The Truth About Tanning in 2008

Recent studies link tanning beds to skin cancer

Nearly 2.3 million American teenagers visit tanning salons every year, and with summer right around the corner, the temptation to tan is even greater. But with the increasing rates of skin cancer, recent research has found that the use of sunbeds during a person's teens and twenties is linked to an increase in melanoma risk, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

woman_tanningThe International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, a branch of the World Health Organization) conducted a thorough review of all available worldwide data - 19 international studies - and found a strong association between tanning bed use and melanoma risk. Across all age groups, males and females who have ever used tanning beds have a 15 percent higher risk of developing melanoma. More alarming still, based on 7 worldwide studies, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

"This new research substantiates what we've believed for years about the danger of indoor tanning," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "It clearly increases the risk of skin cancer, especially in young women, who are the largest group of users."

In addition, this study found that the risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is significantly increased in teens after their first use of tanning beds. SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer and accounts for 2,500 deaths a year. Of the three major skin cancers, it is the one that has most clearly been linked to cumulative lifetime ultraviolet exposure. In fact, a 2002 study from Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop SCC than those who don't use tanning beds.

If the threat of melanoma isn't enough to scare teens away from tanning booths, they should know that 90% of visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are really caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation (UV) accelerates the signs of aging, including wrinkles, leathering and fine lines, which can be seen as early as in one's 20's. Yet many young women continue to contribute to the $5 billion dollar tanning industry.