Recently, there have been calls for more research into tattoo inks due to the belief that toxins from tattoo ink could be absorbed into the body and cause cancer. According to a recent European study, 13 of the 21 most globally used coloured tattoo inks, and 10 out of 11 black inks contain cancer-causing substances.
Fortunately there have yet to be conclusive links drawn between tattoos and the risk of cancer. Dermatologists have been evaluating patients with tattoos for decades for any evidence of skin cancer, and they have never found an increased prevalence of the disease in those individuals. One explanation as to why this is the case, as outlined recently in the Australian Financial Review, is that the particles in tattoo ink are stable when injected into the skin - if they weren't, the tattoos would fail to be permanent. The extent to which they move over time, or are broken down by exposure to sunlight require further research.
Of more immediate concern is the masking effect tattoos can have on the detection and treatment of cancerous lesions, like melanoma. The larger and darker the tattoos, the more difficult it becomes for yourself or your doctor to identify and remedy any questionable markings on your skin.
It is never a good idea to have a tattoo placed too close to or within a mole as this will make it difficult to spot any changes to symmetry, border, color, size, shape and texture. These are potentially key warning signs that the mole may be evolving into a melanoma or another skin cancer, so if you get a tattoo, make sure it is placed far from any mole.
95% of skin cancers are successfully treated if found early so it's essential that all Australians become familiar with their skin and be on the alert for anything usual. If you already have a tattoo, make sure you give your body art some extra attention when self-examining your skin for any changes that could lead to skin cancer.
There you have it. We will be keeping our ear to the ground for any new research but for now the primary health concerns are risk of infection or allergic reaction, which are more commonly associated with tattoos. So if you are planning a tattoo, make sure you're well informed of these risks beforehand.
More info available from Better Health Channel
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