It’s a question we are asked quite regularly at Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic and, for some people, it may seem logical that large areas of skin covered in dark ink could be protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. However, the simple, truthful answer is no, your tattoos do not reduce your risk of developing skin cancer in any way.

Tattooed skin is just as susceptible to UV damage as un-tattooed skin and it is important to protect your skin from sun damage using sunscreen, clothing, and limited sun exposure wherever possible.

In fact, if you have one or more tattoos you may need to be even more vigilant about protecting your skin and conducting regular skin checks. This is because your tattoo may in fact be masking the visible signs of new and established skin lesions, making it harder to diagnose skin cancer early.

There have been multiple cases of people not discovering they had developed melanoma until after undergoing laser tattoo removal. In each of these cases, the tattoos obscured pre-existing moles, making it harder for people to monitor and identify changes to the shape, size or colour of these spots. If you are planning to get a tattoo, it’s recommended that you do not tattoo over or too close to any existing moles or sun spots.

Our top tips for protecting against skin cancer (whether you have a tattoo or not):

  • Apply sunscreen every morning and regularly throughout the day
  • Wear clothing that covers your skin if working outdoors, including a hat, long pants, long sleeves and a collar to protect your neck
  • Limit your length and frequency of sun exposure wherever possible, especially in the middle of the day.
  • Conduct regular self-skin checks. You can learn how to do this here
  • See a skin cancer doctor for regular routine skin checks or as soon as you notice any changes to your sun spots.

If you are due for a routine skin check, or have noticed any changes to your skin recently, we would love to have you visit Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic for a professional consultation and your own peace of mind.