Weighing the Risks of Body Ink
- A new study out of State University of New York (SUNY) took samples of 56 different tattoo inks, and found that nearly half had azo compounds, or synthetic compounds, that can possibly mutate under ultra-violet light/sunlight—or when exposed to certain bacteria—into cancer-causing chemicals.
- Despite the known or unknown risks, many cancer patients turn to tattoos, even after mastectomies to create nipple art, therefore this body art provides a certain comfort after a traumatic time.
- When getting a nipple tattoo, or any other tattoo, just make sure the benefits to you as a person outweigh the potential risks. Many cancer warriors have overcome so much and choose to not live in fear, but we also have to take into account how toxic certain products can be. Everything in moderation.
As we know, many toxins in our products, foods, and environment can potentially lead to cancer. It doesn’t mean that everyone will develop the disease. However, it’s just best to stay informed and know the risk before you put anything in—or on—your body.Read More
The scientists presented their findings last week at the American Chemical Society’s annual fall meeting expo in Chicago.
What to know what’s in your tattoo ink? Are you at #ACSFall2022? Then check out Kelli’s talk at 2:25 pm today in Grand Horizons E at the Marriott! Find out why Forbes, ABC, NBC, and CBS were all interested in this work!
— John Swierk (@swierklab) August 24, 2022
“We don’t necessarily know what the pigments break down into and so that’s the real concern,” leading chemist on the study Dr. John Swierk told DailyMail.com. “It’s possible that you might have pigments that by themselves are safe, but that photodecompose into something of concern.”
Aiming to Monitor America’s Tattoo Industry
Additionally, the researches found that many of the ink samples had substances that were not listed on the label.
“Big companies manufacture pigments for everything, such as paint and textiles,” Dr. Swierk further explained during the press conference last week. “These same pigments are used in tattoo inks.”
The tattoo industry, they say, is “largely unmonitored,” therefore these experts are focused on building a “comprehensive database of ingredients in different tattoo inks” in the United States.
The European Union banned two specific types of pigments—blue 15:3 and green 7—after similar finding in a 2020 study. However, experts in Germany reportedly said that they found both had a “low level” of toxicity.
We do know that tattoos, in some cases, can cause bacterial infections, and experts also say that tattoos can potentially affect doctor’s findings with an MRI scan, making it harder to diagnose cancer and other conditions.
Dr. Swierk also noted that they have concerns about laser tattoo removal and cancer risk, “since we don’t understand how the laser is transforming the pigments.”
Cancer Patients Turning to Tattoo Art
Still, while we believe that these are valid concerns and more regulation is necessary, many cancer patients turn to body art as a form of expression, while mainly seeking comfort after beating the disease.
Many breast cancer patients have been able to embrace their new bodies after mastectomies, the removal of their breasts, with the help of artists who tattoo nipples and other artwork on their breasts.
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Dr. Raheem Nazerali, a breast reconstructive surgeon at Stanford Health Care, explained the nipple tattooing process in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.
“Nipple tattooing is generally for patients who have undergone a skin sparing mastectomy or a delayed reconstruction,” Dr. Nazerali explained.”So patients who are not eligible for nipple-sparing mastectomies can have a nipple reconstructed by their plastic surgeon.”
“Generally I tell patients that there’s three different types,” he continued. “There’s a 2D reconstruction, a 3D reconstruction, and a 4D reconstruction.”
The 2D is basically just the tattoo done by either a tattoo artist, or done by a physician assistant, or an advanced practitioner, that provides color to where the nipple was supposed to be.
“The 3D tattoo involves shading, so different amounts of shading just like makeup can make things look either flat or can make things look, in three dimension,” he said. “And utilizing color and shading, tattoo artists are able to provide excellent 3D reconstructions of a nipple that appear from the front to have a papule of the nipple, or the center portion of the nipple, with the surrounding color.”
When getting a nipple tattoo, or any other tattoo, just do your research to make sure the benefits to you as a person outweigh the potential risks. Many cancer warriors have overcome so much and choose to not live in fear, but we also have to take into account how toxic certain products can be. Everything in moderation, they say. You do you!