Indoor Tanning Linked To Risk Of Skin Cancer
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In the 1970´s, as the general consciousness was being raised on the negative effects UV rays could have on skin, a fantastic solution arose. The advent of indoor tanning beds seemed the perfect way to maintain a golden hue without all the pesky side-effects that were coming to light, so to speak.
People believed that indoor tanning minimized and even negated the negative health aspects of tanning in direct sunlight. Finally, a tanning option that was safe for the whole family. Since approximately 2009, collected evidence has been steadily disproving this myth.
A new study out of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), led by Professor Eleni Linos, estimates that over 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are reported each year in the U.S. alone. This study follows a report from July, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that showed 3,438 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed each year in Western Europe, with a direct link to tanning bed use established. These findings noted a particular increase in diagnosis among young adults. This new study, published yesterday, is also in the prestigious BMJ.
Evidence across the board shows upticks in both non-melanoma (a less lethal form of skin cancer) and melanoma cancers. In fact, non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses have seen a dramatic increase over the last few decades. While, as mentioned, this diagnosis is considered less lethal, it does pose a significant financial burden to healthcare systems worldwide. Until only recently, the attempt to find a link between this increase and the use of indoor tanning had proved dubious.
With this in mind, Professor Linos and her team chose to analyze the results of 12 studies that reviewed 9,328 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (7,645 basal cell carcinomas and 1,683 squamous cell carcinomas). They found that an individual who had ever utilized indoor tanning could increase their risk, by 67%, of developing squamous cell carcinoma and 29% for the development of a basal cell carcinoma as compared to an individual who had never used an indoor tanning bed.
“The numbers are striking — hundreds of thousands of cancers each year are attributed to tanning beds,” said Linos, an assistant professor of dermatology at UCSF and senior author of the study. “This creates a huge opportunity for cancer prevention.”
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, in response to the July BMJ and this most recent study, said it believed these two new reviews “provide more convincing evidence that exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation is a cause of the three main skin cancers.”
They went on to say that they believed regulations on the tanning industry “must be tethered to warnings by health professionals and educators about the risks of indoor tanning” further commenting that “young people in particular should be made aware that the use of sunbeds for short term cosmetic tanning carries the long term price of an increased risk of skin cancer.”
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect, reported in February of this year, was the release of findings by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that revealed that tanning salons routinely and systematically provide inaccurate information about skin cancer and other risks to their teen customers who are seeking their services. The Committee investigators even go so far as to claim that tanning salon operators and their employees are providing patently false information about the true nature of risk and offer erroneous claims about the benefit to overall health that indoor tanning provides.
This investigation culled information from direct contact with over 300 tanning salons nationwide and through the review of online and print advertising used by tanning salons. Of note, with regard to advertising, the Committee investigators found that these businesses, totaling more than 19,000 individual locations nationwide, specifically target teenage girls. This segment of the market, a market that includes more than a million daily users, is comprised of 35 percent of all 17 year old girls. Despite research that has conclusively shown that frequent indoor tanning would significantly increase the likelihood that a woman could develop the more deadly melanoma before her 30th birthday, these ads frequently offer ℠prom´, ℠homecoming´ and ℠back-to-school´ specials.
The negative health consequences, paired with the targeted advertising, led the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to call for all U.S. tanning salons to bar minors. Their statement, released in February, 2011, added the AAP to other health groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Academy of Dermatology and The Skin Cancer Foundation, who are demanding a ban on indoor tanning for young people.
Dr. Sophie J. Balk, a coauthor of the AAP´s policy statement commented that they felt it was important for the AAP to support the other groups in recognizing the dangers of ultraviolet tanning. She pointed out that the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is affiliated with the WHO, has classified tanning beds as cancer-causing since 2009.
The National Council on State Legislatures has a comprehensive listing of U.S. states that currently ban indoor tanning to minors. Some states, however, have ℠mixed restrictions´ that use parental consent models.
According to Dr. June K. Robinson, a dermatologist at Northwestern University in Chicago, parental consent restrictions have not proven effective in keeping young people out of tanning salons. It is for this reason that the AAP and other health organizations are calling for far stronger measures nationwide.
Author for the UCSF study, Professor Eleni Linos pointed out, “Australia and Europe have already led the way in banning tanning beds for children and teenagers, and Brazil has completely banned tanning beds for all ages. I hope that our study supports policy and public health campaigns to limit this carcinogen in the United States.”