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Tattoo causes inherent risks of hepatitis, HIV and cancers, warn doctors

Learn about the serious health risks associated with tattoos, including hepatitis, HIV, and cancer, as cautioned by medical professionals. Understand the importance of safety measures and informed decisions before getting inked.

Written By: Muskan Gupta @guptamuskan_ New Delhi Published on: May 29, 2024 20:05 IST
Image Source : SOCIAL Tattoo causes inherent risks of hepatitis, HIV

Tattoos have long been a symbol of self-expression and artistry, with countless individuals choosing to adorn their bodies with intricate designs and meaningful symbols. However, recent warnings from medical professionals shed light on the potential health risks associated with getting inked.

According to doctors, the process of tattooing carries a significant risk of transmitting diseases such as Hepatitis B, C, and HIV, primarily due to the use of contaminated needles in non-expert hands.

"The most obvious health concerns emanate from the use of possibly infected needles used to draw these tattoos in non-expert hands & the risk of contracting infections like Hepatitis B, C or even HIV," Suhail Qureshi, Additional Director & Unit Head - Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, told IANS.

In a study conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, it was discovered that tattooed individuals face a higher risk of developing lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the lymphatic system. The risk was found to be particularly elevated in those with less than two years since their first tattoo, with large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma being the most commonly associated subtypes.

The presence of potentially carcinogenic substances in tattoo ink, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), poses a significant concern for health experts. Tushar Tayal, Consultant in Internal Medicine at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, explained that when tattoo ink containing PAHs is injected into the skin, the body's immune response can lead to the deposition of ink particles in the lymph nodes, increasing the risk of cancer.

"This is because the tattoo ink, which may contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) -- a known carcinogen, is injected into the skin. The body treats it as a foreign object that should not be there, and the immune system gets activated. A large part of the ink is transported away from the skin, to the lymph nodes where it is deposited," said Tushar Tayal.

Recent surveys conducted by Australia's Department of Health revealed alarming findings regarding the composition of tattoo inks. PAHs were detected in a substantial portion of the samples tested, particularly in black inks, along with other hazardous components including heavy metals like mercury and copper. These chemicals not only pose a risk of skin problems but also increase the likelihood of developing skin cancers and other malignancies.

According to Suhail Qureshi, the absorption of ink from the dermis into the body's lymphatic system may contribute to the development of various cancers, including those affecting the liver, urinary bladder, and blood.

Despite these concerning findings, the regulation of tattoo ink composition remains lax in many countries, including India, where there are no strict guidelines governing its use. Until regulatory frameworks are established to ensure the safety of tattoo inks, individuals are urged to exercise caution when considering getting inked.

While tattoos continue to be a popular form of self-expression, it's essential to weigh the potential health risks against the desire for body art. By staying informed and making informed choices, individuals can minimise the dangers associated with tattoos and prioritise their health and well-being above all else.

(with IANS inputs)

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