Tattoo Exposure Linked to Increased Lymphoma Risk - EMJ

Tattoo Exposure Linked to Increased Lymphoma Risk

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A recent study, utilising the Swedish National Authority Registers, has highlighted a potential link between tattoo exposure and an increased risk of malignant lymphoma. With tattoos’ rising popularity, this research is crucial for healthcare professionals to consider the long-term health implications of tattoo ink, which often contains carcinogenic chemicals like primary aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals. 

The study, encompassing data from 2007–2017, examined individuals aged 20–60 diagnosed with malignant lymphoma, utilising the Swedish National Cancer Register. Three age- and sex-matched controls per case were selected from the Total Population Register. A 2021 questionnaire assessed tattoo exposure, while potential confounders were accounted for using register data. 

Out of the 11,905 individuals surveyed, response rates were 54% among cases and 47% among controls. Tattoo prevalence was found to be 21% among lymphoma cases, compared to 18% in controls. The study reported an adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) of 1.21 (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 0.99–1.48) for overall lymphoma in tattooed individuals. Notably, the risk was significantly higher in those with less than two years between their first tattoo and the index year (IRR: 1.81; 95% CI: 1.03–3.20). Although the risk fluctuated with the duration of exposure, there was no clear correlation with the extent of tattooed body surface area. 

Specific lymphoma subtypes, such as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (IRR: 1.30; 95% CI: 0.99–1.71) and follicular lymphoma (IRR: 1.29; 95% CI: 0.92–1.82), exhibited a higher risk associated with tattoo exposure. 

These findings underscore the need for further epidemiological research to firmly establish causality and better understand the health risks posed by tattoo inks. Healthcare professionals should be aware of these potential risks when advising patients considering tattoos. 



Nielsen C et al. Tattoos as a risk factor for malignant lymphoma: a population-based case–control study. EClinicalMedicine. 2024.


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