Do Tattoos Raise the Risk for Cancer?

Previously Observed in Lymph Nodes

Tattoos are created by depositing insoluble pigments into the dermal skin layer. For decades, enlarged lymph nodes have been observed in individuals with tattoos. The migration of tattoo ink to the regional nodes has also been observed in patients with breast cancer, melanoma, testicular seminoma, and vulvar squamous cell carcinoma.

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, tattoo ink from 14 tattoos that extensively covered the legs of a cervical cancer patient migrated into the lymph nodes and was mistaken for metastatic disease. Initially diagnosed with stage 1B disease, her condition was upgraded, and 40 of the patient’s lymph nodes were surgically removed.

Toxic Elements and Nanoparticles

In the current study, Schreiver and her colleagues analyzed tattooed human skin and tissue from regional lymph nodes that were obtained from four corpses. The investigators used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence techniques at both micro and nano scale.

The particles ranged in size in the human skin samples, but only the nanoparticles migrated into the lymph nodes.

A key goal of this analysis was to assess to what extent tattooing increases the proportion of toxic elements in the body. The authors found that levels of aluminum, chromium, iron, nickel, and copper were elevated in both skin and lymph node specimens.

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