Can Tattoos Hide Moles and Melanoma?

Melanoma within tattoo

In this image, from, a malignant tumor is obscured by a cosmetic tattoo.

Welcome back to my melanoma blog. I created this blog to showcase interesting research and trends related to dermatology. While many of my posts thus far have focused on medical research, I will switch gears this week to address a growing trend: the discovery of melanoma within tattoos.

A recent article appearing in JAMA Dermatology investigated pitfalls and recommendations in cases of laser removal of decorative tattoos with pigmented lesions. Researchers described 16 cases of malignant melanoma developing in tattoos, including one where a man who wanted to remove large, multi-colored tattoos located on his chest and arms attempted laser removal therapy. The man’s physician noticed a suspicious mole inside the right arm tattoo and recommended removal. The patient refused to have the mole removed and began laser treatments. Doctors told the man seven years later that he could not continue treatments until he had the mole removed; the mole turned out to be Stage II Melanoma.

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans ages 18-50 currently has at least one tattoo and 75,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year. It is possible that many Americans with melanoma do not know that they have it because it is hidden by a tattoo. This is especially problematic as the longer melanoma goes undetected; the more difficult it becomes to treat. Individuals with existing moles should look out for the ABCDE features that I detailed in my last blog post and check them frequently, as a large and colorful tattoo could obscure Color variations or make it harder to notice mole Evolution.

If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, make sure it is applied to a section of the skin free of moles or birthmarks. You can even have a dermatologist check the planned tattoo area beforehand. Alternatively, when removing tattoos through laser therapy, have a dermatologist evaluate the tattoo area before beginning removal procedures.


For more information on this study, view Harvard Medical School’s summary of the researchers’ findings:


Thanks for reading,

Sudhir Polisetty


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  1. Denise Hutchison says:

    Interesting, will certainly pass on information to some friends of mine. All of mine are as recommended, in areas that are free if moles, etc.

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