In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Scientific research warns that some of the dyes used in tattoos contain contaminants that could harm the lymph nodes.
Choosing a good design or a study in which the health conditions are adequate, are no longer the only concerns when getting a tattoo.
The European Commission published a report on the danger of some of the dyes used in the tattoos, where it stressed the importance of using ink that does not contain toxic components.
However, due to the lack of clinical studies on this subject, the specific health effects of certain preservatives and contaminants associated with the pigments that decorate the skin remain unknown.
THE DANGERS OF TATTOO INK
Now, a group of German and French scientists have revealed for the first time, in the journal Scientific Reports, that these substances travel through the body to the lymph nodes. They stay there, stain these organs with the same colors that are embedded in the skin, and inflame them chronically.
"The more tattoos you have, the greater the number of particles that will accumulate in the lymph nodes", said Ines Schreiver, a researcher at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and co-author of the study, along with the European Radiation Laboratory Synchrotron of Grenoble.
The chemical composition of the ink used in tattoos is very varied and can range from organic pigments to impurities containing heavy metals such as nickel, chromium, manganese or cobalt.
In particular, the white pigment that is used to cause the effects of shines and shadows of the tatoos is formed of titanium dioxide, which causes a delay in healing, inflammation of the skin and itching.
This compound is also used in the food industry, sunscreens and paints.
“ERASING A TATTOO DOES NOT ELIMINATE THE PROBLEM”
The erasing of tattoos using laser techniques does not eliminate the problem but quite the opposite.
“By applying this method, the large pigment particles of the skin will break into smaller fragments that will travel through the body and be transferred to the lymph node. The laser also produces a chemical change in these particles", the researcher pointed out.
A RISK FOR ALL LYMPH NODES
Researchers have found in post mortem analyzed human tissue samples, that both titanium dioxide and other organic pigments from a tattoo are retained in the cutaneous tissue.
Additionally, smaller particles can be transported by phagocytic immune cells (which are responsible for capturing cells and particles harmful to the body) to the lymph nodes, where they accumulate.
And although these compounds travel to neighboring lymph nodes, "from this study, we can say that the nearest node gets these particles, but others travel further through the body", Schreiver said.
TATOOS AND CANCER
On the other hand, the black ink, the most popular color applied on a tattoos, is composed of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, an organic compound that causes cancer.
The study also shows that any of the pigments inoculated into the skin, causes an alteration in the proteins of the surrounding cells membrane, although this effect has not been seen in the lymph nodes.
Among other possible adverse effects produced by tattoos, the authors have emphasized that the ink accumulated in a lymph node can interfere when detecting the presence of cancer cells.
"If there are pigments accumulated there, they can interfere with the diagnostic techniques of cancer", Schreiver said.