DermNews: British Report Finds Tattoos Could Cause Cancer

Tattoos may not just be skin deep.

According to a report published in The Sunday Times on September 22nd, toxins from tattoo ink could be absorbed into the body and cause cancer. The study, conducted by England’s Bradford University Centre for Skin Science, suggests that ink nanoparticles could enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the spleen and kidneys, damaging the body’s ability to filter impurities. Collagen, the body’s connective tissue, can also be permanently damaged by the dyes.

“We need to do more work, but there is no question that these substances can be toxic,” Desmond Tobin, director of Bradford University’s Centre for Skin Sciences, told The Times, “It takes a long time for the multiple-step nature of cancer to show its face. I don’t think we should wait 20 years to see if there is anything wrong with these ingredients.”

European tattoo ink manufacturers acknowledge that 5 percent of tattoo studios use inks containing carcinogenic compounds, but new findings have inspired health advocates to campaign for stricter regulations. A 2013 study by Jorgen Serup, a dermatology professor based in Denmark, found cancer-causing chemicals in 13 out of 21 tattoo inks commonly used in Europe.

“Millions of Europeans are now being tattooed with chemical substances of unknown origin,” said Serup, “Until now, no one has really looked at the risks, and we need to get proper research going in this field.”

Americans contemplating “getting inked” should consider an ongoing investigation into tattoo ink that was launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011 after research found tattoo inks contained potentially dangerous carcinogens.

The first official “Tattoo Tip” listed on the the FDA’s official tattoo fact sheet is as follows: “No tattoo ink pigments have been FDA approved.”