Study Adds Support for Link Between Skin Cancer and Tanning Beds

A 20-year study of female nurses appears to provide more evidence linking skin cancer and tanning bed use

According to findings published by Harvard researchers in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the more women used tanning beds the more likely their chances of being diagnosed with skin cancer, especially basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Women were also at higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which can be fatal.

The researchers looked at data on 73,494 female nurses from 1989 through 2009. Specifically, they looked at young women from high school through the age of 35, and whether the frequency of tanning bed use corresponded with increased skin cancer risks. They found corresponding increases in every category, but BCC was the most marked. High school and college-aged girls who used a tanning bed more than six times per year had a 73% increased risk of contracting BCC, according to the findings.

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The findings are similar to those published by Yale researchers last December in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, which indicated that indoor tanning was associated with a 69% increase of BCC cancer risk, with the strongest associations among women who tanned.

Researchers say the evidence points to a dose-response relationship between tanning bed use and skin cancer.

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. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) called for such a ban and an FDA advisory committee made similar recommendations in March 2010.

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.


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