Introduction: Body piercing (P) and tattoo (T) is a growing social phenomenon over recent years. Nowadays in Italy little is known about the prevalence, the attitude, the medical and social consequences of these activities. The purpose of this study is to examine the prevalence distribution and the attitude towards P and T and the perception of the risk for infections, in a sample of high school students living in the four Provinces of the Veneto Region (Italy). Methods: An anonymous, self administrate multiple-choice questionnaire about piercing and tattoo practices was distributed during the 2009-2010 academic year to a sample of randomly extracted grades to obtain information about sociodemographic characteristics, family educational level, personal attitude, prevalence and perception of the importance of the sanitary, technical and artistic competence of the operator. Results: The correctly compiled questionnaires were 2712 (95.4%). Males and females were respectively 46.2% and 53.8% (mean age 17 +/- 1.7 years). The 20.2% and the 6.4% of all the students had already experienced respectively P and T and resulted "very interested" the 46.7% to P and the 57.4% to T. Esthetical motivations are the main ones referred to use body art. The most part of interviewed subjects (81.6%) think that it is possible to have an infection, but only about 50% of students reported to know specific information about transmission of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and skin infections. The parents' educational levels do not influence the perception of the risk of infection. The majority of interviewed subjects (88.0%) prefers to undergo body art practices in a qualified center. Only the 30% of students recur to a medical help to solve problem of infection. Discussion: The piercing and tattoo prevalence rate in our study (P: 20.2% and T:6.4%) resulted similar to other Italian ones (range reported: P: 20.3-35.1%, T: 4.8-8.6%), showing an increasing trend with age. Since a high rate of interviewed students referred a substantial ignorance about the risk of transmission of body art related infectious diseases, it is suitable to promote as soon as possible among the youth educational interventions and counseling.
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