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Study links indoor tanning to most serious type of skin cancer

May 28, 2010 |  9:16 am

Tanning Indoor tanning is known to increase the risk of some types of skin cancer. But a new study convincingly links ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices to the most deadly form of the disease: melanoma.

Researchers at Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota studied 2,268 Minnesota residents, of which 1,167 had been diagnosed with melanoma. The other study participants had no cancer diagnosis. They found people who used any type of tanning bed for any amount of time were 74% more likely to develop melanoma. Just under 63% of the people with melanoma said they had tanned indoors compared with 51.1% of the control group. People who used tanning beds frequently were up to three times more likely to develop the disease compared with people who never used tanning devices. Frequent use was defined as using indoor tanning for 50 hours or more, or 10 years or more, or 100 sessions or more.

"We found it didn't matter the type of tanning device used; there was no safe tanning device," the lead author of the study, DeAnn Lazovich, said in a news release. "We also found -- and this is new data -- that the risk of gettng melanoma is associated more with how much a person tans and not the age at which a person starts using tanning devices. Risk rises with frequency of use, regardless of age, gender or device."

The study was published Thursday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Rob Gauthier  /  Los Angeles Times

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Comments (2)

This kind of breathless hype isn’t doing anyone good. We need UV exposure for the skin to generate vitamin D, without which we suffer all kinds of maladies, especially during the sunless winter months. I prefer 20-30 minutes of exposure to the summer sun, but since that kind of UV exposure simply isn’t to be had at latitudes north of San Diego for nearly half the year, a tanning bed or UV lamp, properly used, can be a good substitute.

“A 74 percent increase in melanoma” statistic is meaningless without putting it into context. Seventy-four percent increase compared to what? If the melanoma rate is extremely tiny for those who don’t use a tanning bed, even a 300 percent increase for those who do may not be worth worrying about.


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