Indoor Tanning Beds Linked to Early-Onset Basal Cell Carcinoma Risk

Yale researchers have found that there is a likely link between tanning bed use and basal cell carcinoma, a non-lethal form of skin cancer that is becoming increasingly common among younger women. 

The findings of a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology appear to confirm growing suspicions about tanning bed cancer risks for women.

Researchers found that women who tanned face a greater risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma than men who tanned, which adds to a growing body of evidence being used by experts and lawmakers to call for more restrictions on tanning.

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Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Most cases occur around the neck and head and appears to usually be linked to skin frequently exposed to the sun. Previously, it occurred in older people, but recent years have seen an increase among young women, which led some researchers to suspect tanning beds. It has also been appearing in recent years more frequently on the trunk and extremities.

While a number of studies appear to link tanning bed use with melanoma, a fatal form of skin cancer, there has been less of a look at non-fatal skin cancers that may be caused by indoor tanning.

In the latest study, Yale researchers looked at 376 patients with basal cell carcinoma and compared them to 390 patients with minor, benign, skin conditions. All were under the age of 40. The researchers discovered that indoor tanning was associated with a 69% increased risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma, with the association strongest among women, those with multiple basal cell carcinoma, and for those diagnosed with skin cancer on the trunk or extremities.

The researchers concluded that indoor tanning is a “strong risk factor” for developing basal cell carcinoma at a younger age, particularly among women. The researchers called for continued targeting of tanning bed use by policy and behavioral interventions.

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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