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Girls Ignoring Indoor Tanning Skin Cancer Risks: CDC Study Warns

Federal health regulators are warning that young white women are continuing to ignore the risks associated with indoor tanning, placing themselves at unnecessary risk of skin cancer, permanent disfigurement and death. 

A new study headed by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found a 30% increase in tanning bed use by women over the previous year. The researchers also found indoor tanning bed use before the age of 35 increases the melanoma risk by 59% to 75%.

The increase comes despite warnings in recent years from the World Health Organization (WHO), health care professionals and others about the risk of indoor tanning and skin cancer, including melanoma, which can be fatal. 

In May, the FDA reclassified all tanning lamps as moderately dangerous medical devices due to the risk of skin cancer.

Increased Risk of Skin Cancer from Indoor Tanning Based on Age

While much previous data has found an association between an increased risk of skin cancer, especially among frequent tanning bed users and those who begin tanning at a young age, the results of this study highlight an increased correlation with age as well.

Frequent indoor tanning bed users who begin tanning before the age of 25 increase their non-melanoma skin cancer risk by as much as 40% at the low end, but that risk can climb as high as 102% under certain circumstances. Researchers also found the melanoma risk increases nearly 2% with each additional year of indoor tanning bed use.

The study’s findings indicate the incidence rates among young women, especially non-Hispanic white women, was steadily increasing. Researchers attribute the increase to indoor tanning use.

Researchers used national data of female white high school students and adults up to 34 years of age. Nearly 20% of the women in the study reported using indoor tanning beds at least 10 times in the last year. Approximately one-quarter of the women use indoor tanning beds at least once a year.

Nearly 15% of the women were considered to be frequent indoor tanning bed users. The majority of the tanning bed users were found in the South and the Midwest.

Concerns About Tanning Bed Cancer Risks

Debates concerning the safety of indoor tanning use have spurred public interest in recent years. A study published last year found one in every 20 cases of melanoma is caused by tanning bed use. This study, much like the research conducted by the CDC, found the younger someone starts tanning, the higher the risk of melanoma becomes.

The new study finds incidence rates of tanning bed use were much higher in white, non-Hispanic women, these findings are in line with a recent report issued by the CDC. The report released May 2012 revealed young white women were much more likely to ignore the dangers of indoor tanning bed use.

Nearly half of the women in the study group said they tanned 10 times or more in the previous year. The report also found a higher rate of indoor tanning use among adult women with a family history of skin cancer, pointing to a lack of understanding concerning the risk.

A 2012 study from the U.K. found more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are cause by tanning bed use each year. The study analyzed all the collected studies on tanning beds and skin cancer and found indoor tanning may raise the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by as much as two-thirds.

Most recently, the Canadian government added new warnings to tanning bed labels about the potential risk of skin cancer. The move was made in hopes to crack down on the use of tanning beds by younger people.

While here in the U.S., a bill was recently signed into law in New Jersey banning minors under the age of 17 from using tanning beds. The law also includes a provision which bans children under the age of 14 from using spray tanning facilities. Currently 10 states require parental permission for minors under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning facilities. Wisconsin has a full ban on tanning for those under the age of 16.

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