A real look at the risks.
By Kiera Aaron
Ever wondered if there are downsides to getting inked? (Besides the fact that you chose your ex-husband’s initials, of course.) Researchers recently decided to find out by evaluating the adverse reactions, like chronic infections or itching (even years afterward), associated with tattoos.
After looking at 280 people who'd had some kind of reaction to getting tattoos, the experts found that 83% of reactions involved colored ink, and were more common on the extremities than the trunk of the body.
Since colored pigments are made from different compounds than black ink, the skin might react differently, according to the study, which is published in Dermatology. Researchers also note that substances in the ink may react with sunlight, explaining why reactions are less common on parts of the body usually covered by clothing.
Experts note that no tattoo is completely safe: “Tattoos injure the skin, which may allow microorganisms to enter the body,” says study author Wolfgang Bäumler, PhD, a professor of dermatology at University of Regensburg in Germany.
What’s more, the review found eight cases of malignant melanoma on the site of the tattoo.
“Tattoo inks may contain carcinogens, but it’s unclear whether the reported cases of skin cancer are associated with tattoos or occurred coincidentally,” says Dr. Bäumler, whose study noted that this number is few in comparison to the many people who have tattoos. (In fact, 24% of the population is inked.)
Thankfully, this correlation doesn’t mean you need to go amputate any tattooed regions of your body, but if you’re on the fence about your next tattoo, it’s something to consider. At the very least, do your research to make sure the salon is hygienic: An artist who cares about hygiene will review the entire procedure with you and show you that the needles are new and sterile, and the ink bottles are single use, as to reduce the risk of infection.
This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.