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Is skin cancer harder to detect if you have tattoos?

For many residents of Providence, the idea of getting cancer is a frightening and sobering thought. There are three types of skin cancer that you might get, which vary in degrees of severity – melanoma, squamous and basal carcinomas. Skin cancer often has a highly successful cure rate as long as it’s caught early.

What if you have tattoos that cover significant areas of your skin? Would this make it harder for a doctor to accurately diagnose skin cancer? According to research by Australian Family Physician, you may in fact face a higher than usual chance of a missed or delayed diagnosis of skin cancer if you are inked. In particular, brightly colorful or dark tattoos have been shown to mask the appearance of abnormal moles, skin discolorations or other early signs of skin cancer.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t get any tattoos or, if you’re already inked, that you should worry? Not necessarily. There are procedures that can allow a dermatologist to more accurately detect early carcinomas even when extensive tattooing is present. Bright medical lighting, magnifying equipment and imaging machines are some of these methods. However, doctors are human and may make mistakes. A rushed or inexperienced doctor may miss the signs of skin cancer when another one might catch them.

You might also worry that the ink in your tattoos could raise the chances of developing skin cancer. Fortunately, there has been no evidence linking tattoos and a higher incidence of skin cancer; however, researchers suspect there is an increased risk of missed or delayed diagnoses. This information is meant to inform you of the possibility of a diagnostic mistake, but should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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