Cutaneous malignancies in tattoos, a case series of six patients

Marike Leijs, Hannah Schaefer, Albert Rübben, Claudio Cacchi, Thomas Rustemeyer, Sebastiaan van der Bent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: A variety of side effects following the tattooing of the skin were reported over the years. Analytical studies showed that some tattoo inks contain harmful compounds. Methods: We presented six patient cases with cutaneous malignancies in tattooed skin and performed an extensive literature research. Results: Two patients with black ink tattoos that were diagnosed with malignant melanoma raises the number of described cases to 36 patients. One of the patients developed an immunologic reaction limited to the tattoo area after treatment with a targeted immune therapy. In the other patient, the malignancy (malignant melanoma) was fatal. Basal cell carcinoma was seen in four patients with tattoos containing varying ink colors (black, green, red). This increased the number of described patient cases to 18. Although some ink components and their cleavage products have carcinogenic properties, epidemiological evidence for a causative correlation fails. Further epidemiologic studies on tattoos and malignancies, as well as on the appearance of naevi in tattoos, are necessary. Determining the type of mutation might be helpful to separate sun-induced tumors from skin cancers due to other pathogenic mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4721-4737
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Oncology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Melanoma
  • Polyaro-matic hydrocarbons
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Tattoo
  • Tattoo ink
  • Tumor promotion

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