June 24, 2024

Study: Tattoos could be a risk factor for cancer of the lymphatic system


NEW YORK, May 28 — Tattoos could be a risk factor for cancer of the lymphatic system, or lymphoma. A Swedish study explored a possible link between the ink used for tattoos and lymphoma, and found that the risk of developing this type of cancer was higher among people with tattoos.

The research, conducted by a team from Lund University in Sweden, highlights a possible link between tattoos and lymphoma, a type of cancer of the lymphatic system.

The study included 11,905 people, 2,938 of whom had been diagnosed with lymphoma. Of these, 1,398 completed the questionnaire, compared with 4,193 in the lymphoma-free control group. In the group with lymphoma, 21 per cent were tattooed, while 18 per cent were tattooed in the control group without a lymphoma diagnosis.

“After taking into account other relevant factors, such as smoking and age, we found that the risk of developing lymphoma was 21 per cent higher among those who were tattooed. 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,” says Christel Nielsen, the Lund University researcher who led the study, quoted in a news release.

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Size does not appear to affect risk

The researchers initially thought that tattoo size might influence lymphoma risk. But to their surprise, tattoo size didn’t seem to matter.

“We do not yet know why this was the case. 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,” explains Christel Nielsen.

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When tattoo ink is injected into the skin, the body perceives it as a foreign substance. The immune system reacts by trying to eliminate the ink, which often ends up deposited in the lymph nodes. This accumulation could play a role in the development of cancer, although the exact mechanisms remain to be clarified.

Under-researched risks

The popularity of tattoos has soared in recent decades, but the risks associated with tattoo ink remain largely under-researched. Inks often contain potentially carcinogenic chemicals. The Lund University study is an important step towards a better understanding of these risks, but much remains to be learned.

“People will likely want to continue to express their identity through tattoos, and therefore it is very important that we as a society can make sure that it is safe. For the individual, it is good to know that tattoos can affect your health, and that you should turn to your health care provider if you experience symptoms that you believe could be related to your tattoo,” concludes Christel Nielsen. — ETX Studio



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