Body Art

Tattoos and body piercing continue to become more popular. The largest study yet of this subject, published in the January 2002 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, reports that now most university undergraduates probably have some type of body piercing (not including earlobes).

In the survey, the most popular site for girls is the naval, followed by the ear (other than the earlobe), and the tongue. About 1 in 6 female undergraduates have pierced tongues. In boys the ear is the most popular, followed by the tongue. About 1 in 25 boys have pierced tongues.

Is it healthy?

About 1 in 6 do report some medical complication — usually a bacterial infection, occasionally bleeding or tearing. Most complications are mild if they are identified and treated.

Bottom line?

If done, piercing should be done cleanly, by someone who knows how. I like avoiding cartilage for piercing — it doesn’t heal as easily as skin. And if there is piercing, keep an eye out for problems and have them treated early.

Published on: January 30, 2002
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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