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Tattoos on Moles can Hide Deadly Skin Cancer

Aug 02, 2013 05:15 AM EDT
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(Photo : REUTER/Shannon Stapleton)

A new study has found that a tattoo can hide a mole thus increasing the risk of a kind of skin cancer going unnoticed for a long time. Researchers suggest that people should avoid getting a tattoo done, especially ones with darker ink, over a mole or other birthmarks.

The study found that there have been at least 16 cases of melanoma that were hidden by a tattoo.

Melanoma, according to PubMed Health is the most deadly form of skin cancer. This year, the National Cancer Institute estimates that about 76,690 cases of Melanoma will occur in the U.S.

The team was led by Dr. Laura Pohl of Laserklinik Karlsruhe. Researchers advise that tattoos must never be used to cover-up skin-lesions or any kind of mole. In cases where tattoos are inked over moles, lasers should never be used to remove them.

"Fifty percent of all melanomas develop in pre-existing moles," said Dr. Hooman Khorasani of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, reports Healthday. "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."

Khorasani said that people who wanted to get a tattoo removed via laser should get the mole underneath it biopsied so that the cancer, if present, can be detected without aggravating the condition. Lasers used in tattoo removal can alter the pigments present in melanoma, making it more dangerous.

"If you have many moles under your tattoo, try to see a board-certified dermatologist twice per year instead of once per year," Khorasani added, reports Healthday.

Melanoma is best cured in its earliest stages, says Medline Plus. When melanoma is left untreated, the cancer cells move down from the skin and spread to other parts of the body making treatment difficult. Melanoma is responsible for about 75 percent of deaths associated with skin cancer.

Other experts including Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that while tattoo ink may or may not increase risk of cancers, they can hide the moles that show symptoms of cancer and thus leave the disease unnoticed.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

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