Cancer Risk of Tattoos

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The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is composed of two layers, the dermis and the epidermis. The skin is an important barrier to keep away bacteria and viruses. It keeps all the pink meat and blood vessels. The skin makes it all look normal. A tattoo is body art permanently imprinted on your body. Tattoos rupture the skin, the outer layer of the skin to embed the ink to the inner layer . This is also where the nerves and blood vessels are.  A slight miscalculation and it could result in nerve damage. But often the health effects of tattoos tend to come later than sooner. There is an emerging concern with cancer risk of tattoos, as well as other illnesses.

Tattoos have gone mainstream, though, in spite of the risk. Health hazard ranges from allergic reactions to increased chances of skin cancer. Infection is one of the primary risks of tattooing. Disreputable tattoo houses and clinics, dirty needles and unhealthy conditions. It can also stem from not properly cleaning and properly observing the right after care of the tattooed area. Dirty needles can also cause other diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C and other blood related illnesses. There have been studies conducted exploring the connection of cancer and tattoos. Some black inks used in tattoos contain a high level of Benzo(a)pyrene which is a classified carcinogen. There is a bigger risk involved for those getting Blackout inks or those with heavy shading for a bolder impact.  Skin pigmentation changes is the first indication of skin cancer. Care should be exercised not to tattoo over moles and birthmarks. Melanomas, a type of cancer can be harder to detect if the suspected location is covered with a tattoo.

There is also an increasing scrutiny on pigments themselves as they can be cause to trigger allergic reactions especially for first timers. As there is yet no regulations set for pigments, there are still chances that these will cause allergic reactions. Allergies may range from slight itching to swelling and oozing. Most common allergic reactions are reported from red pigments followed by black, purple and green.

There are cases where having a large tattoo in black can induce burns when exposed to MRI. This is due to black ink usually contains iron oxide that heats up with electric current. These cases are rare. But still these should be considered when deciding a tattoo style and design. 


Tattoo health risks are real. Even if a person undergo a tattoo removal procedure, the mere fact that the skin have been pierced places it at risk. If considering body art, best to do your research and insist on clean, sterile needles.