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Tattoo Frequency and Types Among Homicides and Other Deaths, 2007–2008: A Matched Case-Control Study

Blackburn, Justin MPH*; Cleveland, John BS*; Griffin, Russell MPH*; Davis, Gregory G. MD‡§; Lienert, Jeffrey*; McGwin, Gerald Jr MS, PhD*†

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2012 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 202–205
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318221b67d
Original Articles

An estimated 25% of the US population aged 18 to 50 years has a tattoo, which have been associated with markers of high-risk behaviors including alcohol and drug use, violence, carrying weapons, sexual activity, eating disorders, and suicide. This study compares tattoo prevalence and type in a homicide population to those of an age-, race-, and sex-matched control group of nonhomicide deaths. The data for this study were abstracted from autopsy records maintained by the Jefferson County Alabama Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office for the years 2007 and 2008. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the association between homicide and tattoo presence and characteristics were calculated using conditional logistic regression. There was no association between tattoo presence and death by homicide; however, among blacks, memorial tattoos were significantly more common among homicides compared with other types of deaths (odds ratio, 2.50; 95% confidence interval, 1.10–5.68). The results of the current study suggest that specific types of tattoos, but not all tattoos, may be risk factors for homicide. Other factors, such as race and lifestyle, along with tattoos may need to be considered.

From the *Center for Injury Sciences, †Department of Epidemiology, and ‡School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham; and §Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, Birmingham, AL.

Manuscript received July 7, 2010; accepted August 23, 2010.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Gerald McGwin Jr, MS, PhD, 1922 7th Ave S, Room K120, Birmingham, AL 35294. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.