Would you get a tattoo?

Having a tattoo is associated with toughness.

Tattoos have been around forever and there are tattoo parlors/shops in every community now. Some people are comfortable about them and some aren’t.  And surprisingly, more than 30% of Americans are tattooed today.

There are a lot of conflicting opinions about tattoos … they are bad for your health vs  they boost your immune system.  I was intrigued to write about this after I read an article What tattoos do to our immune systems.

The article referenced is based on a study of tattooing and the immune response. I’ve been personally told that a tattoo can be dangerous to my health in the long term…you can get cancer (because the ink contains carcinogens), you can get hepatitis (B & C) from the needles, they are toxic to the immune system, etc.

The first study was a small group of participants in Alabama, mostly were women.  It was found that getting a tattoo was good and could “beef up” your immune system.  But this is just one tiny study and doesn’t prove anything.

Another larger study happened in American Samao in 2018.  Samaons’ tattoos are related to their culture and get them to honor their heritage. This study basically found that the body interprets a new tattoo as a wound and responds accordingly. The participants had their saliva tested before and after the tattoo application.

  • Immune responses involve general reactions to foreign material. So getting a new tattoo triggers your immune system to send white blood cells called macrophages to eat invaders and sacrifice themselves to protect against infection.
  • Your body also launches what immunologists call adaptive responses. Proteins in the blood will try to fight and disable specific invaders that they recognize as problems.

If you decide to get a tattoo, just make sure you the tattoo shop you use is “safe/clean” – meaning find a reputable artist that is licensed; you can check with your local health department.  And don’t let alcohol affect your judgement. 🙂

When I had to have radiation to my chest in 2006 – as part of the first breast cancer treatment – they had 3 tiny blue dots tattooed on my chest. Those blue dots were needed to align the lasers for the radiation equipment.  Getting those dots really hurt, it stung like hell! But I was also nervous and tense because I knew why they were “needed.”

The radiation I received lasted 30 sessions and everyday I had to show up at the hospital. That is probably more dangerous to my body long-term than those 3 tattooed dots.

I actually considered getting a “real” tattoo on my chest after the second breast cancer treatment in 2014.  It was recommended by the cancer doctor to wait a year to allow my body to heal from the surgeries and chemo. They had a list of licensed artists because it’s common for breast cancer patients to get tattoos. Because we are tough!

But I never did it – a “real” tattoo. I tell myself that I’m content with the current “3” blue dots on my chest because “3” is my lucky number.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about tattoos…





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