Study: Tanning Beds Substantially Raise Skin Cancer Risks
DAVID GREENE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Sitting in for Steve Inskeep, I'm David Greene.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
A new study finds that people who frequent tanning salons may increase their risk of getting one of the most aggressive and deadliest cancers - melanoma. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on the study which appears in a journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research.
PATTI NEIGHMOND: They compared more than 1,100 melanoma patients between the ages of 25 and 59 to a similar number of healthy individuals.
GREENE: We found that the risk of melanoma was about 74 percent higher for persons who used indoor tanning compared to persons who did not.
NEIGHMOND: Cancer epidemiologist DeAnn Lazovich headed the study. In questionnaires and telephone interviews, Lazovich asked people about their tanning habits - whether they ever used indoor tanning and if they did, at what age they started and how often they went. She found the risk increased along with greater years of use and the number of sessions or total hours of use.
GREENE: Fifty or more hours in one's lifetime, more than a hundred sessions in one's lifetime, or 10 or more years of use in one's lifetime. And if individuals were in any of those high levels of use, we found that the risk of melanoma was increased anywhere from two and a half to three times compared to individuals who did not tan indoors.
NEIGHMOND: But Dr. Allan Halpern, chief of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, says tanning is unsafe no matter how people do it.
GREENE: The answer is simple. Tanning is dangerous whether it's from the sun or from tanning beds. And what tanning beds are really doing is they're concentrating the same kind of rays that we are getting from the sun. So you're getting a much bigger dose for the amount of time spent.
NEIGHMOND: Another dispute has been over the increasing use of indoor tanning by younger people, particularly teenage girls. Several studies have shown that the younger people start using indoor tanning, the greater their risk of skin cancer. Lazovich.
GREENE: Some of the earlier research did find a stronger relationship between indoor tanning that started before the age of 36 and risk of melanoma. But they weren't able to sort out whether that was due to some inherent biologic susceptibility versus just the fact that the younger you start, the more chance you have to accumulate exposure.
NEIGHMOND: This study didn't find a strong link between melanoma and the age when people start indoor tanning, but it did find the number of lifetime sessions increased the risk. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic and recommends banning them for kids under 18. The FDA is also considering such a ban in the United States. John Overstreet with the Indoor Tanning Association says that would be unreasonable.
MONTAGNE: What's next? Are you going to put people at the beach and stop people from bringing their teenagers under the age of 18 out to the beach? The city pool's going to be banned for anybody under the age of 18? I mean, where does it all stop?
NEIGHMOND: Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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