After a new study found a link between tattooing and hepatitis C, researchers are hoping that people will do some thinking about where to get their body art.
According to co-author Dr. Fritz Francois of New York University Langone Medical Center, people with the virus were almost four times more likely to report having a tattoo, even when other major risk factors were taken into account, Fox News reported.
Although the study could not prove a direct cause and effect, “Tattooing in and of itself may pose a risk for this disease that can lay dormant for many, many years,” Francois said.
About 3.2 million people in the US have hepatitis C, and many don’t know because they don’t feel ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and most common reason for liver transplants in the US. Some 70 percent of people infected will develop chronic liver disease, and up to 5 percent will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.
For the current study, researchers asked almost 2,000 people about their tattoos and hepatitis status, among other questions, at outpatient clinics at three New York area hospitals between 2004 and 2006.
Researchers found that 34 percent of people with hepatitis C had a tattoo, compared to 12 percent of people without the infection.
The most common routes of contracting hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease, are through a blood transfusion before 1992 or a history of injected drug use.
Injected drug use accounts for 60 per cent of new hepatitis cases every year, but 20 percent of cases have no history of injected drug use or other exposure, according to the CDC.
The findings are published in the journal Hepatology.