Laser Tattoo Removal and Melanoma

At The UnTattoo Parlor, we are frequently asked how the process of tattoo removal can either help or hurt screening for Melanoma.

What is Melanoma and how can we get it?

Melanoma is commonly thought of as a pigmented lesion of the skin that can result in disfiguring excisions, metastatic disease, and on occasion death. Many may not know that melanoma can also occur on mucosal surfaces such as the intestines and even in the eyes. Risk factors for melanoma include fair skin, a history of sun exposure (for example severe sunburns in childhood), a family history of melanoma, and rare genetic disorders such as xeroderma pigmentosum. Melanomas can also appear on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet (some may know that Bob Marley died of melanoma that originated on the sole of his foot).

A diagnosis of melanoma can only be made by obtaining tissue that can then be examined by a pathologist. The prognosis or expected long-term outcome of melanoma is directly related to the depth that the malignant melanoma invades the dermis. The deeper the invasion the more likely for metastasis and a poor outcome. As with any malignancy the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis.

If I have had or think I might have Melanoma, is it safe to undergo laser tattoo removal?

Individuals diagnosed with Melanoma in the past or think you may have Melanoma it is best to consult with a licensed dermatologist before undergoing laser tattoo removal. The laser used to treat tattoo pigment also has the potential to lighten pigmented lesions which can sometimes indicate the presence of Melanoma. If your doctor cannot see the Melanoma it can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages when the survival rate is highest. If you are at high risk for Melanoma many doctors will recommend that you hold off on getting tattooed. If you already have tattoos, the safest course of action is to keep your tattoos and get regular check-ups from a physician trained in melanoma screening. Dermoscopy and photo mapping are often used to screen and follow patients at risk for melanoma.

Melanoma self-screening Guide

A – Asymmetrical Shape
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.

B – Border
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.

C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.

D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).

If you exhibit any of the above signs consult a physician right away. See the links below for more information:

Debunking the Myth of Removing Green Ink

Can Green Ink Be Removed?

One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is in regards to the myth of green ink. There seems to be a perception that green ink is the hardest, if not impossible ink to remove. All ink and all colors of ink can be treated and lightened with a laser but the catch is that the laser has to have a wavelength that corresponds to the color of ink being treated. For example, a 532 nm wavelength laser will blast away red, pink and yellow ink but it will not make a dent in black or green.  The same is true for a 1064nm wavelength that is a master at breaking up black pigment but does not treat colors.  A 755nm wavelength laser is the only wavelength that has been proven to effectively treat green ink.  Currently, there is no picosecond laser on the market that will treat all colors and pigments. When we purchased our Cutera Enlighten laser in March of last year we believed that this would be the first laser to be able to treat all pigments and colors. While the Enlighten laser does deliver on its promise to remove black, red, orange, yellow and pink pigment in about half the number of treatments of a standard Q-Switched laser, it falls short in its ability to effectively clear green ink. Likewise, the other picosecond laser on the market manufactured by Cynosure has been shown to be great at clearing out green and blue pigments but struggles to remove black ink. When it comes to removing your tattoo the laser wavelength being used must correspond to the colors in your tattoo. For example, black inks require a 1064 nm laser, green ink requires a 755 nm laser and red, orange, yellow and pink inks require a 532 nm laser. 

Tattoo Removal Before and After
Before + After First Treatment

We can now remove Blue and Green tattoo ink

The UnTattoo Parlor now offers treatments with our Cynosure Picosure laser to effectively remove green, blue and purple inks. This laser has been shown to be the most effective laser for removing cool pigments.