Tattoo removal must be regulated like UV tanning beds, says a Gold Coast surgeon worried about skin cancer risks.

Tattoo removal by laser may lead to skin cancer, a leading Gold Coast surgeon fears.

Dr Ian McDougall has compared tattoo removal lasers to UV tanning beds, arguing the industry needs to be more regulated.

“It’s an invasive procedure that can cause problems and I’m not sure that patients are aware of the problems associated with it,” he told AAP on Thursday.

Tattoo removal uses lasers to break up embedded ink pigments in skin, posing a potential cancer risk.

“If you’re going to de-pigment an area, I’m not sure what your chance of skin cancer in that area is,” Dr McDougall said.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be higher.”

Queensland will impose a complete ban on UV tanning beds from the end of 2014, after studies showed they expose consumers to a greater risk of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer.

But tattoo laser operators are less regulated.

Under Queensland’s radiation safety act, owners are required to have a safety certificate to own and operate a machine.

But training does not cover tattoo removal.

Many operators use intense pulse lighting (IPL) lasers to remove tattoos, which are much cheaper than specific tattoo removal lasers.

These IPL machines are also unregulated.

Melbourne Tattoo Removal proprietor Hilary Quinn has told consumer group Choice these machines increase the risk of burning or scarring.