Generations of conservative adults have been tut-tutting the practice of tattooing and those who engage in it for its socially progressive inclination. But while the disapproval of older relatives and horror stories of stanched career possibilities may not affect many with their hearts set on decorating their skin, there is new evidence that may suggest another, more significant reason to think twice before going under the needle.
You've likely heard the horror stories about unclean tattoo shops leading to infection and other post-ink ailments. Fortunately, the current state of modern tattooing in the U.S. is as professional as it is popular. However, recent reports have revealed that there may be a link between certain tattoo inks and skin cancer, which could give pause to some potential tattooees who find themselves on the fence.
As tattooing grows, so does skin cancer
Tattooing in mainstream U.S. culture is perhaps more popular now than it has ever been. In fact, according to data from the Pew Research Center, around 40 percent of adults between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo – a fact that may surprise some who still believe tattooing to be fringe.
At the same time, incidents of skin cancer also seem to be on the rise. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it is the most common form of cancer, as well as being one of the most diverse. There are around 3.5 million different skin cancers, and each year another 2 million are added to the list of those affected, ultimately afflicting 20 percent of all Americans. In recent years, one type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma has seen a 200 percent rise in incidence over the past 30 years. While the source noted that around 90 percent of skin cancers develop as a result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation – commonly known as garden-variety sunlight – there may be a new risk factor on developing.
Tattoo inks may be a risk
The Washington Post reported that a German study was recently undertaken to investigate a possible link between red and black tattoo ink and the occurrence of skin cancer shortly after the tattoo was given. While the particular study in question found no direct link between ink and cancer, the doctors conducting the research nevertheless encouraged physicians to be on the lookout for squamous cell carcinoma in patients who experience a reaction to tattoos.
Despite the fact that there was no direct correlation uncovered by the study, researchers still pointed out that there is currently no international standard governing the composition of some of the most popular tattoo inks. Indeed, within the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has no jurisdiction over any aspect of the industry, from the needles to the inks. People may not associate bad tattoos with medical complications, but it's certainly something for tattoo hopefuls to keep on their radar.
Aside from the recently investigated cancer risk, much research has been carried out to uncover additional medical and health problems that may arise from tattooing. The Mayo Clinic warned of some of the more common complications, such as allergic reaction to inks – many of which use heavy metals and sulfates to obtain their pigment. Additionally, poor shop conditions and contaminated needles or other equipment can lead to dangerous infection or other blood-borne illness. In severe cases, bumps called granulomas or even keloids – prominent and extreme buildups of scar tissue – can form around tattooed areas. While not medically dangerous, such reactions can mar your skin as well as your tattoo, leaving you with an awkward case of tattoo regret.
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