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Indoor Tanning Tied to More Cancer Cases than Smoking

Update Date: Feb 01, 2014 10:17 AM EST
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Indoor tanning is an extremely dangerous habit because it can drastically increase one's risk of developing skin cancer. According to a new study, researchers reported that indoor tanning could be tied to more cancer cases than smoking.

"What we knew is that indoor tanning is linked to skin cancer," Dr. Eleni Linos, the senior author of the study and a dermatologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said. "What we wanted to find out is how common is exposure in the United States and internationally."

Linos and fellow colleagues examined data that were gathered between 1986 and 2012. The data was compiled from 88 studies that included nearly 500,000 people from the United States, Australia and 14 other nations in Eastern and Western Europe.

The researchers reported that 36 percent of adults stated that they have used a tanning booth before. For college students, the number went up to 55 percent. The researchers found that for teenagers, the rate was 20 percent. The researchers also reported that 43 percent of college students, 18 percent of teenagers and 14 percent of adults used an indoor tanning booth within the past year. Women across all age groups were more likely than men to use these booths.

The researchers then examined cancer rates. They found that every year there was an estimated 419,000 cases of basal and squamous cell carcinoma and around 11,000 cases of melanoma that could be linked to indoor tanning. These numbers together are greater than the estimated number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. According to the authors, smoking causes around 363,000 cases of lung cancer per year.

"We really don't know what's going to happen to these people who are exposed to indoor tanning now when they get to be 60 or 80," Brenda Cartmel, a cancer prevention expert from the Yale Cancer Center and the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, said reported by FOX News. Cartmel was not involved in the new study. "(The study) is very timely in its publication as many states that don't yet have indoor tanning bans for minors are working toward getting that legislation passed."

The authors concluded, according to CBS Houston, "It is time to open the debate about and pursue additional research into appropriate and effective policy and prevention strategies with the potential to significantly reduce skin cancer risks."

The study was published in JAMA Dermatology.

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