Tattoos may be a risk factor for malignant lymphoma

Tattoos may be a risk factor for malignant lymphoma

In the first large-scale study, tattooing increased the risk of malignant lymphoma by approximately 20% compared to not tattooing. Tattoo ink often contains carcinogens and causes an immunological reaction when applied to the skin. This study was a population-based study of cases and controls of all incident cases of malignant lymphoma in Swedish adults (aged 20-60 years) in the Swedish National Cancer Registry between 2007 and 2017 (n = 11,905). Tattoo exposure was assessed using a structured questionnaire in both cases and three age- and sex-matched random controls without lymphoma. The primary outcome was the ratio of the incidence of malignant lymphoma in tattooed and non-tattooed subjects.

In subgroup analysis by lymphoma type, the highest risk was found to be around 30% for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (incidence rate ratio = 1.30; 95% CI, 0.99-1.71) and follicular lymphoma (incidence rate ratio = 1.29; 95% CI, 0.92-1.82) in tattooed and non-tattooed individuals.

The risk of lymphoma was not found to increase with greater total tattooed body surface area. The authors report that the popularity of tattooing has increased strikingly, with a current prevalence of ≥20% in European studies.

Further epidemiological research is urgently needed to establish causality. The study also underlines the importance of regulatory measures to control the chemical composition of tattoo inks. 


Nielsen C, Jerkeman M, Joud AS. Tattoos as a risk factor for malignant lymphoma: A population-based case-control study. eClinicalMedicine. Published online May 21, 2024. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2024.102649