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Published on: 29 May 2024

Tattoos as a risk factor for lymphoma. 


You may have seen press coverage of research carried out in Sweden that has indicated an apparent association between tattoos and the incidence of lymphoma. As the report says, tattoo ink often contains carcinogenic chemicals (eg primary aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and metals), and the tattooing process invokes a response from the immune system that transports the chemicals to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes. The long-term health effects of this are unexplored. 

The survey indicated that people with tattoos had a higher adjusted risk of lymphoma, and this varied depending on several factors, such as the type of lymphoma, and the time since having tattoos. However, we must remember that an association does not necessarily indicate a causal link between having tattoos and the incidence of lymphoma. Hence, the researchers pointed to the need for epidemiologic research in this area.

For the average person the risk of developing lymphoma is low, even when you take into account risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing lymphoma. The important thing is to be vigilant for symptoms.