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Studies Show Limits, Promise of Laser Removal of Tattoos
Date:9/18/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Romances may fade, but until relatively recently "you-and-me-4ever" tattoos were just that: permanent.

The advent of laser tattoo removal technology changed all that, offering the chance to clear away inked testimonials to long-gone loves.

Now, a pair of new studies explores the technology's limits and possibilities, with one report suggesting that standard lasers may not benefit everyone, while the other points to a new approach that shortens the time it takes to wipe the slate clean.

"Tattoos are often regretted later in life," said Dr. Luigi Naldi, corresponding author for the study that focused on the efficacy of Q-switched lasers, the current standard. "Lifestyle may change over time, and a tattoo, once wanted and liked, becomes embarrassing."

Naldi pointed out that 28 percent of American adolescents end up regretting their choice of tattoos within the first year of getting one. And with upwards of one in five Americans now the proud owner of at least one tattoo, the numbers seeking removal are growing.

"[However], removal of tattoos is not a simple and easy procedure," Naldi cautioned, noting that although the introduction of Q-switched lasers a few decades back offered far better results than surgical excision, "the clinical results of tattoo removal may vary greatly from one patient to another."

Why the mixed results? By breaking down the characteristics of more than 350 patients (who underwent tattoo removal between 1995 and 2010), Naldi and his colleagues found that smokers fare less well than nonsmokers.

Over the course of 10 treatment sessions, smokers faced a nearly 70 percent lower chance of achieving tattoo removal than nonsmokers, perhaps due to the complicated impact smoking has on a person's inflammatory and immune responses, the researchers suggested.

On a positive note, the study authors did fi
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