Beware! Tattoos Might Mask Melanoma

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Getting a tattoo done may be a groovy idea. But hang on… do not choose a design that covers a mole or a birthmark.

According to a case report published in the JAMA Dermatology, getting a tattoo made over a mole or birthmark could mask the signs of a melanoma.

The report shows that at least 16 cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, have been found to develop on a pigmented spot covered by a tattoo.

The Case Study
While undergoing a laser removal procedure for removal of his 10 year old tattoo the specialists accidently discovered a mole hidden under the tattoo’s black ink.

Although the specialists advised the 29-year old German patient to get the mole removed, the patient refused.

It was only after the specialists denied further laser treatment that the German patient agreed to removal.

The biopsy of the mole revealed the presence of a superficial malignant melanoma.

“Fifty percent of all melanomas develop in pre-existing moles,” said Dr. Hooman Khorasani, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said.

“It is harder to do surveillance on moles that are covered by tattoos, as the tattoo ink camouflages the mole and sometimes interferes with some of the tools we use for detection.”

“Once you start the laser removal, the laser can also remove the pigment that the melanoma cells make called melanocytes,” Khorasani said. “Therefore, any irregular pigment that one would expect to detect will not be detected as easily. This is the reason that some subtypes of melanoma, called amelanotic melanomas, are more dangerous and aggressive.”

Khorasani advised that people considering laser treatment should get their moles biopsied before opting for the procedure. Also, for person whose tattoo covers more than one mole, seeing a board-certified dermatologist twice a year should be mandatory.

Tattoo Ink Does Not Cause Cancer
Researchers are still unclear if tattoos itself play a role in the development of skin cancer.

“Dermatologists have been evaluating patients with tattoos for decades for any evidence of skin cancer, and they have never found an increased prevalence of the disease in those individuals,” Dr. Ariel Ostad, a New York based dermatologist marked. “The same is true for patients who have already had melanoma or another form of skin cancer; the inks used in tattoos have never been shown to increase their risk of recurrence.”

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