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Hepatitis C linked to ink

In Egypt almost 10 per cent of the population suffers from hepatitis C, and although tattoos in the religious conservative country are not as common as in the western world, a study linked the body art to the liver infection

Reuters, Sunday 27 Jan 2013
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Researchers are hoping that people will do some research about where to get a tattoo, after a study found a link between body art and Hepatitis C. 

The new study found that people with the virus were almost four times more likely to report having a tattoo, even when other major risk factors were taken into account, co-author Dr Fritz Francois of New York University Langone Medical Centre told Reuters Health.

Although the study could not prove a direct cause and effect, "Tattooing in and of itself may pose a risk for this disease that can lay dormant for many, many years," Francois said. 

Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and most common reason for liver transplants in the US. Some 70 per cent of people infected will develop chronic liver disease, and up to 5 per cent will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. In Egypt and according to the statistics provided by the ministry of health, almost 10 per cent carry the virus.

For the current study, researchers asked almost 2,000 people about their tattoos and hepatitis status, among other questions, at outpatient clinics at three New York area hospitals between 2004 and 2006.

Researchers found that 34 per cent of people with hepatitis C had a tattoo, compared to 12 per cent of people without the infection.

The most common routes of contracting hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease, are through a blood transfusion or a history of injected drug use. Injected drug use accounts for 60 percent of new hepatitis cases every year, but 20 percent of cases have no history of injected drug use or other exposure, according to the CDC. 

Francois and his colleagues only included people with hepatitis C who did not contract it from these two other common sources.

After accounting for other risk factors, the difference between people with and without hepatitis was even greater, with four times as many tattoos in the infected group than for uninfected people, according to results published in the journal Hepatology. 

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