Teens and Tattoos

Dr. John Calbelka M.D. is a radiation oncologist at East Alabama Medical Center. He offered this startling insight into the medical issues that can come with tattoos.

Portrait of young man and woman smiling

The dyes used in tattoos are not FDA approved; this is a danger associated with getting a tattoo that is not often considered. The red dye in particular can contain anything from metal to organic salts.   

In 2007, research began to uncover the cause of skin cancer that was being found in areas on and around tattoos. In 2012, this research left little doubt that these skin cancer lesions occur because of the dye used in tattoos, and 80 percent of those lesions are associated with the red dye used in tattoos.   

In response to any foreign object, the body’s immune system responds to tattoo dye and creates a chronic inflammation reaction, which after many years, may lead to skin cancer.  In one case, a patient’s red rose tattoo began to appear more vibrant red and even began to have a pretty 3-D effect.  However, it was merely the skin reacting before it erupted into boils and cancerous lesions.    

 Doctor (and Parent) -to-Parent Advice on Teen Tattoos 

“Not on my watch – As a parent, there are enough concerns that you should discuss: infections, no FDA regulated ink, blood disease, buyer’s remorse and the appearance of a tattoo after many years. Frankly, the removal process is not easy and has its own health implications. As a parent myself, I’m not comfortable with it.  The longer I can delay my child’s decision, the better chance I have that they will change their mind or, perhaps, it will no longer be in vogue.” 

As an editor, copywriter, and social media manager at exploreMedia, I work to develop content that is relevant and interesting to our readers and coordinate with contributing writers.

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