According to a recent study by a team at Harvard Medical School, women who use tanning beds have an increased risk of deadly skin cancer. The study findings add to the evidence that catching a tan in a tan bed can be as bad as catching a tan under the natural sun.
Several studies have found that tanning beds increase skin cancer risk. However, the data to link tanning beds to basal cell carcinoma, by far the most common form of skin cancer, have been inconsistent. The Harvard Medical School team examined data from nearly 730,000 nurses followed for 20 years and found that women who used tanning beds in their youth were likely than others to develop skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma in particular.
Jiali Han and teammates wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, “We investigated whether frequency of tanning bed use during high school/college and at ages 25 to 36 years were associated with a risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.”
“Our data provide evidence for a dose-response relationship between tanning bed use and the risk of skin cancers, especially basal cell carcinoma, and the association is stronger for patients with a younger age at exposure,” said Han.
During the study, of the 730,000 women, just 349 received melanoma diagnosis, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and 5,500 received basal cell carcinoma diagnosis. Women in the study who used tanning beds at least four times per year between high school and age 35 were 15 percent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than non-users of tanning beds. The research found similar risks tied to melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer that, like basal cell, has a high cure rate.
The findings also suggested that there might be a higher risk the earlier an individual starts tanning. Women who had used tanning beds at least seven times a year during high school and college were 73 percent more likely than non-users to receive a basal cell carcinoma diagnosis, said Han. Han’s team wrote that the study supports the idea of warning the public about future use of tanning beds and boost the argument for restrictions on salons.
Limiting exposure to a few trips to the tanning salon each year reduces the risk of skin cancer. Alternatives such as sunless tanning lotions and sprays have no known skin cancer risks. Protective eyewear use while tanning helps protect eyes from ultraviolet light damage to cornea and retina. A number of countries around the world have banned minors from using tanning beds. Some U.S. states restrict minors from using indoor tanning devices, or require a parental approval. Last year, California became the first U.S. state to ban anyone under 18-years-old from using indoor tanning beds in salons.
Nina, owner of NinaRotz.com, is a freelance writer and blogger. Nina’s work has been published and linked on Associated Content, Yahoo! Shine, Yahoo! Voices, eHow, Live Strong, CNN, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, as well as various online magazines and blogs.