Skip to main content

I’ve always been a fan of body ink. I appreciate the effort in creating tattoos so much that I’m thinking of getting some myself. Yet, I may have to put those plans on hold. A recent Swedish study has suggested that getting new ink may increase the risk of lymphoma.

Tattoos and Lymphoma

Past studies have highlighted the potential carcinogenic effects of tattoo ink. Now, Swedish researchers seek to understand how the deposition of tattoo pigments within the body may affect cancer risk,

“It has been shown that [the body] moves the [tattoo]pigment to the lymph nodes, and that it is permanently stored there.” explained Christel Nielsen, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Lund in Sweden, to Medical News Today. Nielsen added that she and her team wanted to understand the long-term health impacts of the aforementioned permanent storage.

Nielsen’s team analyzed malignant lymphoma cases diagnosed from 2007 to 2017 using the Swedish National Cancer Register. Malignant lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that attacks the lymphatic system – a vital part of the body’s immune system, helping it fight off germs and diseases.

In 2021, individuals with malignant lymphoma, alongside a control group, completed a lifestyle questionnaire. They also shared whether they had any tattoos.

Does Getting Inked Cause Blood Cancer?

“After taking into account other relevant factors, such as smoking and age, we found that the risk of developing lymphoma was 21 percent higher among those who were tattooed,” Dr. Christel Nielsen, study author.

Per the findings published in eClinicalMedicine, tattooed individuals face a 21% higher lymphoma risk, compared to 18% without tattoos.

The researchers also found that the size of the tattoo had little effect on lymphoma risk. Nielsen proposed that, regardless of size, tattoos trigger a low-grade inflammation in the body, which in turn can trigger cancer.

Why is body ink cancerous?

Aside from potentially triggering inflammation, tattoo ink may also contain carcinogenic compounds.

Despite that, experts haven’t fully embraced the notion that tattoos cause cancer. Speaking to CNN, Dr. Timothy Rebbeck is an epidemiologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He admitted that while the data is solid, it fails to find a strong association between tattoos and lymphoma.

Dr. Catherine Diefenbach is the director of the Clinical Lymphoma Program at NYU Langone Health Perlmutter Cancer Center. She had questions about the tattoo size’s effect on lymphoma risk,

“It doesn’t really make sense to me that if there is an immune or toxic response, that the bigger tattoo didn’t have any impact at all on the association,” she said to CNN. She added that she has a lot of questions about the study.

Nielsen admits the study has limitations and acknowledges the need for more epidemiologic research to establish causality. Yet, she also points out that her study highlights the importance of safety in the components of tattoo ink.

Getting inked safely

“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.” – Dr. Christel Nielsen 

Getting inked involves needle use, exposing us to risks like hepatitis C and other infections. To ensure your safety whilst getting a tattoo, look out for;

  • A dirty tattoo studio.
  • The reuse of needles. Needles must be sterile, used once, and thrown out.
  • The reuse of any unsterilized tattoo or invasive makeup equipment that punctures the skin.
  • Visibly dirty reusable equipment.
  • Staff putting needles directly into ink bottles.
  • The presence of pets, cigarettes, or alcohol.
  • Staff not washing their hands thoroughly before and after tattooing.
  • Staff wearing dirty clothing.

“I would like to highlight that tattooed individuals should be aware that tattoos might have adverse health effects, and that you should seek medical care if you experience any symptoms that you think may be tattoo-related,” advises Nielsen.

Want to know more?

So, the verdict is out about whether getting some new ink may affect my cancer risk. Yet, the good news is that we can both reduce our risk in other ways. In fact, adopting a three-pronged approach may help protect against cancer.

References

Alberta Health. (n.d.). Tattoo Safety: Think Before You Ink. [online] Available at: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/Think-before-you-ink.aspx.

Christensen, J. (2024). New study points to possible link between tattoos and lymphoma, but experts say much more research is needed. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2024/05/30/health/tattoo-lymphoma-cancer-study/index.html [Accessed 2 Jun. 2024].

‌‌Lundu University. (2024). Possible association between tattoos and lymphoma revealed | Lund University. [online] www.lunduniversity.lu.se. Available at: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/article/possible-association-between-tattoos-and-lymphoma-revealed.

Flynn, H. (2024). New research links tattoos of any size with a higher lymphoma risk. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/tattoos-may-increase-blood-cancer-risk-by-21.

‌Nielsen, C., Mats Jerkeman and Anna Saxne Jöud (2024). Tattoos as a risk factor for malignant lymphoma: a population-based case–control study. EClinicalMedicine, 72, pp.102649–102649. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2024.102649.

‌MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Kevin Bidwell/Pexels
Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a journalist graduate and writer, specializing in health, beauty, and wellness. She also has a passion for poetry, equality, and natural hair. Identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to provide the latest information on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle and leave a more equitable society behind.

Longevity Live is a digital publisher AND DOES NOT OFFER PERSONAL HEALTH OR MEDICAL ADVICE. IF YOU’RE FACING A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES IMMEDIATELY, OR VISIT THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM OR URGENT CARE CENTER. YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER BEFORE STARTING ANY NUTRITION, DIET, EXERCISE, FITNESS, MEDICAL, OR WELLNESS PROGRAM.

This content, developed through collaboration with licensed medical professionals and external contributors, including text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, procedure, or treatment, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter drug, vitamin, supplement, or herbal alternative.

Longevity Live makes no guarantees about the efficacy or safety of products or treatments described in any of our posts. Any information on supplements, related services and drug information contained in our posts are subject to change and are not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects.

Longevity does not recommend or endorse any specific test, clinician, clinical care provider, product, procedure, opinion, service, or other information that may be mentioned on Longevity’s websites, apps, and Content.

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!