World Health Organization Scientists Warn Against Ultraviolet Tanning Beds

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, has added ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-emitting tanning devices - tanning beds - to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, has added ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-emitting tanning devices - tanning beds - to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation.

After weighing studies from around the world, a team of 20 top scientists from nine countries added tanning beds to the IARC's "Group One," which identifies the most harmful forms of radiation, those that are "carcinogenic [cancer-causing] to humans." Group One includes radiation most people are rarely exposed to (such as plutonium and certain types of radium) as well as more common forms, such as the sun's UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. (The sun's UV rays are classified by these three different wavelengths.) Most UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth, but both UVA and UVB radiation penetrate the atmosphere and play a key role in conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancers. They also suppress the immune system, which leaves the body more vulnerable to skin cancers and other conditions. Because it is impossible to avoid the sun's radiation entirely, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends following our sun safety Guidelines.

UV-emitting tanning machines were added to Group One based on consistent evidence of a link between UV radiation from indoor tanning devices (which largely emit ultraviolet A rays) and all major forms of skin cancer, including melanomas of both the skin and eyes. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, causing about 8,650 deaths a year in the US alone.

The IARC's report, confirming the dangers of UV tanning, reinforces warnings from multiple health organizations encouraging people to refrain from using tanning beds.