Getting a tattoo is a very personal choice. The reasons for getting one may range from commemorating a loved one or pet, to marking a special occasion or meaningful motto, to just wanting to get something cool stamped permanently on the body.
And according to a recent Harris poll, roughly half of American millennials have one, as do 36 per cent of Gen Xers.
But a new report suggests that there are some health concerns related to getting a tattoo. The study, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that tattoos may interfere with the way our skin sweats.
Study co-author Maurie Luetkemeier, a professor of physiology at Alma College in Michigan, noted that this sweat interference could affect people who have extensive tattoos (especially on the back, arms, or other areas that have a lot of sweat glands) or tattoo sleeves, but doesn't seem to affect those who have only one or a couple of tats.
"You look at someone in the military, where tattoos are very prevalent, and if they’re exposed to high heat and a heavy workload, there could be thermoregulatory problems," Luetkemeier said.
Compared to skin that isn't inked, tattooed skin excretes about 50 per cent less sweat, Luetkemeier also noted. “We also found the sodium in sweat was more concentrated when released from tattooed skin,” he said.
Time reports that, "When your glands produce sweat, the skin tends to reabsorb sodium and other electrolytes from that perspiration before it breaks free" and that the study's findings "indicate that tattoos may partially block this reabsorption."
Time also notes that there have been reports of links between tattoos and melanoma (skin cancer), although such findings are exceptionally rare. In one 2015 case study, a 33-year-old man who had a multi-coloured chest tattoo had malignant melanoma, but only in the areas of the tattoo that were filled with red ink.
There's also the concern that tattoos could hide suspicious markings, making it hard to detect the signs of skin cancer. Dermatologist Dr. Debra Luftman told Nylon, "Tattoo pigment can disguise or cover a mole, freckle, or birthmark, and coloured tattoo ink may make it harder to detect an underlying skin cancer.”
She continued, "A tattoo over a malignant mole may look like the colour of the tattoo, possibly blue, pink, or red, whereas, for comparison, a malignant mole with no tattoo fits the ABC rule, meaning it has asymmetry, an irregular border, and multiple colours, including red, white, blue, and black.”
All of this shouldn't stop someone from getting a tattoo or make them worried about the tattoos they already have, however it's good to do your research before getting inked and ask around for a trustworthy tattoo artist. If you are worried about skin cancer or you think you've found a suspicious mole or bump on your skin, talk to your doctor.