MONDAY, June 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teens and young adults
who engage in indoor tanning risk developing skin cancer at an
early age, a new study finds.
Once thought safer than outdoor sunbathing, indoor tanning can
produce 10 to 15 times as much ultraviolet (UV) radiation as the
midday sun, the study authors noted.
"Our findings suggest that children and young adults who seek indoor tanning may be especially vulnerable to developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, at a young age," said lead researcher Margaret Karagas, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H.
The study looked at people aged 50 and younger who were
diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. While usually treatable,
this type of skin cancer can be highly disfiguring if not caught
early, and basal cell tumors have a high rate of recurrence. Until
recently, basal cell skin cancer was considered a cancer of later
life, the researchers said.
The investigators found that indoor tanning was associated with
developing skin cancer at an early age. Moreover, the strongest
link was seen among those whose first exposure to indoor tanning
occurred when they were teens or young adults.
These results support the recommendation of the American Academy
of Pediatrics to minimize ultraviolet exposure, the researchers
Teens often have easy access to tanning facilities, and only a
few states ban indoor tanning for minors, Karagas said.
"In the absence of laws protecting children from these exposures, our findings suggest counseling on the risks of indoor tanning and discouraging parents from consenting to this behavior," Karagas said.
The report is published online June 23 and in the July print
In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that
tanning beds and tanning booths must carry a visible warning
stating that the devices should not be used by anyone under age
"There's mounting evidence showing that indoor tanning in childhood and early adult life further increases risk of melanoma later in life due to greater lifetime exposure," Nancy Stade, deputy director for policy at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press conference announcing the order. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
However, the order does not ban teen use of tanning beds
outright. "It reflects a very strong statement by the FDA that they
should not be used by individuals under age 18," Stade said.
Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic
surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, said the new study
makes two key points: First, it supports the concept that the
younger a person is when exposed to a known carcinogen -- in this
case, UV A and B -- the greater the risk of eventually developing a
cancer. Second, "the study reveals that the cancer also occurs at a
decidedly earlier age," he said.
"And your skin looks older to boot," he added.
Newer tanning devices are as risky as older machines in terms of
emitting known cancer-causing light, Salomon said.
For the study, Karagas and colleagues collected data on indoor
tanning among 657 people with basal cell skin cancer and 452
without skin cancer, who took part in the New Hampshire Skin Cancer
Data was also collected on indoor tanning and the type of device
used -- sunlamps, tanning beds or tanning booths -- and on time
spent outdoors in childhood.
In about 40 percent of cases, basal cell skin cancer was found
on the back or chest rather than the head and neck. Tumors on the
back and chest are associated with indoor tanning, rather than with
natural sunlight, the study authors pointed out.
The link between indoor tanning and cancer was seen for all
types of indoor tanning devices, including sunlamps, tanning beds
and tanning booths, the study found.
For more on skin cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.
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