The Link Between Tattoos And Long-Term Health Issues Report Examples

Type of paper: Report

Topic: Tattoos, Mercury, Ink, People, Reaction, Skin Cancer, Petition, Cost

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/09/09


Increasingly tattooing is becoming a popular means of artistic self-expression, especially amongst young people. Tattoos are being used by persons, who are under age 30, give certain clues about their identity, past or interests. However, opponents of the practice of tattoos mention that there are specific tattoo inks that contain carcinogenic components and tattoos are the source of discrimination, especially in the workplace. Although tattoos have been known to be associated with particular skin disorders (despite being rare and coincidental) and tattoos might potentially have a negative impact on the professional image that a person presents within the workplace, tattoos should not be totally banned or officially declared unhealthy because the discrimination of a person based on their tattoos is unfair, especially if the potential candidate has the required skills and qualifications and there is no clear connection between tattooing and various types of skin cancer.

According to an article written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss entitled, “In the ink: Do all tattoo pigments use mercury and other toxic heavy metals?,” some red inks used in “permanent tattoos contain mercury” (2011, para. 2). While other red inks possibly contain various heavy metals and have been known to cause “allergic reactions, eczema, scarring” and heightened sensitivity to other sources of mercury, such as eating shellfish and dental fillings (Scheer & Moss 2011, para. 2). In the article written by Ian Olver entitled, “To dye for? Jury still out on tattoo causing cancer,” the author highlights the fact that the mercury in some red inks has been linked to the “cause of cancer in rats and growth problems in babies of exposed women” (2013, para. 5). However, there is no “definite evidence” which exists that links “mercury exposure in humans to cancer” (Olver 2013, para. 5). On the other hand, the authors of a case report entitled, “Squamous-cell Carcinoma arises in red parts of multi-colored tattoo in months” mentioned the case of a 48-year old white male patient who was diagnosed with Squamous-cell Carcinoma (SCC) after “skin alterations” were observed in the red portions of a multi-coloured tattoo on his lower left leg (Paprottka et al 2014, p. 1). Nevertheless, it should be noted that the study concluded that SCC is an “unusual reaction” that may occur in tattoos and that the association might have been “coincidental” (Paprottka et al 2014, p. 3). In addition, the authors of the report acknowledged that the SCC should be included in a list of “histological patterns of tattoo-related inflammatory reactions” (Paprottka et al 2014, p. 3).
A literature review conducted by Dr. Nicholas Kluger and Virve Koljonen entitled, “Tattoos, inks, and cancers,” arrived at the same conclusion as Paprottka et al (2014). Kluger and Koljonen (2012, p. e161) concluded that the association between tattoo and cancer has to be perceived as “coincidental.” This is the case since the occurrence of “skin cancers arising in tattoos” is apparently low (Kluger & Koljonen 2012, p. e161). Kluger and Koljonen (2012) studied 50 cases of skin cancer on tattoos. They discovered 16 cases of melanoma, 23 cases of squamous-cell carcinoma and keratoacantoma, and 11 cases of basal-cell carcinoma (Kluger and Koljnonen 2012).
Olver (2013) notes the fact that benzo (a)pyrene, a compound found in black inks, has been verified as being the cause of skin cancers in petroleum workers. Additionally, black inks not only have the potential to cause cancer but other skin disorders such as foreign body granulomatus and lichenoid reactions” can be experienced by persons having black tattoos. For instance, in a clinical study entitled, “Tattoo-associated skin reaction: the importance of early diagnosis and proper treatment,” persons who had black tattoos experienced foreign body granulomatous reactions and lichenoid reactions in a few of the 16 patients who participated in the study (Bassi et al 2014). Additionally, pseudolymphomatous reactions have been observed on patients who had a black tattoo (Bassi et al 2014). However, the authors of the research study underscore the point that the “potential carcinogenicity or toxicity related to pigments/dyes or their byproducts” still remains inconclusive (Bassi et al 2014, p. 6). The authors noted that there is, at present, only “in vitro data” which illustrate that some dyes while exposed to laser therapy or UV rays may lead to the increase of “some carcinogenic substances such as 3,3-dichlorobenzidene” (Bassi et al 2014, p. 6).
It should be noted that Bassi et al (2014) experienced some limitations while conducting their study because of the very limited number of patients involved. The researchers noted that further studies need to be conducted which include a follow-up of a “large cohort of tattooed people” in order to ascertain whether or not tattooing is an “independent risk factor for skin malignancies” (Bassi et al 2014, p. 6). Bassi et al (2014, p. 6) also notes that although obtaining skin cancers from certain inks in tattoos are extremely rare, it is not “impossible” for this to happen.

