Tattoos could trigger rare form of cancer, new study finds

Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - Having a tattoo could increase your risk of developing a rare type of cancer by 21%, a new study has found.

According to Researchers in Sweden, they found a potential link between tattoos and cancer in the lymphatic system, known as lymphoma.

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the immune system.

Researchers from Lynd University investigated the relationship between tattoos and long-term health effects.

Dr Christel Nielsen, who led the study, said:

‘It is important to remember that lymphoma is a rare disease and that our results apply at the group level.

‘The results now need to be verified and investigated further in other studies, and such research is ongoing.’

The researchers looked at 11,905 people and 2,938 of the group, aged between 20 and 60 years old, had lymphoma.

Of those participants, 54% answered the questionnaire about tattoos and 47% of the control group, who did not have lymphoma, did the same.

In the group with lymphoma, 21% were tattooed (289 people), compared to 18% in the control group without a lymphoma diagnosis (735 people).

After looking at other factors such as smoking and age, the researchers found that the risk of developing lymphoma was 21% higher among those who were tattooed.

The researchers also found that the size of the tattoo did not matter so having a full-body tattoo did not increase the risk any more than a smaller tattoo would.

The most common subtypes of cancer were diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (28%), Hodgkin lymphoma (21%), and follicular lymphoma (18%). The average age of those with a diagnosis ranged between 51 and 57 years. However, those with Hodgkin lymphoma had an average age of 36.

However, the researchers are unsure why this is the case. Dr Nielsen said:

‘'One can only speculate that a tattoo, regardless of size, triggers a low-grade inflammation in the body, which in turn can trigger cancer. The picture is thus more complex than we initially thought.’

‘We already know that when the tattoo ink is injected into the skin, the body interprets this as something foreign that should not be there and the immune system is activated. A large part of the ink is transported away from the skin, to the lymph nodes where it is deposited.’

The researchers said that further investigation is needed to look into any other association between tattoos and other types of cancer, and what the underlying cause could be.

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