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Healthy Tanning Beds? Experts Say No

Skin Cancer Researchers Oppose Industry Campaign to Portray Tanning Beds as Healthy

UV and Skin Cancer continued...

"The incidence of skin cancer continues to rise faster than any other cancer, with the lifetime risk for an American to develop melanoma estimated to have increased approximately 2,000% in the past 75 years," the researchers write.

While melanoma is by far the most deadly skin cancer, Fisher says thousands of people die each year from non-melanoma related skin cancers.

"These cancers are absolutely caused by UV exposure," he says. "There is no question about that."

In a separate review entitled "Are Tanning Beds Safe?" University of New Mexico epidemiologist Marianne Berwick, PhD, concluded that the data suggest, but do not prove, that tanning beds are no safer than sun exposure and may even be associated with an increased risk for melanoma.

She writes that better studies are needed to investigate the issue, adding that, "because of this uncertainty, the data do not support a claim that sun beds are safe, and such claims should be considered misleading."

Tanning Industry Responds

In a statement issued Wednesday in response to a request from WebMD, International Tanning Association Executive Director John Overstreet accuses the authors of the newly published reviews of making "irresponsible assertions without providing any concrete link between indoor tanning and melanoma."

"The fact is, UV light provides vitamin D which helps the body ward off many types of disease; the rewards that come from moderate and responsible exposure to UV light far outweigh the consequences of not getting enough of it," Overstreet says in the statement.

Fisher disputes this claim, and adds that people can get all the vitamin D they need by taking supplements of the vitamin.

"In this day and age, advocating exposure to a carcinogen to get a vitamin doesn't make any sense," he says. "People who are truly vitamin D deficient should be monitored by a physician who can recommend the right amount of supplementation."

American Cancer Society Deputy Chief Medical Officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD, agrees.

"Why expose yourself to an increased risk for skin cancer when you have a safe alternative in cheap and readily available supplements?" he says.

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