Tattoos pose inherent risks of hepatitis, HIV and cancers, warn doctors

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Tattoos pose inherent risks of hepatitis, HIV and cancers, warn doctors

New Delhi: Love to get tattooed? Beware, the ink and needle used may raise your risk of getting diseases like Hepatitis B, C, HIV, and even cancers of the liver and blood, warned doctors on Wednesday.

Tattoos have become very popular, especially among the youth, as a form of body art and a means of expressing their thoughts or passion.

“The most obvious health concerns emanate from the use of possibly infected needles used to draw these tattoos in non-expert hands & the risk of contracting infections like Hepatitis B, C or even HIV,” Suhail Qureshi, Additional Director & Unit Head – Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, told IANS.

In a recent study of 11,905 individuals, by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, tattooed individuals were found to have a higher risk of lymphoma.

The risk of lymphoma was highest in individuals with less than two years since their first tattoo.

The risk associated with tattoo exposure seemed to be highest for large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.

“This is because the tattoo ink, which may contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) — a known carcinogen, is injected into the skin. The body treats it as a foreign object that should not be there, and the immune system gets activated. A large part of the ink is transported away from the skin, to the lymph nodes where it is deposited,” Tushar Tayal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, told IANS.

Recently, Australia’s Department of Health also surveyed the composition of tattoo inks and found a mismatch between the labelling and the contents.

They found PAHs in 20 per cent of the samples tested and in 83 per cent of the black inks. Other hazardous components found in the inks included heavy metals like mercury, barium, copper, amines, and various colourants.

“These hazardous chemicals may cause simple ailments like skin problems to the more dangerous skin cancers,” Suhail said.

He explained that the “ink may get absorbed from the dermis (outer layer of the skin) into the lymphatic system of the body and may increase the risk of some other cancers like liver, urinary bladder as well as blood cancers like lymphoma and leukaemia”.

The hazardous chemicals in the tattoo ink are primarily responsible for these dangerous ailments and until the time health care authorities strictly regulate the contents of such inks, this risk will always remain.

“While not all tattoo inks contain these cancer-causing chemicals, we need to exercise caution while getting a tattoo since in India, there are no regulatory frameworks that govern this,” Suhail said.

 


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