Young White Women Don’t Understand Indoor Tanning Cancer Risk: CDC

According to a report issued by federal health officials, the potential risk of cancer associated with indoor tanning is largely being ignored or not understood by young white women, as the number of them diagnosed with a deadly form of skin cancer continues to rise. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that half of adults under 30 in the U.S. say they visited an indoor tanning facility in the last year, with young, white women under 25 representing the largest group. Of those, half said they had tanned 10 times or more in the previous year.

CDC researchers reported that 31.8% of white women between the ages of 18 and 21 tanned in the last year, and 29.6% between the ages of 22-25 tanned indoors. Young white women from the Midwest and the South were the most likely to have visited an indoor tanning facility.

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UV radiation levels from indoor tanning devices are four times that of noon sunlight in Washington, D.C. during the summer, according to the CDC. “The high frequency of use among indoor tanners is of great concern given these high levels of UV radiation and the elevated risk for skin cancer with increasing numbers of sessions,” the CDC reported.

The CDC also noted that there was a higher rate of indoor tanning among adults with a family history of skin cancer, which researchers say indicates that people do not understand the risks.

The findings are similar to those in a report by researchers from the University of Missouri announced in March. That report found that almost every college-age white woman said they plan to get a tan, with less than two-thirds planning to use sunscreen.

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.

The American Cancer Society says that melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, 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. Rates of melanoma have climbed 50% in women between the ages of 15 and 39 from 1980 to 2004.

There have been increasing calls for a ban on the use of tanning beds for children under the age of 18. 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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