Having a tattoo 'increases risk of developing rare cancer by 21%', study finds

A new study has found that having a tattoo could increase the risk of developing a rare form of cancer by 21 per cent. The study, conducted at Lynd University in Sweden, found that tattoos had the potential to raise the chance of lymphoma - a blood cancer affecting the immune system.

The doctor who lead the study, Christel Nielsen, highlighted that while lymphoma is rare, their findings suggest a group-level association. "It is important to remember that lymphoma is a rare disease and that our results apply at the group level," she said.

Dr Nielsen continued: "The results now need to be verified and investigated further in other studies, and such research is ongoing."

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The study included 11,905 participants who were aged between 20 to 60, The Mirror reports. Out of everyone, 2,938 had lymphoma and 54 per cent of this group responded to a questionnaire about tattoos.

In the lymphoma group, 21 per cent had tattoos, compared to 18 per cent in the control group without the cancer. Dr Nielsen said that more studies are ongoing to explore this potential health risk further.

After factoring in variables like smoking and age, researchers discovered that individuals with tattoos faced a 21 per cent higher risk of lymphoma. The size of the tattoo does not seem to matter.

The study identified common subtypes of lymphoma, with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and follicular lymphoma topping the list. Those diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma were on average younger at around 36 years old.

Researchers are puzzled about the exact link between tattoos and lymphoma. Dr Nielsen suggests that tattooing might trigger a low-grade inflammation in the body, which potentially leads to cancer.

She said: "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.’

"We already know that when the tattoo ink is injected into the skin, the body interprets this as something foreign that should not be there and the immune system is activated. A large part of the ink is transported away from the skin, to the lymph nodes where it is deposited."