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New Research at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Finds Body Piercings on Rise in Teens, Many Unaware of Health Risks

Study published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh studying teen behavior are reporting that body piercing among adolescents is on the rise and that many teens see it as a mainstream practice without contemplating risks such as infection, bleeding or permanent scarring.

In a study of 225 patients treated at Children's Hospital's Adolescent Medicine clinic, nearly half (48 percent) reported having a body piercing and almost all (93 percent) considered body piercing to be accepted by the general public. The most common sites for body piercings were ears (74 percent), nose (34 percent), tongue (30 percent), navel (27 percent) and eyebrow (15 percent). Less than 7 percent had pierced genitalia, lips or nipples. Patients in the study ranged in age from 12-21.

"Body piercings in adolescents used to be done by kids on the fringe who wanted to stand out. But now we're seeing this become a mainstream activity that is seen as fashionable by teens," said Melanie A. Gold, D.O., first author of the study and an Adolescent Medicine specialist at Children's. "The problem is that many teens pierce themselves or have a friend do it for them, rather than going to a professional. Often the decision is made without much thought about health repercussions. This behavior can significantly increase the risks, which include infections, bleeding, scarring, allergic reactions and even the potential to transmit diseases like hepatitis or HIV."

Results of the study are published in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine.

The results of the study indicate that physicians caring for adolescents and preadolescents should be aware of the increased prevalence of body piercing and associated risks, and should discuss this practice with patients and their parents at routine health visits, Dr. Gold said. In addition to health risks, previous research has shown that body piercing is associated with other risk-taking behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for children younger than 18 to have body piercings without parental consent. Dr. Gold said adolescents who do not have parental permission should be encouraged to delay getting a piercing until age 18 in order to avoid the health risks associated with having it done by someone who is not a professional.

Editor's note: A copy of the study is available upon request.

Contacts:
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008
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