Experts have warned that young Brit women are putting their health at risk with do-it-yourself body piercings, or by asking friends or relatives to conduct them.
Doctors have said that amateurs should not carry out piercing, for a new survey has shown that almost a third of piercings in people aged 16-24 resulted in complications, half of which needed medical attention.
The survey, carried out by a team from the Health Protection Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on more than 10,000 people aged 16 and above, also showed that one in ten of all adults in England has a body piercing other than in the earlobes.
According to the study, almost half of women aged 16-24 (46.2 per cent) have piercings, with navel being the most popular (33 per cent), followed by the nose (19 per cent), ear (13 per cent), tongue (9 per cent), nipple (9 per cent), eyebrow (8 per cent), lip (4 per cent) and genitals (2 per cent).
Men are much less likely to have piercings, and favour other parts of the body, with nipples being the most popular among them and navel being the least popular.
Genital piercing, though uncommon in both sexes, was twice as popular among men.
The survey showed that 1,049 had piercings other than those used through the earlobes for earrings.
Among people between the age group of 16 to 24, 31 per cent of piercings resulted in complications, 15 per cent needed medical help, and 1 per cent ended up in hospital.
It was also found that those who carried out the procedure themselves, or were helped by a friend or relative, were more likely to need medical help.
"This is the first study to look at the prevalence of, and complications arising from, what has become a popular piece of body art. It is vital that anyone considering a piercing ensures that they go to a reputable piercer to reduce the possibility of having problems," Times Online quoted Fortune Ncube, of the Health Protection Agency, one of the authors of the study, as saying.
The most common problems reported in the age group of 16-24 were swelling, infection and bleeding. These complications were most likely with the tongue, genitals and nipples.
The authors said: "Although most problems associated with piercing are usually minor and self-limiting, some complications are serious and can be fatal.
"Piercings in settings other than specialist piercing/tattooing shops were more likely to result in a complication for which help was sought and were significantly more likely to result in a complication requiring a hospital admission," they added.
The study is published in British Medical Journal online.