If you’ve got the itch to get a tat­too, it could just be the be­gin­ning

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

One New York City der­ma­tol­o­gist has be­come known by some lo­cals as the lady who sparked “mass public hys­te­ria about tat­toos.”

That’s be­cause Dr. Marie Leger’s re­cent study in the jour­nal Con­tact Der­mati­tis found that among the 300 tat­tooed peo­ple her team ran­domly sur­veyed on strolls through Cen­tral Park, about 10% had ex­pe­ri­enced im­me­di­ate ad­verse events af­ter get­ting a tat­too such as itch­ing, scal­ing or in­fec­tions. An­other 6% had more chronic prob­lems that re­mained un­re­solved for years.

Though the study noted that the high­est per­cent­age of re­ac­tions in­volved red and black ink, “It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to parse out what ex­actly is caus­ing it,” Leger told the Out­liers team. Only a few other re­searchers have delved into the safety of body art. “There’s not a lot of data on how com­mon th­ese events are.”

A 2015 Dan­ish study found re­ac­tions to tat­toos re­duced qual­ity of life as pa­tients tended to “suf­fer from itch.” A 2014 study in­ves­ti­gated the po­ten­tial for squa­mous-cell car­ci­noma to de­velop in the “red parts of mul­ti­col­ored tat­toos.” And a Ger­man study from 2010 con­cluded that mil­lions of peo­ple in the West­ern world could have “tran­sient or per­sist­ing health prob­lems af­ter tat­too­ing.”

Leger, who works at the NYU Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter and does not have tat­toos her­self, says her study wasn’t meant to get un­der the skin of ink en­thu­si­asts. “I don’t think the mes­sage should be that they are hor­ri­ble or you’re go­ing to suf­fer if you have one.” That’s some­thing peo­ple should de­cide for them­selves, she said.

When asked what she would tell a friend or fam­ily mem­ber con­sid­er­ing a tat­too though, she said she would be more likely to rely on her aes­thetic sen­si­bil­i­ties rather than her sci­en­tific ones. Those yin and yang, Red Hot Chili Pep­per or Chi­nese char­ac­ter tat­toos are “just like your old LA Gear high-top sneak­ers,” she said. “They can prob­a­bly iden­tify you as part of a gen­er­a­tion.”

This NYU Lan­gone pa­tient had swelling, rash

and itch­i­ness for more than a year in re­sponse to a tat­too

with red ink.

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