Cancer Ribbon Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Ribbon tattoos are versatile pieces of art that can be used to carry different ideas. A popular approach for wearing this ink involves the artistic illustrations of world-recognized awareness ribbons in solidarity with the relevant causes. That said, with a few tweaks, they could be designed to embrace unique ideas.

The Meaning of Ribbons 

For some, getting a ribbon tattoo could reflect a hobby or do some kind of art that involves ribbons, such as sewing or crafting. Also, they might signify an award that the bearer has one or some kind of life achievement.

Awareness Ribbons

The most common version of ribbon tattoos, though, is awareness ribbons.

Awareness ribbons are colored strips of material that are designed and worn to raise awareness for diseases and disorders. They’re often used as emblems of particular causes, such as the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans, or studies relating to conditions. One such example is the Indigenous Red Ribbon Study, which sought to learn more about indigenous people living with HIV. 

Awareness ribbons are a very personal thing. If you know somebody who’s struggled with a disease, disorder, or condition, getting one of these tattooed on yourself can be an amazing tribute. 

You can pair these with a name if they’re in memory of someone, or a saying or phrase that means something to you. The colors are based on the condition you’re trying to raise awareness for—more on this coming up!

Art or Hobby-Related 

Activities like sewing and crafting often use ribbons as accessories. If you’re a sewer or crafter, a bow may have enough significance to merit a tat. 

A tat that includes both a ribbon and another element related to your hobby emphasizes the message. For example, an image of a decorative streamer winding around a sewing machine would be great for someone passionate about making clothes. Adding a color like red indicates a passion for your craft. 

Another activity inspired design is ribbon dancing ink. These are much bigger strips of material than the crafting ones. A dancer-themed artwork may be appropriate for someone who enjoys art. 

Popular Ribbon Tattoo Designs 

Ribbons can make a pretty addition to just about anything. You’ve probably seen birds with ribbons, trees with streamers, animals wrapped in bows, crosses entwined in strips, and so many more. 

Some combinations are more common than others, though. Here are a few of the ribbon tattoo types more often seen: 

With Hearts 

If you love your hobby or art enough to get a part of it inked onto you, a heart would be a great combination to go with it. 

The design options are extremely varied. You can choose to make the heart the prominent part of the artwork and have the ribbon winding around it, or make the bow the focal point with a heart pattern on it. 

With Words 

Ribbons make a fantastic canvas for a proverb or slogan. This is wonderful for tattoos that are in memory of someone, or as an addition to an awareness bow. 

If you have a saying or quote that holds deep for you, and you’d like it inked artistically, a streamer or strip can be an excellent background. It doesn’t even need to be a fabric bow-type design either. A colored strip of paper with a quote on it can make for an eye-catching, unique design.


Popular designs here are awareness ribbons, which typically appear alone.

Common Ribbon Tattoo Colors 

If you’ve chosen to get an awareness tattoo, the color will depend on what exactly you want to raise awareness for. Here are some of the more common representations behind the colors: 


Black awareness ribbons represent those lost to melanoma and those who suffer from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders

They’re also remembrance bows, and show respect and commemoration of those who lost their lives in the September 11th incident and the Virginia Tech shooting. 

Alternatively, a black ribbon tattoo could represent a balance between your light and dark sides—a variation of the ying-yang symbol. 


White awareness ribbons represent:

  • Blindness
  • Bone cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dating violence awareness
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis

Girls may choose to get a tattoo in white to symbolize purity or innocence. These tats also make amazing tributes to lost loved ones. 


A gold bow shows support for specific cancers, including:

  • Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Osteosarcoma

It’s also the color that represents childhood cancer awareness

Also, if you take part in competitive sports, a gold ribbon may be a motivational piece for you. 


Silver shows support for:

  • Brain disorders
  • Dyslexia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Parkinson’s disease

It’s also the chosen color to represent drug overdose awareness, stalking awareness, and medical device injury awareness. 

Silver bows are also super pretty and are great for girls who enjoy a bit of sparkle. 


Red brings awareness for:

  • Heart conditions
  • Strokes
  • Aneurysms
  • AIDS and HIV
  • Substance abuse awareness

Couples may get matching bows in red to symbolize love or passion. 


Blue awareness bows represent close to 100 conditions, but some of the most common include: 

  • Addiction recovery
  • Arthritis
  • Foster care awareness
  • Human trafficking awareness
  • Prostate cancer

Blue bow tattoos can also mean a balance between masculinity and femininity. Blue is also a very calming color, so people may get a blue ribbon to represent peace. 


Pink is probably the most well-known of the colors. It’s best known for breast cancer awareness

Girls might also select a pink or purple bow as their first tattoo to show off their cute, girly side. 


Green awareness bows represent many different things. Some common green causes are: 

  • Bone marrow donation
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Depression
  • Kidney cancer 
  • Leukemia
  • Mental health
  • Spinal cord injury 

Nature lovers could also get a green winding band to honor the link between nature and humanity. 

Common Body Placement for Ribbon Tattoos 

The beauty of this kind of design is that it can be small and inconspicuous, or it can be long, winding, and very noticeable. 

Small Tattoos 

If you’d prefer something little, body placements that could work well are: 

Behind the Ear 

Hiding a bow behind the ear is cute and remarkable when you tuck your hair behind your ear. 

It can be a statement piece if you tie your hair up or hidden if you need it to be. 

Small of the Back

The lower back is a sweet spot for a cute piece of ink. The size can range from small to medium, and if you really want something unique, tattoo it all the way around your waist like a real ribbon.

Wrist or Ankle 

Wrists and ankles are great places for small tattoos. The inner wrist would work well for a small bow, and you’d be able to see and admire it any time. 

Winding Around a Limb 

If you want more of a statement piece, a ribbon winding around the arm is unique and interesting. 

It can be as long or as short as you want. If you’d prefer something small, wind the illustration around the wrist or finger.

Large Tattoos

Large tattoos are best inked onto the back and chest. The thigh and calf are also sufficiently roomy for bigger illustrations.


The most popular back placement for this tat is the groove of the spine. The ribbon is usually illustrated with text at its center. Sometimes, the ribbon is depicted as spiraling down the spine.


The ink can be etched laterally or longitudinal. A longitudinal placement makes sense between the pectoral muscles and down to the navel, or lower. It’s usually used to set the theme for elaborate artwork.

With a lateral placement, the end of the ribbon on the left breast may be coiled around a heart symbol to show passion or love. A common strategy among lovers is to etch their partner’s name into the ribbon that wraps itself around their hearts—illustrated, of course.

Best Ribbon Tattoos