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Indoor Tanning Beds Tied to Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer; Youngsters at Higher Risk

Update Date: Oct 03, 2012 09:11 AM EDT

Everyone these days loves to flaunt a tanned skin. People are ready to take pains to quite an extent to achieve the flawless tan: Be it by lying under the sun for hours together on a beach side, or with the help of indoor tanning beds. However, the bad news is that not only adults, but even children are getting into the craze of tanned skin, without realizing what it could do to their innocent skin.

A new study has linked indoor tanning beds to non-melanoma skin cancer and claims that the earlier one starts with the tanning, the greater the risk they have of contracting the cancer.

The study led by UCSF confirms that indoor tanning, which is already established as a risk factor for malignant melanoma significantly increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, the most common human skin cancers.

Also, researchers believe that indoor tanning is responsible for an estimated 170,000 plus new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers in the United States - and many more worldwide each year.

Further, the study warns that those who hit the tanning beds before reaching age 25 significantly increase their chances of developing basal cell carcinomas.

"The numbers are striking - hundreds of thousands of cancers each year are attributed to tanning beds,'' said Eleni Linos, MD, DrPH, an assistant professor of dermatology at UCSF and senior author of the study. "This creates a huge opportunity for cancer prevention.''

The researchers concluded the study by analyzing published articles since 1985 involving some 80,000 people in six countries and data extending back to 1977.

Indoor tans first started in the U.S. in the 1970s and according to The National Cancer Institute, in 2010, 5.6 percent of the American public reportedly used indoor tanning during the prior year, with women, whites and young adults being the highest users.

According to the report currently, there are some 19,000 indoor tanning businesses in spite of warnings from The World Health Organization, which has said that ultraviolet tanning devices cause cancer in people and the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers indoor tanning a "Class 1'' carcinogen.

Rules regarding tanning are only being made more and more strict by government officials in the U.S. and abroad.

"Several earlier studies suggested a link between non-melanoma skin cancer and indoor tanning. Our goal was to synthesize the available data to be able to draw a firm conclusion about this important question,'' said co-author Mary-Margaret Chren, MD, professor of dermatology at UCSF.

In the current study, the researchers studied the effects of early life exposure to tanning beds as well, ad found that youngsters who used indoor tanning beds had a 67 percent higher chance of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29 percent higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, compared to people who never did indoor tanning.

"Australia and Europe have already led the way in banning tanning beds for children and teenagers, and Brazil has completely banned tanning beds for all ages,'' Linos said. "I hope that our study supports policy and public health campaigns to limit this carcinogen in the United States.''

The study is published online in BMJ, the British general medical journal.

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