Practical tools and guidance
The lack of reports of a relationship between tattoos and cancer does not exclude the possibility that there is 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 was discovered that the colours in question contained carcinogens. However, harmful colours may still appear on the Danish market, as tattoo colours are acquired via the internet. The Ministry of the Environment called on the EU to ban dangerous substances in tattoo colours in 2012.
The problems associated with tattoo colours are the result, in particular, of the fact that they contain azo dyes, which decompose into carcinogens (aromatic amines). Other harmful substances include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been 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. Tattoo colours first reach the lymph nodes and then are transported through the bloodstream to the body's other organs.
Some of the colour particles may also be nano in size and there is limited knowledge about the effects of nanoparticles in the body.
Therefore, major follow-up investigations of tattooed persons are required to determine which compounds could 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 tattoo colours, there is also uncertainty as regards the concentration that could result in harmful effects.
Inks and dyes used for tatooing.