Basal Cell Carcinoma Originating in a Tattoo: Case Report and Review of an Uncommon Complication in Tattoo Recipients

Basal Cell Carcinoma Originating in a Tattoo: Case Report and Review of an Uncommon Complication in Tattoo Recipients


  • Boya Abudu University of California San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA, USA
  • Christof P. Erickson Dermatology, Compass Dermatopathology, San Diego, CA, USA
  • Antoanella Calame Dermatology, Compass Dermatopathology, San Diego, CA, USA
  • Philip R. Cohen San Diego Family Dermatology, National City & Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine, Vallejo, CA, USA


basal cell carcinoma, tattoo, immunocompromised district, pigment, skin cancer


Background: The placement of a tattoo is a common event. Basal cell carcinoma arising from a tattoo is rare despite this neoplasm being the most common form of skin cancer.

Objective: We describe a 41-year-old man who developed a basal cell carcinoma in his tattoo and review the literature of basal cell carcinomas originating in a tattoo.

Methods: A literature search using PubMed was performed. The following terms were searched: “basal,” “carcinoma,” “cell,” and “tattoo.” The characteristics of individuals with a basal cell carcinoma originating in a tattoo were analyzed and summarized.

Results: A total of 13 patients (6 women and 7 men) with a basal cell carcinoma arising in a tattoo have been reported. The majority of the tumors were located on the head (6 cases, 46.2%) followed by either an upper extremity (4 cases, 30.7%) or the trunk (3 cases, 23.1%). Most of the carcinomas were asymptomatic; however, 2 patients reported pruritus associated with their tumor. Nodular basal cell carcinoma was the most common subtype diagnosed (5 tumors), followed by superficial basal cell carcinoma (2 tumors). One patient had either a pagetoid or a mixed (nodular and sclerosing) histology. The pathological variant was not described for 4 patients.

Conclusions: Basal cell carcinoma arising in a tattoo is a rare occurrence. Although this occurrence may be coincidental, emerging evidence of carcinogenesis associated with tattoo pigment may suggest a causal link. Elucidating this important relationship warrants further investigation.


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How to Cite

Basal Cell Carcinoma Originating in a Tattoo: Case Report and Review of an Uncommon Complication in Tattoo Recipients . Dermatol Pract Concept [Internet]. 2019 Oct. 31 [cited 2024 May 19];9(4):265-70. Available from: