Ultraviolet-Fluorescent Tattoo Facilitates Accurate Identification of Biopsy Sites

Dermatol Surg. 2015 Nov;41(11):1249-56. doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000000511.


Background: Cutaneous biopsy sites are often difficult to discern or are frequently misidentified when patients present for the treatment of skin cancers. This frustrating situation can lead to delays in treatment and wrong site surgeries. Current methods aiming to prevent this situation are not perfect.

Objective: This study seeks to determine the efficacy of ultraviolet-fluorescent tattoos in facilitating the correct identification of suspected nonmelanoma skin cancer biopsy sites.

Methods: In this prospective cohort, 51 shave biopsy sites were tattooed with ultraviolet-fluorescent ink in a series of 31 patients suspected of having a cutaneous malignancy. At the time of follow-up, the ability of the patient and the physician to identify the correct site with and without ultraviolet illumination of the tattoo was recorded. Visibility of the tattoo was graded before and after treatment.

Results: Patients could not positively identify their biopsy site in 35% of cases. In 7% of cases, physicians could not confidently identify the site without the aid of ultraviolet illumination. In conjunction with tattoo illumination, physicians confidently identified the site in 100% of the cases. No adverse events occurred.

Conclusion: Ultraviolet-fluorescent tattoos offer a safe and reliable means of accurately marking cutaneous biopsy sites.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Humans
  • Keratosis, Actinic / pathology
  • Keratosis, Actinic / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery
  • Tattooing / methods*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Fluorescent Dyes