The Lung Cancer Ribbon

The lung cancer ribbon, like other awareness ribbons, is designed to show support and raise consciousness about a disease that is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths not only in the United States but globally.

Wearing a lung cancer ribbon not only helps raise awareness about the disease but also draws attention to charitable organizations that fund research or support people living with lung cancer. Moreover, it helps reduce the stigma surrounding this much-dreaded disease.

This article takes a look at the history of the lung cancer ribbon and discusses the importance of awareness in relation to current lung cancer statistics. The also describes the goals of cancer awareness and how it has helped reduce the number of lung cancer-related deaths in recent decades.

White or light pearl color ribbon for raising awareness on Lung cancer, Bone cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Disease (SCID) and Newborn Screening and symbol
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Lung Cancer Statistics

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer overall. In males, prostate cancer is more common, while breast cancer is more common in females. Even so, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than both of these diseases combined.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer was responsible for 130,180 deaths in the United States in 2022. That is more than three times what was seen with breast cancer (43,780) and nearly four times what was seen with prostate cancer (34,500).

In addition, there were 236,740 new lung cancer diagnoses in 2022, with females accounting for slightly more cases than males (118,830 vs. 117,910 respectively).

Color of the Lung Cancer Ribbon

There is some debate over the exact color of the lung cancer ribbon, although it is usually considered to be white, pearl, or clear. Some lung cancer organizations have even opted to use different colors, arguing that the white doesn't stand out as much as, say, the AIDS ribbon (red) or breast cancer ribbon (pink) do.

But historically—and in the hearts of those dedicated to the cause—the lung cancer ribbon is and will always be white.

How the Lung Cancer Ribbon Began

The White Ribbon Project, an advocacy organization for lung cancer awareness, was founded by Heidi and Pierre Onda of Greenwood Village, Colorado after Heidi was diagnosed and successfully treated for stage 3 lung cancer. What began as a local campaign soon evolved into a national and international ribbon-making effort.

The white ribbon is also emblematic of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, a month-long event used to educate the public and empower individuals and families living with the disease. What began as Lung Cancer Awareness Day back in 1995 eventually grew into what is today a worldwide awareness initiative.

In addition to Lung Cancer Awareness Month, there are other annual events relevant to people living with or impacted by lung cancer:

  • Cancer Survivor Day (first Sunday in June)
  • Women's Lung Health Week (second week in May)
  • Radon Awareness Month (January)

Purpose of the Lung Cancer Ribbon

Though different ribbon colors mean different things, most if not all were designed to rally public support in order to effect social, institutional, and/or governmental change.

In the case of the lung cancer awareness ribbon, this includes:

  • Funding research and financial, treatment, or support services for people living with lung cancer and their loved ones
  • Raising awareness about the symptoms of lung cancer, which include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, and unintended weight loss
  • Encouraging people to seek medical advice sooner, given that early diagnoses almost invariably lead to longer, healthier lives
  • Overcoming stigma, a social issue that can lead to delayed diagnosis, reduced social support, low quality of life, and poorer health outcomes

Stigma is especially important to address as people with lung cancer are often "blamed" for their disease. This is due to a common misconception that lung cancer is a "smoker’s disease."

The lung cancer awareness ribbon is also meant to serve as a way to unify those with the disease and remind them that they are not alone.

The simple truth is that over half of the people diagnosed with lung cancer today are former smokers or people who have never smoked.

Recent Advances in Lung Cancer

Awareness campaigns work. According to the American Cancer Society, the decline in smoking rates has led to steep decreases in lung cancer death rates in recent decades. The trend started back in the 1990s for males and around 2000 for females.

This is especially true among people with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which accounts for three of every four lung cancer diagnoses. Among males, NSCLC rates fell by 3.1% per year between 2008 and 2016, while death rates fell by 6.3% per year between 2013 and 2016.

Much of this is due to advances in lung cancer treatments (including targeted drugs and immunotherapies), the research of which was funded in large part by charitable donations.

Lung Cancer Charities and Organizations

If you or a loved one want to raise awareness and support for people with lung cancer, there are several non-profit organizations that would appreciate your support, including:

Each of these charities has its own special niche. For example, LUNGevity directs a lot of its resources to research and public policy, while the GO2 Foundation provides support to young adults living with lung cancer.

In recent years, there has also been a growth in advocacy and support communities centered around lung cancers with specific genetic profiles.

One such example is ROS1ders, a community dedicated to supporting people with ROS1-positive lung cancers. There are also communities for people with EGFR mutations, ALK rearrangements, and others.

Summary

The lung cancer ribbon is a type of awareness ribbon used to raise consciousness about a disease that remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. The white ribbon is also used to draw support to lung cancer charities and open conversations about lung cancer that can save a person's life.

The lung cancer ribbon can be worn at any time of the year but is arguably most important in November as part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

A Word From Verywell

You don't need to wait until November to wear a white ribbon or to help raise awareness about lung cancer. Every day is an opportunity to educate the public about this still-dreaded disease.

Unlike some cancers that have screening tests, screening tests for lung cancer have only been recently approved and are still limited to people aged 50 to 80 who have had a long history of smoking. For the majority of people, the recognition of lung cancer symptoms is the best way to catch the disease early when is still highly treatable.

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11 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.
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