Tattoos are increasing in popularity, and the stigma surrounding body art has receded massively within the past few decades. Following this influx, recently there has been attention given to the relationship between tattoos and an increased risk of skin cancer.

While studies concerned with this correlation have been largely inconclusive, it is important for persons considering new body art to be aware of the risks tattoos can pose to the health of their skin, and their health more broadly.

A key study appearing in PRS Global Open, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ journal of academic medicine, found no direct connection between the ink used in tattoos and an increased risk of cancer. However, this study has called for further research regarding associations of squamous cell carcinoma and tattoo recipients.

The reason for this is the growing concern regarding the lack of regulation of production of tattoo inks. While cases have been uncommon, it is entirely possible for these unregulated inks to contain carcinogens. Without the proper checks and balances, it is possible for the production, sale and use of cancer inducing inks without the knowledge of the tattoo artist or their customers.

To combat the risk of exposure to carcinogenic ink it is important to look for reputable tattoo artists. Such artists should be willing to share the details regarding the origins of the ink they use, and if the ink is produced in a country with liberalised laws regarding cosmetic products, this should be cause for concern.

Fortunately, the risk of carcinogenic inks being used in tattoos is low. In order to keep them low, tattoo artists and their customers need to be aware of this issue. Don’t be afraid to discuss the nitty gritty details of your tattoo with your artist- it is a life changing decision involving significant risk, and a drive to discuss these details is vital for persons concerned about their health. Finally, take note of the ink used and its manufacturer, and be prepared to report these details to your doctor should any unusual irritation occur following a new tattoo.