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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Indoor Tanning Beds Linked to Common Skin Cancers

Is It Time to Ban the Tan? continued...

In the U.S., “the next step is to figure out what measures are most effective at reducing indoor tanning use,” Linos says. “Placing restrictions on indoor smoking, taxes on cigarettes, and changing the perception of smokers as cool all helped reduce smoking rates. We need to figure out which of those methods will work for indoor tanning.”

The time is now, agrees Joshua Zeichner, MD, He is a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Any measures taken to discourage indoor tanning will help prevent cancers in the long run and lower associated health care costs,” he says.

The message is clear: “Especially for young people, who want to look tan for the prom or a special event, stay away from tanning booths.”

Craig Devoe, MD, is in favor of a heftier tanning tax. He is an oncologist at the Center for Melanoma and Rare Skin Cancers at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. There is a 10% tax on indoor tanning in the U.S.

“These cancers may not be lethal, but they can be disfiguring,” he says.

What’s more, the risks of indoor tanning should be covered in health education classes, much like smoking. “To get tan, the ultraviolet rays must cause damage to your DNA. This is how you get tan,” he says. “There is a lot of misinformation by tanning salons about so-called safe tanning and the health effects of vitamin D.”

Tanning Industry Responds

John Overstreet is the executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, an industry trade group in Washington, D.C. He defends some of the benefits of indoor tanning, especially as it pertains to vitamin D exposure.

“It seems the risks continue to grab the headlines in the media, while the benefits remain unnoticed and unpromoted,” he says. “This paper is another example of continuing efforts to focus on risks.”

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are rarely fatal and easily treated, he says.

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