It all started with a peach-colored ribbon. In the early 1990s, breast cancer survivor Charlotte Haley personally distributed hand-made peach ribbons to people at shopping centers near her California home. She asked people to wear the ribbon and write to their legislators. Along with the ribbons, she gave each person a card saying, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”
As word spread and Haley gained more and more publicity, eventually executives from Est‚e Lauder and Self magazine asked Haley for permission to use her ribbon. But Haley refused, so the magazine came up with its own color: pink. Soon Haley’s grassroots peach ribbon was history, and the pink ribbon became the worldwide symbol for breast cancer and a multi-billion dollar breast cancer awareness product industry.
Last year, the documentary film “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” exposed how some companies use pink ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause or to improve their public image while manufacturing products that may be carcinogenic.
Think Before You Pink (www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org), a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.
At the same time, billions of dollars have gone to breast cancer and other disease research as a result of awareness campaigns like the pink ribbon project. While no one can deny that raising awareness is a good thing, the way some companies go about doing it deserves some scrutiny.
Many groups have adopted colored ribbons as symbols of support or awareness. Here’s a look at the rainbow of ribbon colors out there. Some causes often share a color, and some may be represented by more than one color.
Breast cancer awareness – www.komen.org
Lung cancer awareness – www.nationallungcancerpartnership.org
Alliance for Safe Motherhood – www.whiteribbonalliance.org
Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Disease (SCID) Screening – www.primaryimmune.org
Autism awareness – www.autism-society.org
Type 1 Diabetes awareness – www.jdrf.org
Hepatitis B and liver cancer awareness – www.liver.stanford.edu
Carcinoid & neuroendocrine tumor awareness – www.carcinoid.org
Crime victims of stalking and electronic harassment – www.ircampaign.info
Prostate cancer awareness – www.thepcap.org
Animal cruelty/animal welfare – www.animal-rights-action.com
Chronic migraine awareness – www.chronicmigraineawareness.com
LGBT Support – www.glaad.org/spiritday
Lupus awareness – www.lupus.org
Alzheimer’s Disease awareness – www.alz.org
Pancreatic cancer awareness – www.pancan.org
March of Dimes – www.marchforbabies.org
Genetic disorder/rare disease awareness – www.globalgenes.org
Borderline personality disorder awareness – www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com
Diabetes awareness – www.diabetes.org
Brain cancer awareness – www.milesforhope.org
Asthma awareness – www.aafa.org
Brain disorders and disabilities – www.silverribbon.org
Scleroderma awareness – www.scleroderma.org
Sexual assault and sexual violence awareness – www.nsvrc.org
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome awareness – www.pcosupport.org
Anxiety disorder awareness – www.adaa.org
Childhood cancer awareness – www.acco.org
Hodgkin’s lymphoma awareness – www.thehodgeshop.com
Cervical cancer awareness – www.nccc-online.org
Noonan syndrome awareness – www.noonansyndrome.org