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The lack of reports of a relationship between tattoo and cancer does not exclude a connection, but on the basis of current knowledge, there is no significant risk of tattoo related cancer, although tattoo ink often contains potential carcinogens.
A number of tattoo colours were removed from the Danish market in December 2011 when it turned out that the colours contained carcinogens. However, harmful colours may still appear on the Danish market since tattoo colours are imported via the Internet. The Ministry of the Environment called on the EU to ban dangerous substances in tattoo colours in 2012.
The problem with tattoo colours is due in particular to the content of azo dyes that decompose into carcinogens (aromatic amines). Other harmful substances can e.g. be polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that are proven to be carcinogenic to animals and humans.
Scientific trials show that two thirds of the compounds in tattoo colours are absorbed into the body. The tattoo colours first reach the lymph nodes, and then they are transported through the bloodstream to the body's other organs.
Some of the colour particles may also be in nano size, and there is limited knowledge about the effects of nanoparticles in the body.
There is a need for major follow-up investigations of tattooed persons and to probe which compounds may increase the risk of malignant melanoma, skin cancer, bladder cancer (azoquires) or other types of cancer.
In addition, there is lack of knowledge about the different colours used for tattoos. For many of the chemical substances in the colours there is also uncertainty as to the concentration that could result in harmful effects.
Inks and dyes used for tatooing.