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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Tanning Beds Triple Melanoma Risk

Skin Cancer Risk Even Higher for Frequent Users of High-Pressure Tanning Beds

Melanoma, Indoor Tanning Increasing continued...

Also, most previous studies did not distinguish between high-speed machines, which emit some UVB rays, and high-pressure machines, which emit almost exclusively UVA rays.

The latest study included nearly 1,200 melanoma patients and a similar number of age- and gender-matched people in a control group. Using questionnaires and telephone interviews, the researchers determined that 63% of the melanoma patients in the study had used a commercial tanning device at least once, compared to 51% of the people without cancer.

Among the other major findings:

  • Melanoma risk increased with exposure, measured by total hours of indoor tanning, the number of individual sessions, or years of exposure.
  • The increase in risk was seen for both high-speed and high-pressure machines, suggesting that no type of tanning device could be considered safe.
  • Burns from indoor tanning were commonly reported.
  • The strongest association was seen for melanomas originating on the trunk, which, in women at least, is an area of the body generally exposed to UV rays only during tanning.

The research showed no specific increase in melanoma risk associated with tanning bed use at a young age, but a clear association was seen for increased exposure over time.

The study appears in the June issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

“Overall exposure was the important thing,” Lazovich says. “Melanoma is the second most common cancer among young women. Young women are particularly vulnerable because they are the most likely to use these devices.”

Tanning Industry Responds

In response to the study, a tanning industry spokesman said the findings are misleading because the researchers did not distinguish between people with major risk factors for melanoma and the general population.

Those risk factors include having very fair skin, having many moles, and having freckles or red hair.

Melanoma patients in the study were five times as likely as non-patients to have very fair skin and nearly 14 times more likely to have many moles.

John Overstreet of the Indoor Tanning Association tells WebMD that the group’s own scientific analysis of the findings suggests that when high-risk groups are removed, indoor tanning may actually lower melanoma risk.

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