Study shows possible link between tattoos and hepatitis C

A recent study showed that people infected with hepatitis C are almost four times as likely to report having a tattoo, even when other risk factors were taken into account.

The study did not prove a direct cause and effect, but the results are troubling, according to Fox News.

"Tattooing in and of itself may pose a risk for this disease that can lay dormant for many, many years," co-author Dr. Fritz Francois of New York University Langone Medical Center, said, Fox News reports.

Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States are thought to be infected with hepatitis C, but many do not know it because they show no outward symptoms of illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was conducted on approximately 2,000 people at outpatient clinics at three New York-area hospitals over two years. The researchers asked volunteers about their tattoos and hepatitis status. Researchers found that 34 percent of those with the infection also had tattoos, compared to 12 percent of people without the infection.

Earlier studies found links, but they were considered small and had not taken other risk factors into account.

"This is not a big surprise to me," Dr. John Levey, a clinical chief of gastroenterology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said, Fox News reports. "This was one of the stragglers, and now we finally have some numbers for it."

The link, however, may not be as strong as it first appears. The CDC's Dr. Scott Holmberg said that some respondents may not have included their use of illegal drugs in the survey, and the survey did not rule out those who contracted the illness before getting their tattoo.