According to a Harris Poll, almost half of those aged 18-35 have tattoo and nearly one in four regrets them, according to a 2016. This would translate to approximately 7.5 million tattoo regrets based on an estimated 60 million people.
Anecdotally, many of my patients who are younger than me regret their tattoos. I am a primary care doctor. Many of my patients tell me that they had tattoos when they were young and didn’t do any research.
Since I didn’t have any reliable or other sources of information about tattoos to recommend to my patients, it was up to me to research the subject. I want to create a quick reference that would help teens understand the social and health issues that might arise after getting tattoo.
There were many unexpected and sometimes alarming concerns that I discovered that everyone should be aware of. Surprisingly, I found a lot of reports about ink complications, toxin effects and scarring.
Tattoo Ink Penetrates Deeper Than Skin
There are concerns about the long-term effects that tattoo inks may have on the immune system, pathology specimen interpretation, and other unforeseeable health problems.
A 2012 Danish Environmental Protection Agency report found that some tattoo inks are toxic and can contain carcinogenic chemicals. A study sponsored by the Australian government found that one fifth of tattoo inks contained carcinogenic substances. The vast majority of inks tested also failed to meet international standards for ink composition. Further concerning is the fact that carcinogens found in 83 percent black inks, which is by far the most common color for tattoos.
The European Society of Tattoo and Pigment Research was found in 2013. Its mission is to educate the public about fundamental facts about tattooing that many younger generations don’t know. This group discovered unsafe ingredients in tattoo inks such as mercury, barium, and copper. The research revealed a disconcerting mismatch between the ink container contents list and the actual chemical composition that was tested. The Food and Drug Administration is more concerned with tattoo inks.
Medical Treatment And Testing Errors
Magnetic resonance imaging studies can be use to study metal-based tattoos. Two case studies show patients who were able to get MRI-induced tattoo burns from iron compounds in tattoo pigments. Although radiologists believe this is rare, some suggest that you avoid iron-based tattoo inks.
In the meantime, pathologists are reporting tattoo ink from surgical lymph node biopsy specimens. A 2015 report in Obstetrics and Gynecology described the case of a young lady with cervical cancer that doctors believed had spread to her lymph glands. They discovered that the scans showed what appeared to be malignant cancerous cells, but it was actually tattoo ink. Another patient suffering from melanoma was misdiagnose.
Then There Are The Tattoo Infections
Staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas bacteria are the most common tattoo-relate infections. These bacteria can be cause by poor equipment sterilization or skin preparation. As antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria become more common, staph skin infections may become life-threatening.
A 2015 Tulane University School of Medicine study found that 3 percent of tattoos are infect and nearly 4 percent of those who have tattoos experience pain lasting over a month. A quarter of those with new tattoos experienced persistent itching for more than one month.
One brand of ink was responsible for 22 mycobacterial skin infection cases in four states between 2011 and 2012. These infections were manage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with local public health departments.
Tattoo Induced Skin Conditions
In current literature, more serious tattoo-induced skin conditions like lichen planis, sarcoidosis and lupus-like reactions have been report. These skin conditions can cause permanent scarring and may last for a long time.
Hepatology reported that tattoos exposure was associate with HCV infection even in patients who have not been expose to other risk factors. Patients with tattoos should be warn that they are at greater risk of contracting HCV infection.
Tattoo artists can transmit hepatitis (10 times more common than HIV) through their use of needles. This is why the American Red Cross limits blood donation to individuals with tattoos that are older than a year old and not in regulated facilities.
Tulane University’s study added credibility to the blood donation restrictions. It showed that 17 percent of participants had at most one tattoo done elsewhere than at a tattoos parlor and 21 percent admit to having been intoxicate while getting at least one of their tattoos.