining many different ribbons together and forming a multicolored display.

Rare Cancers

Uncommon or rare cancers may be represented by a black-and-white zebra print ribbon.

The choice of the zebra print comes from a common saying in medicine: When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra. In other words, the most likely diagnosis is usually the right one.

However, that is not always the case. The zebra print ribbon is meant to draw attention to the fact that something that appears to be one thing could very well be something far less likely.

"Zebra" cancers are rare. But when you add occurrences of all of them together, they are actually quite common.

Advocacy Ribbons

Some ribbon colors also represent specific nonprofit groups that advocate for a particular type of cancer. For example, a white or pearl ribbon is used to represent lung cancer, but turquoise is the color of an American Lung Association initiative.

A tricolor green, pink, and teal ribbon is used by the advocacy group METAvivor, which works to assist those living with metastatic breast cancer (stage IV or advanced breast cancer) and supports research for the disease.

Summary

Colored ribbons are used to show support and raise awareness for specific types of cancers, all cancers, or issues related to cancer such as caregivers. Colored ribbons are often worn during certain months designated to the specific types of cancer. Advocacy groups have also created ribbons in an effort to encourage people to join their cause.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The Pink Ribbon Story.

  2. American Cancer Society. Breast statistics.

  3. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer.

  4. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for prostate cancer.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lung cancer.

  6. Yang CC, Liu CY, Wang KY, Wen FH, Lee YC, Chen ML. Smoking status among patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer in TaiwanJ Nurs Res. 2019 Aug;27(4):e32. doi:10.1097/jnr.0000000000000293

Additional Reading

By Lynne Eldridge, MD
 Lynne Eldrige, MD, is a lung cancer physician, patient advocate, and award-winning author of "Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time."