Study: Indoor Tanning Greatly Increases Cancer Risk

Here’s another study that’s sure to give chills to those warming themselves on the tanning bed.

A study reported today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that indoor tanning was associated with a 74 percent higher risk of melanoma skin cancer. That’s the deadliest of skin cancers that inflicts nearly 69,000 Americans a year, and kills 7000 of them. The study found the risk of melanoma was much higher for the long-term indoor tanners. For example, for those who went to tanning salons for more than 10 years were about 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer.

Dr. George Monks of the Tulsa Dermatology Clinic told me the study “confirms what we’ve known for a long time, that tanning is dangerous and increases the risk of melanoma.” And he adds it doesn’t matter if a tan is from a lamp or the sun.  They’re both dangerous.

Despite the talk of dangers of an indoor tan, nearly 30 million Americans hit the tanning beds every year.  Amber Melendez is a young mother from Tulsa, and has been tanning indoors since she was a teenager.  She told NewsChannel 8, “I feel like tanning makes me look thinner.  Just makes me look better whenever I have a tan.”

Dr. Monks is especially concerned about the risks of tanning salons for teenagers. It’s that time of year when teens want to add a layer of color before they go to graduations, proms and the beach. Monks says, “it not only increases the risk of melanoma, but other forms of cancer, and chances of wrinkles or brown spots.  Leathered and wrinkled skin may not show up for at least 20 years.”

What does the Indoor Tanning Association say about this? USA Today report:

In a statement, the Indoor Tanning Association’s John Overstreet says scientists disagree about the link between melanoma and tanning beds. “When reputable researchers are coming to vastly different conclusions, it’s clear that a lot more research is needed,” he says. “The science on both sides of the question needs to be weighed before consideration is given to any sweeping policy changes.”

The new report comes at a time of increased scrutiny of indoor tanning. Again, from USA Today:

  • The FDA is considering recommendations from an advisory panel that suggested that teens be barred from tanning salons, or at least get parental consent before tanning.
  • Congress included a 10% tax on indoor tanning in a health reform bill to help pay for expanding medical coverage and to make it harder for teens to afford indoor tanning.

I’ll finish with some summer tanning “dos and don’ts” from ABC News:

  • Do: Avoid tanning beds. See above.
  • Do: Wear sunglasses and hats. Hats should shade your whole face and head.
  • Don’t: Wax or exfoliate right before sun exposure. If the skin is irritated from doing these things, you could burn more easily.
  • Do: Avoid Retin-A products in the sun. Retin-A actually makes you skin healthier, but healthier skin is more sensitive to the sun.
  • Do: Avoid drinks with lemon and celery in them. They contain a chemical that, just by touching them, you’re making your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  • Do: Buy the right sunscreen. Apply early and often.

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