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Early-Onset Basal Cell Carcinoma and Cosmetic Tattoos

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2020

According to data from a New Hampshire population-based study published in Epidemiology, cosmetic tattoos may potentially increase the risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma. However, the study findings did not reach statistical significance. “While preliminary, our findings raise the possibility that tattoos may be related to [the] occurrence of early basal cell carcinomas and suggest the need for rigorous epidemiologic studies into the potential human health effects of cosmetic tattooing,” stated Margaret R. Karagas, PhD, of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, and colleagues.

The researchers identified 922 cases of early-onset basal cell carcinoma through local dermatology and central pathology laboratories in New Hampshire and bordering areas. They matched cases to 823 randomly selected controls from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation database. In total, 156 patients with basal cell carcinoma and 213 control patients reported cosmetic tattoos.

Among individuals with tattoos, the adjusted odds ratio of basal cell carcinoma at the tattoo site compared with another site was 1.8, with a 95% confidence interval of 1.0 to 3.2. The strongest association was observed in tattoos with yellow and green ink, although this link also did not reach significance. Red, blue, black, and other color inks did not appear to be related to the risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma.

“The assessment of tattoo safety poses numerous challenges,” concluded the authors, because “regulation of cosmetic tattooing is inconsistent across the globe.”

Disclosure: The authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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