Skin Cancer Panel Wants Youths Counseled Against Tanning

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By: Staff Writers | Published: November 9th, 2011

A government-backed task force is calling for healthcare providers to counsel children against tanning, due to the increased risk of skin cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued draft recommendations on skin cancer prevention, opening public comment from now until December 8 before it finalizes them.

The task force is just the latest in a string of groups calling for dissuading youths from using tanning beds, with some recommending outright bans on youth tanning in recent months.

The task force noted that changing people’s behavior is the most effective way of reducing ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. However, they found that by the time people are adults it is not only too late to change their minds, but it is also too late to prevent many forms of skin cancer.

“Counseling adults is of uncertain potential benefit due to the unknown effectiveness of counseling interventions to change behavior and also because of the less secure link between behavior change in adulthood and skin cancer risk,” the group wrote. “It is possible that UV exposure experienced after age 35 years contributes much less to one’s lifetime skin cancer risk compared with exposure at younger ages.”

Instead, the task force recommends that efforts should be focused on youths between the ages of 10 and 24 who have fair skin, as they are most likely to tan and sunburn easily, making them more susceptible to skin cancer from UV exposure.

The American Cancer Society says that melanoma is diagnosed in about 69,000 Americans each year and causes about 8,650 deaths annually. Less dangerous, but more common, basal and squamous cell carcinomas affect more than one million Americans each year and cause about 2,000 deaths annually.

A study by the World Health Organization in July 2009, indicated that use of tanning beds before the age of 30 may increase the risk of skin cancer by 75%. As a result of the study, WHO reclassified ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds as a definite carcinogen . Previously, they were considered “probable” carcinogens.

There have been increasing calls for a ban on the use of tanning beds for children under the age of 18. In March, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) called for such a ban and an FDA advisory committee made similar recommendations in March 2010.

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