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History of Disease Ribbons Including Breast Cancer and AIDS Ribbons


October is All Pink

Breast Cancer Awareness month is every October. You see bright pink, the color of the breast cancer ribbon, everywhere from clothes, hats, consumer goods, tennis balls, and even on the hands and feet and heads of NFL players. I'll admit, they've done a fantastic job getting awareness front and center. From the Susan G. Komen walks (including the 3 Day) and the campaign done by Ford, you have to be living under a rock to not know about breast cancer. Breast cancer affects millions of women every year and touches just about every family in the US.

Why the Ribbon?

When my daughter was in the fourth grade, she had to do a project on superstitions. We had to look up about 20 superstitions of our choice and write about them and draw a picture. It was then that I saw something that shocked me. In ages past, people thought that if you put a red ribbon on a child who was once sick, the disease would stay away from that child. Interesting. Today we know that it's the antibodies that keeps the child healthy. Somehow, the ribbon idea has stuck.


The First Modern Disease Ribbons

The 1980s is when I first remember the emergence of the disease ribbon. It all began with AIDS, a devastating virus that has its roots in Africa and has spread worldwide, killing millions every year. It was in the 1980s that celebrities began wearing a red ribbon in support of those people infected with the AIDS virus. I remember watching some big Hollywood event where everyone, especially Elton John, proudly wore this mysterious ribbon on their lapels. It wasn't long before celebrities wouldn't be seen without their red ribbon.

At first, I wasn't sure what the ribbon symbolized or meant. Sometimes people would wear ribbons in rememberance of someone dear who was gone. All I could remember was that the red ribbon intrigued me...

Everyone Has a Ribbon

Fast forward to today and you'll find that every disease and cause has a color ribbon associated with their group. In a way it's nice because you don't need a lot of explaining when you see a pink or red ribbon; you automatically know. When I was researching for this blog, I was shocked by the sheer number of conditions associated with certain colors. For example, the red AIDS ribbon is also associated with heart disease, stroke, as well as substance abuse.

Take my quiz below and test your knowledge of the disease ribbons. It's fun!

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I hope you never look at those ribbons in the same way again.

Test Your Ribbon Color Knowledge

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What conditions are associated with the TEAL ribbon?
    • leukemia
    • ovarian, cervical, uterine cancers
    • eating disorders
  2. What conditions are associated with the GREEN ribbon?
    • childhood depression
    • autism
    • childhood cancer
  3. What conditions are associated with the PURPLE ribbon?
    • autism
    • arthritis
    • pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer
  4. What conditions are associated with the PALE YELLOW ribbon?
    • spina brfida
    • suicide survivors
    • brain aneurysm

Answer Key

  1. ovarian, cervical, uterine cancers
  2. childhood depression
  3. pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer
  4. spina brfida

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