How Do Tattoo Artists Handle Moles? Interview with:

Westley Mori, fourth-year medical student (MSIV) University of Pittsburgh Medical School

Westley Mori

Westley Mori, fourth-year medical student (MSIV)
University of Pittsburgh Medical School What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Tattooed skin represents an important diagnostic challenge for the dermatologist performing a skin cancer screening. Several case reports have described melanoma being hidden in tattoos.

To our knowledge, our study is the first of its kind investigating the approach of the tattoo artist to skin with melanocytic nevi (moles) or other skin lesions. We found that the approach to tattooing skin spots is highly variable, with some artists tattooing around moles and others simply tattooing over them.

The final cosmetic outcome—not the potential for skin cancer—is often the paramount concern for artists. Those artists with a personal or family history of skin cancer were more likely to refuse inking over a skin spot and recommend the client see a dermatologist. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Having personal experience or education about skin cancer may lead tattoo artists to be more discerning about inking over skin spots. This represents an opportunity for dermatologists to educate tattoo artists about skin cancer detection and the appropriate referral to the dermatologist of clients having suspicious lesions. This study included 42 tattoo artists and more data is needed to support our conclusions. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: A prospective study assessing the effect of skin cancer education on a cohort of tattoo artists may provide greater evidence for the benefit of such educational outreach by dermatologists.

We have no disclosures we would like to add. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Mori WS, Peters KV, Ferris LK, Patton TJ. Tattoo Artists’ Approach to Melanocytic Nevi. JAMA Dermatol. Published online January 18, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5243

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on January 25, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD