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Could Your Tattoo Really be a Cancer Risk?

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What are the Known Risks of Getting a Tattoo?

There are a number of health issues that can arise from getting a tattoo. These should be treated as potential side-effects/problems that are on the whole uncommon but are possibilities to take into account ahead of deciding to get inked.

The risks listed by the FDA include:

Infection – We are all aware that unhygienic needles can pass on infections like hepatitis and HIV, so ensuring the artist is following proper sterilization methods is important (more on that below).

Allergies – Some people are unfortunately allergic to the ink pigments present in both temporary and permanent tattoos, especially if they are allergic to other things like hair dye. An allergy can manifest as a rash or inflammation and must be treated in a timely manner to guard against further complications. Allergic reactions can vary though. For a more complete overview, please click here.

Granulomas - Tattoo ink is a foreign substance to the body and in some circumstances the body will react to tattoos by creating granulomas, which feel like small knots or bumps, around and under the tattoo site.

MRA Concerns – On rare occasions, those with tattoos undergoing an MRA may experience swelling or a burning sensation in the area of the body on which they have their tattoo. This, again, is uncommon and does not last long. Informing medical staff that you have a tattoo so that precautions can be taken will solve this.

What Can I Do to Make Sure My Tattoo Won’t Cause Me Health Issues?

While currently there is no safety guarantee in the EU to ensure that tattoo ink is properly quality controlled, those seeking a tattoo should feel confident in asking the artist what kind of inks they use and what is in them: if the artist has a good knowledge of the inks, this may be enough to reassure.

If further reassurances are needed, you can request the use of specific inks, though obviously they would have to be ordered in and this is at the artist’s discretion — many may notl feel comfortable working with inks they have not previously used. reports there are some inks that are specifically made to be free of solvents and all PET plastics as well as other impurities, and names John Montgomery’s Alla Prima Ink as a particular choice that is also suitable for vegans too. Those seeking a tattoo might therefore wish to research the inks on offer at a particular tattoo parlor.

There are also a few simple steps that you can take to minimize your chance of infection from other variables.

While there are no formal training procedures for tattoo artists, there are good practices that can reassure you the artist is a professional.

For instance, the artist should be willing to show examples of their work, allowing you to gauge their expertise and the results of their efforts.

They should also use what is known as a steam autoclave sterilizer that will ensure the needles they are using are sterile. Current advice is that you should always ask to see the autoclave, which the artist should be happy to show you. If they are not, or they do not have an autoclave, this should raise concerns. Also, check the condition of the autoclave. Does it look like it is functioning properly?

To find out more questions you should ask and safety tips for when you get your tattoo, please click here.

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1:07AM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

In the begining of the article,it sounds serious..then at the end it says Tattooing has a strong safety profile....filing it under "More Data Required"

12:59PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

A long article with inconclusive evidence.

1:39AM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

That's scary! However, I am sure there needs to be more research about it as people have been getting tattoos for centuries. To me, the hygiene factor plays the most important role in post ink skin issues. When you ensure that you are going to the right place, it should be a problem. I got mine (a beautiful lily designed by a great artist on inked from a local parlor that was reputed, well known, and had the most updated equipment.

10:53AM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

Just wait till all the young people with tat covered bodies get old. All that wonderful permanent "art" will be green and gross. My grand father had one and it looked like shit! Never could understand why you would want a permanent picture on your body? But to each his own. We need more cancer to thin out our growing population.

9:58AM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

Despite loving seeing them on other people, I'm still not planning to ever get one, and this just confirms that my decision is a good one.

8:27AM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

well isn't that a kick in the hind-parts -- looks like that'll do in the next generation - if the oil and global warming doesn't beat it to it! Seems reasonable to me - tattoos aren't very normal - never understood the desire for the art!

7:56AM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

Oh my--once again it is what we don't know that can hurt us

7:39PM PDT on Oct 1, 2013

My tats and I have lived a very long, healthy life together.

1:59PM PDT on Oct 1, 2013

right...not surprised. again, still wondering what is not cancer causing.

8:30AM PDT on Oct 1, 2013

Thank you for sharing!

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