Tattoos may raise risk of blood cancer, study finds

Tattoos have become more popular in recent years, with many people finding them to be a meaningful and enjoyable form of self-expression. However, a study from Sweden has raised questions about the potential long-term health risks associated with body art, particularly the risk of developing malignant lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

The study, which was recently published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, analyzed data from nearly 1,400 individuals diagnosed with lymphoma and compared them to a control group of more than 4,000 healthy individuals. The researchers found those with tattoos had a 21% higher risk of developing lymphoma compared to those who were ink-free. This increased risk remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for other potential risk factors, such as age, sex, income level and smoking habits.

The timing of tattoo exposure also seemed to play a role in lymphoma risk, according to the study. The researchers found the risk was highest among those who had gotten their first ink either within the past two years or more than 11 years ago. Additionally, the study suggested body art might be more strongly associated with certain subtypes of lymphoma, particularly those originating from B-cells, a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune response.

While the findings are noteworthy, the authors emphasize more research is needed to confirm whether tattoos directly cause lymphoma. Regarding the reasoning behind the association, researchers told News-Medical. Net: “One can only speculate that a tattoo, regardless of size, triggers a low-grade inflammation in the body, which in turn can trigger cancer. The picture is thus more complex than we initially thought.”

If you have tattoos, there’s no need to panic, but it might be worth discussing any potential risks with your doctor. And if you’re considering getting inked, be sure to do your research and choose a reputable artist who uses high-quality, safe inks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.