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WHO: Tanning Beds Cause Cancer

Indoor Tanning Causes Melanoma, Report Shows

UVA and UVB Cause Cancer continued...

Beginning in the early 1990s, a particularly dramatic increase was seen in thicker and more lethal melanoma lesions, leading the researchers to conclude that tanning has probably played a significant role in this increase.

Early this year, researchers from the Northern California Cancer Center reported that melanoma cases doubled in the U.S. between the mid 1990s and 2004. The researchers concluded that the increase could not be explained by better screening and earlier detection of the cancer.

About 62,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the U.S. and about 8,000 people died of the disease in 2008, according to the ACS.

“We were not able to examine possible causes for this increase, but there is a lot of evidence that it is related to tanning,” Clarke tells WebMD.

Study co-author Eleni Linos, MD, DrPh, of Stanford University, points to studies showing increases in outdoor and indoor tanning in recent years, especially among young women.

“One of the established risk factors for melanoma is UV light, so both exposure to sun and exposure to tanning beds are probably risk factors.”

Tanning Industry Responds

Last September, International Tanning Association (ITA) Executive Director John Overstreet told WebMD that a report by leading researchers in the fields of melanoma research, dermatology, and cell biology calling for greater regulation of indoor tanning included “irresponsible assertions without providing any concrete link between indoor tanning and melanoma.”

In the spring of 2008, the ITA launched a nationwide campaign questioning this link.

In a news release issued at the time, ITA spokeswoman Sarah Longwell said, “Both the sun and tanning beds have been unnecessarily demonized by special interests using junk science and scare tactics.”

But in a news release issued today, ITA President Dan Humiston acknowledged that UV exposure from tanning beds is not discernibly different from UV exposure from the sun.

“The fact that the IARC has put tanning bed use in the same category as sunlight is hardly newsworthy,” he noted. “The UV light from a tanning bed is equivalent to UV light from the sun, which has had a (carcinogenic) classification since 1992. Some other items in this category are red wine, beer, and salted fish. The ITA has always emphasized the importance of moderation when it comes to UV light from either the sun or a tanning bed.”

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