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Tattoos Linked to Higher Health Risk: Startling Study



Clear Facts

  • A new study from Lund University in Sweden indicates a potential 21% higher risk of developing lymphoma for individuals with tattoos.
  • The research involved 11,905 participants, and found that lymphoma risks were highest among those who had their first tattoo less than two years prior.
  • Despite tattoos becoming increasingly popular, the FDA does not regulate the inks and pigments used, leaving this to state and local jurisdictions.

New evidence from a study at Lund University in Sweden suggests that individuals with tattoos may face a 21% increased risk of developing lymphoma, a type of cancer impacting the body’s lymphatic system.

The study revealed that the likelihood of lymphoma increased irrespective of the tattoo’s size. The study’s lead author, Dr. Christel Nielsen, stressed the importance of guaranteeing safety in this widespread form of self-expression. “People will likely want to continue to express their identity through tattoos. Therefore, ensuring safety is crucial,” Nielsen said.

Lymphoma attacks the lymphatic system, a key part of the body’s immune defense. The study linked tattoos most commonly with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

According to the American Cancer Society, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for about 4% of all cancer cases. An estimated 80,620 new non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnoses are expected this year.

The study spanned ten years, involving 11,905 participants aged 20 to 60. Among these, 2,938 individuals were diagnosed with lymphoma. The study required these participants, as well as people in a control group, to complete a comprehensive questionnaire about tattoos.

The research identified the highest lymphoma risk among individuals who got their first tattoo less than two years prior, regardless of the tattoo size. The researchers admit that further study is needed to better comprehend these findings.

Tattoos are growing in popularity across various demographics. A 2023 survey found that 32% of American adults have at least one tattoo, and tattoos are more common in women than men.

However, the FDA does not currently regulate the inks and pigments used in tattoos, leaving this responsibility to state and local jurisdictions. One medical contributor noted, “Ink is considered carcinogenic,” and added, “The immune system gets activated in response to the ink you put in your body.”

Despite tattoos’ growing popularity, projected to double the global tattoo market size from $2.22 billion to $4.83 billion by 2032, comprehensive information about the long-term health implications of tattoos remains scarce.


The researchers at Lund University have called for in-depth examinations of the relationship between tattoos and various health outcomes. They plan to investigate potential links between tattoos and other cancer types as well as inflammatory diseases. As tattoos’ popularity continues to rise, the research community is eager to fully understand their impact on the human health.

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