Do Tattoos Raise the Risk for Cancer?

Can tattoos give you cancer? A new study shows that pigments in tattoo ink migrate from the skin to the lymph nodes, leading to chronic enlargement. Although the long-term effects of this were not studied and are yet unknown, the findings have created quite a bit of buzz in the mainstream media, pointing to tattoos as a possible cause of cancer.

The results are too preliminary to suggest that tattoos can increase the risk for cancer, say the authors.

“Skin infections are a common side effect of getting a tattoo,” explained study author Hiram Castillo-Michel, PhD, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France. “Granuloma formation and allergies are often reported to occur with tattooing, and these are health risks that can be linked to the tattoos very easily because they directly appear in the tattooed skin area.”

Chronic health effects, such as cancer, are more complicated to track. “They usually do not emerge before years or decades after exposure and are thus difficult to link to tattoos or certain tattoo ingredients,” Dr Castillo-Michel told Medscape Medical News. “Without epidemiological data that track large cohorts for decades and investigate whether people are tattooed or not, a connection between tattoo ingredients and chronic adverse effects can hardly be uncovered.”

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