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Tanning Salons Boost Skin Cancer Risk

Study Shows Monthly Use Raises Melanoma Risk by 55%

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"In a way, it's confirming the obvious," he tells WebMD. "We know that ultraviolet light from the sun causes skin cancer, and we presumed that ultraviolet light from tanning salons also causes skin cancer, although there's no direct experimental way to show that."

But he says he's surprised by the risk noted in women who artificially tanned.

"We knew artificial tanning was bad, but it's worse than we thought. This is a large, powerful study and I think what it does is confirm what we suspected."

But Indoor Tanning Association spokesman Joseph Levy says the new findings don't apply to Americans.

"We don't know anything specifically about how or where this tanning equipment was used," he tells WebMD. "Indoor tanning in Scandinavia is not regulated like it is here. They don't have exposure schedules or the same type of equipment. You're talking about a fair-skinned population that has a different mentality -- they are sun worshippers."

So does he think that tanning beds are safe?

"Being safe implies that you can do something recklessly and not think about what you are doing to maximize benefits and minimize risks," says Levy. "We want people to think about what they're doing when tanning, as opposed to just saying 'safe.'"

Last month, the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reported that in a survey of 7,000 teenagers, one in three girls and 11% of boys say they had used an indoor tanning bed at least once in their life.

"If you're a tennis player or boater, at least your can go outside and enjoy yourself," says Spencer. "You can wear sunscreen and a hat and get exercise. But when you go to a tanning salon, you're lying in coffin-like device and not enjoying life. It's just dumb."

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