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Body piercing in adolescents and young adults

Neerav Desai, MD
Section Editor
Diane Blake, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


The epidemiology and health hazards associated with body piercing will be reviewed here. Tattooing and issues related to body piercing in pregnancy are discussed separately. (See "Tattooing in adolescents and young adults" and "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes", section on 'Tattoos and piercing'.)

For the purposes of this topic, "body piercing" generally refers to piercing at sites other than the ear lobe. However, some sections discuss piercing of the ear lobe as well as piercing at other sites (eg, the sections on piercing procedure and health risks).


Body piercing is increasingly common among adolescents and young adults [1-6]. Surveys of adolescents and young adults (13 to 29 years of age) suggest that 25 to 35 percent have a body piercing at a site other than the ear lobe [2,3,7,8].

A consistent proportion of adolescents and young adults (13 to 18 percent) report long-term removal of their jewelry (though the piercing tract may remain patent); the reasons that they cite for removal include dissatisfaction, infection, and disinterest [1,3,9].

Surveys evaluating the association between body piercing and high-risk behaviors (eg, tobacco use, drug use, sexual activity) in adolescents and young adults have inconsistent results [10-15]. Some suggest that the rate of high-risk behaviors is increased in those with multiple piercings or intimate (ie, nipple, genital) piercings [13,14].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 26, 2017.
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