Tanning Beds Increase Risk of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Study

Side effects of indoor tanning beds may be responsible for more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year, according to the findings of a new study. 

According to research published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, which analyzed all of the collected studies on tanning beds and skin cancer, indoor tanning may raise the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by as much as two-thirds.

The findings come in the midst of an ongoing debate about the risks of tanning beds, especially among young women.

Researchers looked at 12 studies involving 9,328 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and found that people who reported partaking in indoor tanning had a 67% increased risk of being diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and a 29% increased risk of basal cell carcinoma, when compared to those who did not use indoor tanning at all. They also determined that the use was particularly dangerous to those under the age of 25.

“Indoor tanning is associated with a significantly increased risk of both basal and squamous cell skin cancer,” the researchers concluded. “The risk is higher with use in early life. These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence on the harms of indoor tanning and support public health campaigns and regulation to reduce exposure to this carcinogen.”

Concerns over indoor tanning came to the forefront following a report by the World Health Organization in July 2009 which determined that ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds was a definite carcinogen. In findings similar to those of the latest study, WHO estimated that the use of tanning beds before age 30 increased the risk of skin cancer by 75%.

Both basal and squamous cell skin cancer are considered non-lethal, as opposed to melanoma, which is a more serious, and lethal form of skin cancer.

In March 2010, independent advisors to the FDA recommended to either ban tanning beds for everyone under the age of 18, or require parental consent. The recommendations were aimed to protect children and teens from UV radiation exposure and the heightened risk of skin cancer from tanning beds.

Currently, the FDA barely regulates indoor tanning facilities, classifying the ultraviolet radiation emitting beds as Class 1 medical devices; the same category as bandages and tongue depressors.

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