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Study Finds Strong Tanning Bed Links To Melanoma

May 27, 2010

A new study has found strong links tying tanning beds to melanoma, which is a deadly form of skin cancer that afflicts about 69,000 Americans every year.

According to a study of 2,268 patients reported today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, people that have used tanning beds were 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than others.

Co-author Martin Weinstock of Brown University School of Medicine said that those who tanned the most had over twice the risk of melanoma compared to people who never used tanning beds.  Those risks did not change when researchers accounted for age, sex, income, family history, education, skin and eye color, freckles, moles, sunscreen use or time in the sun.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 2.5 percent of men and 1.7 percent of women develop melanoma.

Electra Paskett of Ohio State University told USA Today that the study provides some of the strongest evidence yet to link tanning beds to melanoma, which is blamed for about 7,000 American deaths a year.

Allan Halpern of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center the research includes information on the newest tanning bed technologies, showing that machines emitting both types of ultraviolet light increased melanoma risk.

Halpern and many other doctors say they are especially concerned about the risks of tanning salons for teenagers, which are popular this time of year as kids prepare for proms, graduations and beach trips.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 35 percent of 17-year-old girls use tanning machines.

The new report comes during a time of increased criticism over indoor tanning. 

The FDA has been considering recommendations from an advisory panel that suggest teens should be barred from tanning salons, or at least have parental consent.

Congress has slapped a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning in the health reform bill in order to help pay for expanding medical coverage and make it harder for teens to afford indoor tanning.

The Indoor Tanning Association’s John Overstreet said in a statement that scientists disagree about the link between melanoma and tanning beds.

“When reputable researchers are coming to vastly different conclusions, it’s clear that a lot more research is needed,” he said. “The science on both sides of the question needs to be weighed before consideration is given to any sweeping policy changes.”

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