The first widespread use of awareness ribbons came in 1979, during the American embassy hostage crisis in Iran. After a woman named Penny Laingen, inspired by songs like the 1973 “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” tied yellow ribbons around the trees in her yard to call for her husband’s safe return, yellow ribbons started appearing across the country in solidarity.
A decade later, the yellow ribbons appeared again in support of soldiers fighting the Gulf War. AIDS activists soon followed suit with a red ribbon, which made its national debut in 1991, when actor Jeremy Irons wore one to the Tony awards. Months later, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation began handing out pink ribbons to participants in its Race for the Cure, and in 1992, the charity collaborated with Self magazine and Estée Lauder to promote the pink ribbon nationwide, and the first of the cancer awareness ribbons was born.
After the high-profile launch of the pink ribbon, other nationally-recognized cancer support charities began to choose cancer ribbon colors. Today, people wear these ribbons to raise awareness, encourage preventative testing, and show support for loved ones with cancer.
Some of the most prominent cancer awareness month colors follow, along with links to information on more ways to support loved ones facing a cancer diagnosis:
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