Tattoo Ink Nanoparticles Travel Inside The Body, May Cause Cancer

Posted: Sep 16 2017, 2:44pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Tattoo Ink Nanoparticles Travel Inside the Body, May Cause Cancer
Credit: Deviatov Aleksei

New study says that particles from tattoo ink can reach lymph nodes and cause them to swell

Tattoos are immensely popular in United States, but getting one may also prove harmful to your health.

Tattoo inks are mostly unregulated and have reportedly been causing skin reactions and other issues. But a new study suggests that they can also lead to cancers. Particles that make up the tattoo ink can travel deep inside the skin and accumulate in lymph nodes, which are crucial for immune system. The presence of nanoparticles in lymph nodes means that they are no longer strong enough to fight off infections.

“When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlor where they use sterile needles that haven´t been used previously. No one checks the chemical composition of the colors, but our study shows that maybe they should.” Co-study author Hiram Castillo from European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) said in a statement.

Nanoparticles ranging from few millions to few billions of centimeters mostly contain organic pigments, but they also include preservatives and contaminants like nickel, chromium, manganese or cobalt. Titanium dioxide is also a commonly found ingredient in tattoo ink which can give different shades and colors to a tattoo.

When researchers used X-rays fluorescence to detect titanium dioxide once it enters the tissue, they found the compound at the micro and nano range in the skin and the lymphatic environment. That may lead to the swelling of the lymph nodes and interfere with their ability to protect humans from infections and diseases. The results of this study provide first analytical evidence of the transport of various types of pigments in tattooed tissues.

“We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the color of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo. What we didn't know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behavior as the particles at a micro level. And that is the problem: we don't know how nanoparticles react.” Bernhard Hesse, one of the two lead authors of the study said.

The results also highlight the need for strict regulation on the use of chemical compounds like titanium oxide which are also added in food additives, sun screens and paints.

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