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Could Laser Tattoo Removal Result in an Unwelcome Tumor?

Laser treatment is an effective option for the removal of tattoos. This technique offers removal of both black and colored inks over several treatment sessions with minimal scarring. However, a recent study has shown that laser tattoo removal may lead to skin cancer.

According to the study published in JAMA Dermatology, a man received multiple laser therapy treatment sessions for removal of an extensive tattoo. His treatment led to the development of the skin cancer, malignant melanoma, from a nevus, similar to a mole or birthmark. Doctors at the Laserklinik Karlsruhe in Germany were unable to note anything unusual regarding the nevus prior to laser tattoo removal due to the presence of black ink in and around the nevus.

Nearly ten percent of the population in the United States has at least one tattoo. The problem is that up to half of these people will eventually wish to have their tattoos removed. Laser tattoo removal offers one of the most effective treatment options with little to no chance of scarring, especially when compared to other tattoo removal methods.

It is often possible to remove a tattoo completely with laser therapy in as little as two to four treatment sessions. However, larger and more colorful tattoos will often need more sessions for successful removal. This is typically not an issue, unless a pigmented skin lesion is in or near the tattooed area. The more the lesion is exposed to laser therapy, the greater risk there is of developing certain forms of skin cancer, such as malignant melanoma.

Since it is difficult to note changes in a nevus that contains tattoo ink in or around the area, it is important that the nevus be removed completely prior to any form of laser treatment, including tattoo removal. This can help prevent any changes in skin tissue, including the development of skin cancer. In the alternative, it might be safer to have the tattoo removed by other methods whenever possible.

For those who wish to have tattoos removed with laser therapy, it is important to have the procedure performed by a qualified dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon like Dr. Mark Pinsky who is skilled in tattoo removal and the specific risks that go with this procedure.