DermNews: Tattoos Can Hide Melanomas

If you’re planning to get a tattoo and you would like to avoid developing skin cancer, remember this saying, which is also a cardinal tenet of real estate: Location, location, location.

According to a new report published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, getting a tattoo over a mole or birthmark can be a major health hazard. The report cites the case of a 29 year-old German man who was in the midst of a laser tattoo removal procedure when doctors discovered a cancerous mole beneath the tattoo ink. A biopsy of the mole revealed that it was a malignant melanoma.

Sixteen other cases of cancerous moles developing within tattoos have been reported.

“Tattoos should never be placed on pigmented lesions; if they are, the tattoos should not undergo laser treatment,” said the researchers.

“It is harder to do surveillance on moles that are covered by tattoos, as the tattoo ink camouflages the mole and sometimes interferes with some of the tools we use for detection,” Dr. Hooman Khorasani of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told HealthDay, adding that once a tattoo-covered mole has become cancerous, laser removal can make matters worse, “Once you start the laser removal, the laser can also remove the pigment that the melanoma cells make called melanocytes,” Khorasani said. “Therefore, any irregular pigment that one would expect to detect will not be detected as easily. This is the reason that some subtypes of melanoma, called amelanotic melanomas, are more dangerous and aggressive.”

If you have a tattoo, schedule a checkup with a dermatologist, especially if you are certain that your tattoo is covering a mole or birthmark. Regardless of whether or not you have a tattoo, take ten minutes out of your day to check your skin for melanomas. Ten minutes could save your life.