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I was reading an interview with Jake Adelstein, a Yakuza expert, who says this:

Also the tattoos. Like, you can see on the cover of this book and the back of this book - see, one of the things they tend to do is get these full-body tattoos which mark them as members of the Yakuza. And the tattoos themselves are carcinogenic and they prevent your skin from sweating.

The "stopping the skin from sweating" sounds like the Goldfinger gold paint/skin breathing Urban Legend, but is there any truth in the claims, particularly regarding Japanese ink and any potential nasties it might contain.

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There is a detailed explanation in Velo News about the connection between Tattoo and Sweating

So to answer your question, I have to wager that some sweat gland damage may occur and it’s a matter of speculation just how much. A “full suit” tattoo would be more likely to have significant impact on the sweat glands’ ability to maintain body temperature. I would recommend having major work done in the off-season to allow the skin ample time to heal and train back up to maximum sweat-gland function before race season. Even with a full suit, there are many bare areas that have no ink at all and are completely undamaged.1

Velo News article about tattoos and sweating

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    Sorry this is a poor reference: "The information contained in this column applies to general medical practice and may not reflect current medical developments or be interpreted as medical advice", find a better one if you can. – Sklivvz May 8 '13 at 10:28
  • "and [to] train back up to maximum sweat-gland function" ?!? LOL – Drew May 13 '13 at 6:17
  • @Sklivvz isn't that a pretty standard disclaimer? – Andrew Grimm Jul 7 '13 at 13:19
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    "I have to wager that" and "it’s a matter of speculation" implies that this is just personal guess, not a researched answer. – ChrisW Jul 7 '13 at 15:17

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