Tattoos as a source of discrimination

According to Rachel Hennessey in her article, “Tattoos No Longer a Kiss of Death in the Workplace,” a 2011 study revealed findings that indicate that 31 per cent of surveyed employers ranked “‘having a visible tattoo’” as the leading personal attribute that would “dissuade them” from promoting an employee (2013, para. 12). Amanda Haddaway (2013) in her article, “Hiring discrimination against tattoos and piercings,” she recounts the story of a lady who told her that her son, who was busily looking for a job, had a tattoo on his face. Haddaway tells this lady that this tattoo might be “hurting his chances of employment” despite having “good qualifications” (2013, para. 2). Haddaway explains that employers are within her rights to not hire an applicant with a “facial tattoo (or piercing)” that they believe would be “offensive or inoffensive” when interacting with their customers or in their workplace (2013, para. 3). The writer explains further that although tattoos and piercings are increasingly becoming part of the mainstream many traditional businesses still prefer a more “conservative look” (Haddaway 2013, para. 4). Furthermore, the writer underscores the fact that currently there are no laws that prohibit “discrimination against people with visible tattoos, body piercings” as well as “unique hairstyles” and unnatural hair colours (Haddaway 2013, par. 7). However, there have been attempts made to make these types of discrimination illegal amongst the ‘grassroots’ of the population. For instance, Bill Roach told an Eyewitness reporting team that he was planning to write a letter to Congress, seeking to make tattoo discrimination illegal unless they are “hateful or gang related” (Herbets 2014, para. 20). His actions are motivated by him being turned down by a prospective employer in the medical industry despite passing a test (Herbets 2014). In Canada, CTV News reports that Kedra Behringer had collected 1, 200 signatures for her online petition posted on the website,, so as to make discrimination by employees against persons with tattoos, piercings, and hair choice with the “‘the exception of threat to health and safety’” (cited in LaRose 2014, para. 3). Nevertheless, Haddaway notes that despite the efforts of the grassroots, they have been largely unsuccessful in making “body art and body modification protected classes” (2013 para. 7).


In conclusion, it can be argued that although persons receiving specific types of skin cancers from certain pigments or dyes found in tattoo ink are extremely rare, it is still possible for this occur. There needs to be more extensive research conducted for a prolonged period of time to adequately show the relationship between the development of a skin cancer and being tattooed. Furthermore, persons who have visible body art will still endure cases of workplace discrimination when employers are considering a candidate for employment or promotion in their organization.


Bassi, A., Campolmi, P., Cannarozzo, G., Conti, R., Bruscino, N., Gola, M., Moretti, S 2014, “Tattoo-associated skin reaction: The importance of early diagnosis and proper diagnosis” , BioMed Research International, vol. 2014, 354608, pp. 1-7.
Haddaway, A 2013, Hiring Discrimination Against Tattoos And Piercings | CAREEREALISM. Available from: [Accessed: 2 January 2015].
Hennessey, R 2013, Tattoos no longer a kiss of death in the workplace. Available from: [Accessed: 2 January 2015].
Herbets, A 2014, Man feels misled, frustrated that tattoos cost him job. Available from: [Accessed: 2 January 2015]
Kluger, N., & Koljonen, V 2012, ‘Tattoos, inks, and cancer’, Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention and Control, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. e161-e168.
LaRose, L 2014, Petition urges Ottawa to make it illegal to discriminate on tattoos, piercings. Available from: [Accessed: 2 January 2015].
Olver, I, 2013, To dye for? Jury still out on tattoo ink causing cancer. Available from: [Accessed: 3 January 2015].
Paprottka, F., Bontikous, S., Lohmeyer, J., & Hebebrand, D 2014, “Squamous-cell carcinoma arises in red parts of multicolored tattoos within months” , International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, vol. 2 no. 3, pp. 1-4.
Warhurst, C 2012, Beauty and the business: Why looks increasingly matter at work. Available from: [Accessed: 3 January 2015].

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