picosure laser treating tattoo on back

FAQ: Can Laser Tattoo Removal Cause Skin Cancer?

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If you’ve got a tattoo but want to get it removed, you’re bound to have a number of questions, which is perfectly understandable. Does it hurt? What are the side effects? How long will it take? These are some of the most common queries we receive and are all answered on our FAQ page.

But the question whether laser tattoo removal causes skin cancers warrants its own blog post, as such a serious subject requires a fair amount of attention. The short answer is no and no evidence exists to suggest otherwise. What’s more, the lasers used for tattoo removal do not emit UV rays, which can increase the risk of skin cancer. Even so, it is a good idea to explore this topic further.

Official approval

Health organisations and medical professionals appear to be united in their opinion that laser tattoo removal does not cause skin cancer or even increases the risk.

In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate laser tattoo machines, which mean they have to undergo vigorous testing in order to meet strict regulations. FDA dermatologist Markham Luke has said laser treatment has received FDA clearance, indicating that this method for removing tattoos “complies with agency requirements for safety and effectiveness.”

One of the lasers the FDA previously tested was PicoSure, which is one of our treatment options and the fastest tattoo removal technique in the world.

Interestingly enough, tattoo ink is not regulated by the FDA, which means manufacturers do not need to disclose the chemicals contained within. Therefore, you could well be more susceptible to health problems while getting a tattoo as opposed to the removal procedure.

Professional opinion

Questions over laser tattoo removal and skin cancer has also been raised several times on interactive health website HealthTap, which provides anybody with access to help and advice from doctors about various medical issues. The top response, from Dr. Steven Zimmet MD, reads:

“There are a variety of lasers in use today, used to remove tattoo ink, and to treat brown spots, spider veins, wrinkles, and skin tightening. Some lasers are useful to treat pre-cancerous lesions. These lasers do not increase the chance for cancer.”

Other answers go on to add that there is no data linking the two and no reason why skin cancer might occur. However, medical professionals do feel the need to highlight some of the other risks involved with laser tattoo removal.

How laser tattoo removal works and the risks

To remove a tattoo using this technique, a laser of intense light is pointed at the skin, which aims to break up the ink particles beneath. Your body’s immune system will also kick into gear after the process and aid the removal process too. But due to the nature of laser tattoo removal, some risks include:

  • Blistering
  • Scabbing
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Scarring
  • Hyper-pigmentation/Hypo-pigmentation
  • Infection

Even though this might sound like a long list of side effects, most of the aforementioned issues are uncommon with the majority patients. If you do happen to suffer with any of the above, nearly all issues are treatable and not that uncomfortable. However, it is highly recommended to follow the guidance and advice of your laser technician, as this will improve the treatment’s effectiveness and lower the risk of any side effects.

Andrea Catton

Andrea has over over 40 years experience delivering beauty and skin care treatments and has over 20 years laser experience. Regarded as the number one PicoSure laser technician in the UK, Andrea is trained and qualified to use Aculight HR IPL, Chromolite IPL, N-Lite laser, Ellipse, Episoft MD IPL, ADL Sapphire Nd:YAG, RevLite & PicoSure. Andrea is also a member of the British Institute & Association of Electrolysis, British Medical Laser Association and is fully qualified to teach IPL & laser hair removal.

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