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Tattoos Increase Risk Of Cancer; All You Need To Know

Tattoos used to be seen as something rebellious or only for certain groups of people. But now, they're really popular and are seen as a way for each person to tell their own story and show who they are.

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By Shreya Mirikar
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Tattoos used to be seen as something rebellious or only for certain groups of people. But now, they're really popular and are seen as a way for each person to tell their own story and show who they are. Whether it's a big, colorful design covering your arm or a small, simple one, tattoos let you express yourself in a cool way.

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As tattoos have become more popular, It has also increased concerns for the health. Especially, because of the chemicals in the ink. These chemicals stay in our skin forever, and that raises some concerns about our long-term well-being.

Research indicates that tattoo ink doesn't remain solely on the skin's surface. Instead, the body recognizes it as foreign material, leading to an immune response that can result in ink particles traveling to the lymph nodes. However, the implications of ink accumulation in the lymphatic system remain a topic of investigation.

To find answers, scientists at Lund University in Sweden conducted a big study. They wanted to see if people with tattoos have a higher chance of getting a rare type of cancer called malignant lymphoma, which affects certain white blood cells called lymphocytes.

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Sweden is one of the world's most tattooed countries, with over 20% of its population having tattoos. Additionally, Sweden keeps detailed records of its population, including a thorough National Cancer Register that tracks all cancer cases in the country.

To learn more about possible health concerns linked to tattoos, researchers studied all Swedes aged 20 to 60 who were diagnosed with lymphoma between 2007 and 2017. They also selected three people of the same age and gender for each lymphoma patient who didn't have lymphoma. This comparison helped the researchers understand the potential risks associated with tattoos.

People in the study answered lots of questions about their lifestyles. Those with tattoos also shared details like how big their tattoos were, when they got their first one, and the colors of the ink used. In total, 5,591 people took part—1,398 had lymphoma, and 4,193 didn't, serving as a comparison group.

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The study showed that people with tattoos had a 21% higher chance of getting lymphoma compared to those without tattoos. Even after taking into account factors like smoking and education, which could affect both tattooing and lymphoma risk, the researchers still found this increased risk.

What's interesting is that the size of tattoos didn't seem to make a difference in the risk of getting lymphoma. What did matter was how long ago someone got their tattoo. The risk was higher for both recent tattoos (within two years) and ones that were over ten years old.

It's important to understand that lymphoma is not common. In 2022, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare reported that only 22 out of every 100,000 people aged 20 to 60 were diagnosed with lymphoma. This suggests that there might be a significant connection between tattoos and the risk of lymphoma.

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Scientists are now focusing on studying two types of skin cancer further. They're also planning new studies to look into possible connections between tattoos and conditions related to the immune system.

For now, it's important for people with tattoos to keep themselves informed about any possible health issues and to talk to a doctor if they notice any symptoms that might be linked to their tattoos.

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