Tanning beds double risk for skin cancer

By on February 21, 2002

Tanning beds can double the risk of some common types of skin cancer, especially in young people, according to newly released study. In a report, out in last week’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute, scientists found that people who used tanning devices were 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to develop frequent kinds of skin cancer, than were people who refrained from visiting the tanning salon.
It has long been known that prolonged exposure to sun and the use of tanning beds increases one’s odds for developing skin cancer. However, that has not stopped countless teenagers, including college students from Quinnipiac, from making regular trips to tanning beds, hoping to rid themselves of pale skin, which they deem unattractive.
According to researchers conducting the study, the report is a first in confirming what doctors have long suspected: the sun lamp use increased the risk of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. Dr. James Spencer of the department of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York told the Associated Press: “It is actually worse to go to the tanning parlor and get a little bit each day, [than it is to get an infrequent sunburn].” He continued, “The tanning industry has said ‘as long as you don’t burn, it’s OK.’ This study shows that is not true.”
In the study, researchers interviewed 603 basal cell skin cancer patients and 293 with squamous cell skin cancer. They also used 540 control subjects, people who did not have either type of skin cancer.
Among the skin cancer patients in the study, 190 reported that they had used tanning devices at some time. In the control group, only 75 had. The study concluded that those using the devices were 2.5 times more likely to get squamos cell skin cancer than were people who had not used the devices. For basal cell, the risk was 1.5 times greater.
College students are at a higher risk. The report found that, for those who began tanning before the age of 20, the squamous cell cancer risk was 3.6 times greater than the controls. The basal cell cancer risk was 1.8 times greater.
“It appears that people who were younger when they first started using tanning lamps were at greater risk,” one of the researchers told the AP. “This suggests that the use of tanning devices should be more closely regulated.” She continued, “If we think that tanning lamps cause skin cancer, then we need to think about protecting adolescents and informing adults of what the risks really are. We do that for other carcinogenic exposures such as tobacco.”
About 1 million Americans are diagnosed each year with a form of skin cancer. About 80 percent are basal cell, with only for percent being melanoma, the most serious.
An Associated Press report contributed to this story.


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