Connection Between Tattoos and Lymphoma

A recent observational study from Sweden has linked tattoos with a 21% higher risk of developing lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. Conducted by researchers at Lund University, the study utilized Sweden’s comprehensive medical records to investigate the issue further. Although the carcinogenic potential of certain tattoo inks was previously known, the extent of their impact on cancer risk remained unclear, leading researchers to initiate this study.

Tattoos have gained popularity as a form of self-expression, likely influenced by a decrease in societal taboos. The inks used in tattoos typically contain chemicals that have been identified as carcinogenic in other settings, such as among workers with occupational exposure. Additionally, it is known that the body’s immune system moves the ink away from the skin in an effort to eliminate the particles it identifies as foreign substances, a process that results in the permanent storage of the pigment in the lymph nodes.

Researchers focused on individuals aged 20 to 60 who were diagnosed between 2007 and 2017. They reached out to the affected individuals with three controls for each, inviting them to participate in the study. Ultimately, the study comprised 1,398 lymphoma patients and 4,193 controls. The team then explored the relationship between tattooing and lymphoma incidence. Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, affects many young people, though it is among the less lethal types of cancer.

The study took into account various lifestyle factors, such as smoking and socioeconomic status, during its analysis. Although tattoos were identified as a risk factor for lymphoma, the lifestyle habits commonly associated with tattooed individuals, such as smoking and substance use, might also play a role in the heightened risk.

The researchers found no relationship between the size of the tattooed area and the incidence of lymphoma, which was unexpected. They suggested that this could be due to the time period between evaluating tattoo status and diagnosing lymphoma, during which some participants may have gotten additional tattoos, potentially causing misclassification. However, another explanation could be that any tattoo, regardless of its size, might induce a low-grade inflammation in the body, potentially leading to cancer.

This study is the most thorough so far in examining the potential link between tattoos and lymphoma, yet its conclusions are not conclusive. The results of the study highlight the necessity for additional research to explore the relationship. Nonetheless, it is generally considered safer to avoid getting tattoos than to have them.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Tattoos as a risk factor for malignant lymphoma: a population-based case–control study