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Rare Case of Basal Cell Carcinoma From Tattoo Ink

By: Cordi Craig
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2020

Some unapproved tattoo inks may contain carcinogenic substances and have become an issue of growing concern. Soon Heum Kim, MD, PhD, and colleagues from Konkuk University, Chungju, Korea, reported a rare case of basal cell carcinoma on a woman’s tattooed eyebrow. The results, published in the Archives of Craniofacial Surgery, suggested that although skin neoplasms may occur several years after tattooing, clinicians should conduct thorough and accurate inquiries.

A 49-year-old woman presented with a black, hard mass on her right eyebrow. The mass had been present for 1 year and measured 1.2 x 0.7 cm. The woman received permanent tattoos on both eyebrows for cosmetic reasons from an unlicensed beauty shop 6 years earlier. The research team found no relevant family or medical history, and the woman worked indoors without excessive sunlight exposure.

Since basal cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes, the researchers planned a staged excision. The first operation removed most of the mass, and the patient was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma based on histopathologic examination. After 2 months, the remaining cancer was removed with wide excision and primary closure. After 3 years of follow-up, no disease recurrence was observed.

Although not well understood, there are several proposed mechanisms through which tattoos are thought to cause skin neoplasms; they include inflammatory responses to injection, carcinogenic tattoo ink, and changes in the absorption of ultraviolet rays. The study results support more thorough analyses of unapproved tattoo ink and stricter management of safety and complication monitoring.

“It is easy for health-care providers to overlook the association with tattoos,” the study team concluded. “For this reason, medical practitioners should consider the causal relationship of skin neoplasms with tattoos by conducting accurate inquiries and establishing appropriate diagnoses and treatment plans.”

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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