One in Four Americans Has a Tattoo

High incidence of medical complications in those with body piercings

MONDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 25 percent of people aged 18 to 50 in the United States have a tattoo and 14 percent have a body piercing, according to a study in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Body piercings are associated with medical complications, such as broken teeth, in a third of those who have them.

Anne E. Laumann, M.B.Ch.B., and Amy J. Derick, M.D., from the University of Chicago in Illinois, used random digit dialing to survey by telephone a nationally representative sample of 253 women and 247 men aged 18 to 50 years in the United States.

The researchers found that 24 percent of respondents had tattoos and 14 percent had body piercings. Having a tattoo or piercing was more common with a lack of religious affiliation, drinking and drug use, and having spent time in prison. Body piercing was more common in women and was associated with complications such as broken teeth in a third of individuals. Jewelry allergies were also more common with increased numbers of body piercings. Seventeen percent of those with tattoos were considering removing them, according to the study.

The study "suggests that dermatologists are not really serving a widespread need to remove tattoos," according to an editorial by R. Rox Anderson, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, since as many as 12 million adults in the United States may be considering tattoo removal but haven't done so.

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