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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Tanning Booths Increase Risk of Most Common Skin Cancer

Risk Is Even Greater for Women, Study Shows

Indoor Tanning Is a Public Health Issue

“It is hard for even the most skeptical and resolute tanners -- and tanning salon owners -- to refute or ignore an increased risk of 69%,” says Heidi Waldorf, MD. She is a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The fact that the link was strongest in women and that we see so many younger women going to indoor tanning salons is particularly concerning. This really is a public health issue.”

The rest of the country should follow California’s lead and ban teenagers under 18 from indoor tanning, she says: “We keep kids from buying alcohol and cigarettes; it makes sense to block another easily avoidable cancer risk until they are old enough to make a more informed decision.”

This study provides even more evidence that indoor tanning increases the risk for all types of skin cancer, says Babar K. Rao, MD. He is the acting chair of dermatology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

While basal cell skin cancer is not feared the way that melanoma is, “it means that your skin has been damaged enough by ultraviolet rays that you can get any type of skin cancer,” he says.

Many tanning salons advertise that exposure to ultraviolet light will increase the body’s production of vitamin D and improve health. “There are other ways to get vitamin D,” Rao tells WebMD. “Eat healthy foods and take supplements. You don’t need indoor tanning.”

Indoor Tanning Advocate: Getting Burned Is the Real Issue

John Overstreet is the executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, an industry trade group. He says the real culprit is getting burned, not indoor tanning.

“You shouldn’t get sunburn. Everybody agrees with that,” Overstreet says. “It is easier to avoid sunburn when you tan indoors because it so much more controlled.”

“Moderation is key. If you avoid burning either indoors or outdoors, there are benefits,” he says, referring to increased vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of health problems including brittle bones, heart disease, and diabetes.

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