Sometimes we see a person who has numerous tattoos all over their body and we naturally wonder, “Can all that ink on their skin can be healthy?”
The ink used in tattoos may contain metals, especially blue ink, which has cobalt and aluminum. Red ink may have mercurial sulfide. Tattoos can cause localized skin reactions such as allergic reactions to the dye or lichenoid (appear like lichen) skin infections.
Tattoos are an unlikely cause of skin cancer according to Ariel Ostad, a professor of Dermatology at NYU Lagone Medical Center, reported in the New York Times. Any skin reaction to the tattoo is handled by infection-fighting cells directly at the location of the tattoo. The ink in the dyes stays in the skin cells of the tattoo and does not spread into the blood or travel to other parts of the body.
The increased risk in a tattoo causing skin cancer occurs when the tattoo covers a mole, making changes at that skin location difficult to detect. This is especially true if darker dyes are used and cover the mole area.
Precautions if you decide to get a tattoo:
1. Make sure to leave a rim of healthy skin around any moles or birthmarks so changes can more easily be observed.
2. Make sure the tattoo artist washes their hands with antibacterial soap, wears disposable gloves while working on your tattoo and uses single-use disposable needles.
3. Ask the tattoo artist about how their equipment and surfaces are sterilized and how they dispose of used needles and equipment when finished.
You can safely get a tattoo without fear of developing cancer. With attention to more than just picking a design, other problems with infection may be avoided as well.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles